Friday, March 18, 2005

“So should I expect you all to knock on my flat’s door one night, looking for a place to live?” asked E’s mother. She’s come to London from NZ to spend six months here; she’s renting a small flat near the river. Today she came to see the house for the first time. We were all sitting in the living room, enjoying the morning sun.
“Eviction is never in such a short notice, mum. It takes a while to get people out of a squat” said E.
“Is it constantly on your mind, that you can be kicked out? Do you worry about it?”
E: “No. What's the point? we deal with it when it comes.”
“And how do you move your things when you have to? Do you steal a car?”
We laughed. “No, sometimes we rent a van. Sometimes on the eviction day. Do you remember, J?”
“ooooh, that time… ” J made one of her funny faces: “the bailiffs were coming that day and we hadn’t even packed. I was going around waking people up… they were all sleeping, M was abroad – we had to pack her stuff for her; Salvador was totally hangovered, my god. And we had no way of moving, someone suggested borrowing one of those big grey metal skips with wheels and move all our stuff in one go, can you imagine that? Finally we found a note in the street for a ‘man with a van’, and he agreed to come immediately”.
E: “but it was over in an hour and a half”.

I thought of all the other means of transport I’ve used to move houses.

(*) Shopping trolley: practical mainly for short distances, although one unfortunate Spanish housemate moved all her stuff like this from Peckham to Brixton, in early November, in the rain…
(*) Rickshaw: we used it to move from Limehouse to Poplar two years ago. My favourite house move probably. You can fit so much in a rickshaw! But then we had a garage to park it in during the night.
(*) Bicycle: always handy to move extra bits, but sometimes, if you’re a light traveller, you don’t need more than a couple of panniers and a box on top. Still remember C arriving at Brixton with all her stuff on the rack: a thin futon and a box of pot plants. Made a big impression on me.
(*) small mercedes car, rented for a night: Involves stressful driving in London and dealing with obnoxious low-cost rental companies. But hey, not every day a squatter gets to drive the flagship of capitalism (even if it’s a tiny one).
(*) Minicab: Disadvantage: limited space. Advantage: forces you to make tough decisions and shed your skin. Do you really need that lamp you skipped from spittalfields a year ago, or the stereo that works only if you push your finger inside and fiddle with the wires?

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