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.

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