Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Outside the Court of Appeal

Leon Glenister of Hardwicke chambers is having his first day in the Court of Appeal.

Inside the courtroom, I wonder if I could use photographs from Spotlight to illustrate what's going on. On the bench we have Nigel Hawthorne, Joanna Lumley as Purdey, Siân Phillips. The nearest court official is Maxine Peake with her hair up.

The case is Fernandes v Watson and Others. The concept of 'good reason' is being discussed. Dean Underwood, Leon's leader, argues that reason for failing to attend court can range from the copper-bottomed one of slipping on a patch of ice and ending up in hospital to the barely acceptable. A judge challenges the copper-bottoming: the person might have gone out wearing inadequate footwear.

I take the drawing of Leon to his chambers and ask the receptionist if it reminds her of anyone.
She looks blank.

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Cross Keys squat in Chelsea

What do you do after Johnny Hallyday at the Albert Hall? All that pretend-edge, masking geniality? You go somewhere really edgy, of course. A squat. Except we didn't try to get in. Because as we arrived, in the dark and the rain, two police vehicles drove up and we decided we weren't that edgy. Even though nothing happened.

The squat is the Cross Keys, Chelsea's oldest pub. It was bought by a developer who wanted to turn it into a mansion with a basement pool. But locals wanted it to remain their local. So did the council. Planning permission was denied and it's back on the market.

I return in daylight. The developer has offered the squatters an unknown inducement to leave. Ella explains. 'They said: there will be something in the middle of the road. It's yours if you all come out.'

In my experience, what is in the middle of the road is a flat fox. And why walk out of a pub with a walk-in fridge and a flame-effect gas fire? The developer has now resorted to conventional court procedure.

'What's the axe for?' I ask.
'We used it to cut up a five-kilo block of chocolate,' says Arthur.

No time for more than one quick drawing - I'm on a mission, in a Raymond Gubbay frame of mind. This place is ideal for entertainment.

They're playing vinyl on the sound system. Adam Faith sings, 'What do you want if you don't want money?'

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Occupy's anniversary at St Paul's Cathedral: only our love hath no decay

Occupiers gather outside St Paul's Cathedral. Female wedding guests clip-clop by, exposing hefty thighs in too-short flimsy skirts. Heels tilt the pelvis provocatively. Careful on the cobbles, ladies.

The protesters are here for meditation and speeches. It's almost the anniversary of the day Occupy arrived outside the cathedral and stayed, in tents, for nearly five months, mostly cold ones.

The Dean of St Paul's, Dr David Ison, sits on the steps talking to Tanya Paton of Occupy Faith. (The following day, they will both be taking part in evensong when four chanting Occupiers chain themselves to the pulpit.)

He is the latest to try to fill the eternal vacancy left by John Donne. His appointment follows the resignation of the previous Dean who responded to Occupy's advent by closing the cathedral for a week. 

'What did you talk about?' I ask Tanya.
'Empires. Justice. How you go about changing cultures. You have to do it slowly to get it right. He talked about Bismarck and socialism. Thank goodness I've studied German history.'

So many of the Occupy faithful are here. We greet each other with kisses and cuddles. 

I draw Zeph while he meditates. Then he gives me a quartz crystal. He set up Occupy's meditation tent last year. 

Over the year I've blogged Occupy as an outsider. 'You're a witness,' says Tina-Louise to me. 'You're here to tell the truth. Sometimes it's ugly.'

Beautiful desperado Johnny Teatent, who never seems to have a full complement of anything, has just the one shoe today. Front tooth, shoe, seems it's always the police's fault. 

I'll leave you with the Dean:

The Anniversary
By John Donne

All kings, and all their favourites,
All glory of honours, beauties, wits,
The sun it self, which makes time, as they pass,
Is elder by a year now than it was
When thou and I first one another saw.
All other things to their destruction draw,
Only our love hath no decay;
This no to-morrow hath, nor yesterday;
Running it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.

Two graves must hide thine and my corse;
If one might, death were no divorce.
Alas ! as well as other princes, we
—Who prince enough in one another be—
Must leave at last in death these eyes and ears,
Oft fed with true oaths, and with sweet salt tears;
But souls where nothing dwells but love
—All other thoughts being inmates—then shall prove
This or a love increasèd there above,
When bodies to their graves, souls from their graves remove.

And then we shall be throughly blest;
But now no more than all the rest.
Here upon earth we're kings, and none but we
Can be such kings, nor of such subjects be.
Who is so safe as we? where none can do
Treason to us, except one of us two.
True and false fears let us refrain,
Let us love nobly, and live, and add again
Years and years unto years, till we attain
To write threescore; this is the second of our reign.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

From the Privy Council to a squat

Lord Walker (extreme right) from afar
I take the wrong bus. Then I miss the right bus because I'm looking in a shop window.

My gloves have metal studs and they set off the security alarm at the Supreme Court.

I sit in on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for a nice rest.The court setting aims to give the five law lords a Mount Rushmore prominence, but from the back row their heads are the size of beads.

Lesage v the Mauritius Commercial Bank Limited concerns fraud. Mauritian law appears to be an awkward fit of the Code Napoleon and English law; the case has squeezed through the gap to get to London.

A regular supply of tourists come and go. They last a few minutes in the public seats, then negotiate silently with each other about when and how to leave.

When the lunch break comes I learn that squatter-activists, including people from Occupy, are heading to the Royal Courts of Justice for an eviction hearing. I arrange to go there with a client who's writing a newspaper article about squatting.
Law student

As I leave the Supreme Court, I'm stopped by a security guard.


'You're the one who does the drawings, aren't you!'
He beams at me. Poised. Interesting highlights on the skin.
I promise to draw him next time.

No drawing is allowed in the Royal Courts of Justice.

Laymen are too easily intimidated by a courtroom setting. Why say 'Not at this precise moment in time, my lord' instead of 'No'? Even so, the hearing is brief.

The activists cluster outside for a smoke, oblivious to the designated smoking area a few yards away.

'Look, man!' Someone points down at the formal black shoes he has worn for the courtroom. 'My feet just ain't that shape!'

Law student
'Excuse me!' A solicitor for the claimant is exasperated by the smokers blocking her way. 'Honestly!' she sighs to her colleague as she tittups away in high-heeled boots that are not the shape of human feet.

We head for the squat in High Holborn, which has been empty for 11 years and is theirs for at least 72 hours more. They are hungry. There is dried pasta but nothing to eat with it. Yes there is - some sandwiches retrieved from skips outside supermarkets. They talk about using sandwich fillings to make a sauce.

I'm too tired for drawing, the atmosphere too jumpy.

Johnny Teatent comes downstairs barefoot to greet the courtroom squad. His pale cheek has a zig-zag red wound about two days old. He's been glassed.

I go home, break a plate and cut my finger open on it. They'll find another squat.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Squatting at the Hobo Hilton: Occupy and other activists

203 High Holborn is a vast, hideous office belonging to BT which no one wants to rent. It's been empty for years. Now it's squatted by activists including Occupy.

At a job interview last century, in a gruesome corner of a building not unlike this one, I was asked by a man if I was engaged to be married.
'Really?' he said. 'Where are the men?' Then he dipped his head under the desk to look up my knee-length skirt.
People were allowed to conduct job interviews like that in those days.

He took me to the room where his underlings were being held. They eyed me silently, each one sucking a cigarette for solace.

I'm relieved to find that there are better uses for such buildings. Here in the Hobo Hilton, the incoming squatters found that the gas outlet was dangerous and turned it off. They have registered with the power supplier as users of the electricity.

Get-a-Job Rob
People gather on the ground floor for congenial banter. Lynda is making pillows by stuffing pink air-conditioning filters with shredded paper left outside offices. A wall has been decorated with old BT remote-control units. Ella is painting motivational pictures.

Get-a-Job Rob snores on a sofa. Someone throws a roll of lavatory paper at his head but he doesn't wake up.

'Oh, it's Tchaikovsky time!' squeals Ella, and the celesta pings out The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy.

Then the Waltz from Sleeping Beauty, followed by Sultans of Swing, Music to Watch Girls By, Spooky Little Boy.

Don't You Want Somebody to Love?

Remote control units
Upstairs I tour empty floor after empty floor.

Papers have been served and the squatters are due in court next week.