Sunday, March 20, 2005

Kevin's house, round the corner, is getting evicted. The bailiffs are coming on Monday. So we asked if we could do a little tat for tat, that is, come and leave some of our tat in their house, and in return plunder the place. Kevin wasn't too keen on the idea: they've had a spell of bad luck, and only this week they managed to find a house to move to. When you open a new house in the last minute, it's quite stressful, having to move your things, arrange housesitting, fix the place, deal with the uncertainties of a new space and the mess of your old place. I know it too well. In all the houses I had to leave, we always had plans for eviction parties, but then when eviction loomed in we were far too panicky to arrange anything. So the last thing you want is your neighbours filling your house with junk and asking: "can I take this lamp?"
But we were supportive neighbours during their stay there, so he couldn't really say no. "after we move out, yeah, why not".
The main thing was getting rid of junk that has been accumulating in our garden and basement. Mattress, broken toilet, and various unnecessary bits. The responsible thing to do is to take it to the recycling place. But as we don't have a car, and the council charges money for collecting these things, we couldn't really do that. I felt a bit bad about it - leaving your rubbish for someone else to deal with. But J said: don't worry about it, the owners are a big rich company, don't feel sorry for them. And anyway they're going to get builders in and get rid of everything. When we got to their house I realized the mess there was far greater than anything we had. The place looked like, well, a squat. Messy as could be. Leftover food, full ashtrays, and just stuff. "I feel sorry for the builders" said the Spanish guy who was just leaving. "But we don't really have time to deal with this, we had to find a place to live and that was more important". Their house always seemed far more shambolic then ours. But it's true, when you're facing the danger of homelessness you can't really afford to be too nice.

after putting our stuff, I had a look around. The space had a strange and powerful energy about it: the promise of an empty house. And the magic of a squat. Even a short-lived one, even when it's messy. All the rooms were decorated with the crazy mishmash picked from the streets of London: kids toys (toy-trains and cranes and cars), a leg of a mannequin, beautiful armchairs, a plastic chicken...

I had a look at the garden. When they moved in, last summer, they had to fight the bramble for three days before they could see the bottom of it. They found a small children's bike and rusting garden tools and hanged them up on the tree as decorations. Now I could see the bramble spreading out again; it will soon take over, as if nothing had happened. In the corner I could see three compost bins. It reminded me of my first eviction: SY was getting angry about the vegetable compost, which she saw as a meaningless squatters' ritual. "I don't understand this" she said, "everytime you squat a house you start a compost, but then you get evicted after three months and you leave the compost before is ready, and the rats come and eat it. It's very foolish". At the time we decided to be different and took it up the hill to the greenhouses at brockwell park, where they had a community compost. Fuck knows how we managed to carry it so far. It was exactly two years ago: the war had just started.

Back at the house, I wandered one last time through the empty rooms. I thought of the people that inhabited them. I savored on the intoxicating freedom, the promise of difference within stifling terrace-house urbanity. I knew that this freedom will only last a few more hours. Tomorrow, this house will be gone: the bailiffs will come, and after them the security company, and the sitex. All the things inside will probably be thrown into a skip. That absurdity of possession flitted through the air: now you have it, now you don't.

walking out, I saw a mother and a small child walking on the street. The child went into the front garden of the house; the mom was calling him back. "You can't go in there, this is somebody's garden". "No notion of property, he has" I said. "None so ever" said the mother. "I think he likes the uneven surface that you have". The child looked at me, snot coming from his nose, smiling blissfuly. And then he ran back to his mom.

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