Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Important Developments

The magnolias are blossoming.
And so are the apple trees, in snow white.
The horse-chestnuts leaves are already out. Soon the phallic flowers will follow.
The Plane trees are just getting out their leaves out. But they're already giving that familiar spunky odour.

Mink going to Madrid this weekend to visit old housemates and check the spring+obscure signs situation.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Obscure Visual Sign of the Week (25)

Vertical Movement Facilitator
VMF (TM) is an award-winning, patent-pending invention designed to help you get to higher places!

1. Place one foot on the first step.
2. Pull your body upwards - please feel free to use the handrailing for no adittional costs!
3. Place the other foot on the step.
4. Continue until your reach the top of the VMF.

Coming down using VMF is just as easy - this time you can use gravitation to do the hard work!

Children to the age of 6 must be accopmanied by an adult.

Always refer to the User's Manual before use.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Palestine Film Festival at the Barbican

The Palestine Film Festival is this week at the barbican.

Arna's Childern is on Wednesday 26th, 18:30. It is one of the most powerful films made about Israel/Palestine: it tore me from the inside when I saw it two years ago, mainly because it is not sentimential, not even for one tiny second. It offers no shortcuts, no quick fixes, and no grand pathos. I cannot recommend it too strongly.

Ilya Suleiman's A Chronicle of Disappearance, (same day 20:30) promises to be lighter. I'm going to see this one, because Suleiman's Divine Intervention(pictured above) was one of my favourite films of the last few years - a very original black political comedy which included catwalk in a checkpoint, musical face-off between a Palestinian and a Settler, and the best sex scene ever - ok, they were just touching hands but still.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How to combine your hobby with your job

In Walworth road, buisiness and pleasure go together

Monday, April 17, 2006

Live Mink

The London Zine Simposium 2006 is on this coming Saturday 22nd April (12-6pm) at the Square, the social centre at 21 Russel Square. Expect zines, workshops, discussions, music and DIY fun. It's FREE!

I will be reading from this blog as part of the msuic/zine reading session organized by 56a, starting 5pm.

Everybody welcome to come along!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Obscure Visual Sign of the Week (24)

Please use silencers when assassinating in this area. Thank you.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Favourite shop names in South London

Walworth Road
Mixed Blessing - West-Indian Bakery
African Prices - African clothes shop

Coldharbour Lane
Control Tower - West-Indian Takeaway
Spice and Nice - West-Indian Bakery

Brixton Road
Lucky Day - Chinese Takeway
London Surprise Shop - I don't know what they sell. I didn't go in to check, rather keep it as a surprise.

Conclusion: clear West-Indian lead. Seems like there's a lot of wasted Jamaican copywriters out there...

The Logic of the Global Market

Over the years, you have been seeking to unravaell the rules of the wholesale fruit and vegetable market. You have been searching for regularity, for patterns, for logic. Your efforts have yielded little results. You have some idea of where and when. You know where to look for wild mushrooms, and where to expect Asian vegetables; you know the location of the two Organic places, and that they are usually friendly there.

You know that Saturday is a slow day, so you should go early. During weekdays, you can go as early as 5am, but from 10.30am onwards the frantic motion subsides, so it is more pleasant to cycle about, and less dangerous too. By 1.00pm the day is all but finished, and all the skips have been devoured by the rubbish-mamoths.

But the real reguality, you have realized, cannot be found in rules or schedules. It lies in the elements which shape the working of the market. The constant elements are flow, change, profit and waste.

It is the flow - of fruit and vegtables to the market, from overseas, on airplanes and ships; the motion of the trucks bringing them in and out of the market; the movement of forklifts and rubbish-mamoths; and your zig-zaging between them all, evading them, trying to reach the full skips before they're gone.

It is the constant change, of varieties of produce and their coutnries of origin. At 10 o'clock it seems a really bad day; your housemate goes an hour later, and brings cornucopia in their bicycles panniers. When you start the round it is tomato season; when you finish it, it's spinach and leeks. One week the bananas come from Africa, the next they come from Venezuella. Seasons, in the Wholesale market, last for one hour.

These changes are dictated by considerations of profit. There are no price-tags in the market, and for you, the logic of exchange stops when you enter its gates (no need to bring your wallet there); you have no way to tell if eggplants are more expensive than cauliflowers. All the same you know that at the bottom of it, the market is no more than a profit-generating machine. The costs of transport; the ability to market certain varieties; the countries which offer the lowest agricultural wages: these fluctuating factors affect the short-term profits of the importers, and they (not the time of year or the traditional local diet) will determine what produce you find in the skips.

And waste, the last, and most constant element; the ultimate product of the Global Market. You can be sure to find waste in the market. Most times, you are able to save some of it, and feed your friends and family. Other times, you just see it being swallowed, sucked and trasnported away.

Flow, change, profit, and waste: the stable elements of the a world in flux. The market diaries: another chornicle of the destruction of the planet.

* * *

A day of lemons and Onions, but also
Red grapes (Spain)
Green grapes (Chille)
Blueberries (Chille)
Raspberries (Spain)
Yellow peppers (Israel)
Edible flowers
Sweet Potato
Organic: blue broccoly, baby artichokes, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Alienation Central

I'm sitting at the Ritzy, eating a Pizza, reading the Times which I found on the table. They have a grim story about a woman who lay dead in a flat in North London for more than two years with her tellevision on. Jane Vincent, 40, was discovered surrounded by unopened Christmas presents with the heating still on. The council workers (who came to collect the unpaid rent) drilled open the front door to find a huge pile of mail dating two years back.

A big pile of mail is one of the signs of an empty, squattable house. Lucky no one tried to open this one.

The local MP is quoted: "Where were social services? How did this poor lady fall through the safety net?" I think she got it wrong. The State is a fishing net, not a safety net.

A neighbour says: "This is a huge bloc of 200 flats. A lot of people live on their own. Everyone keeps to themselves".

But rest assured,

"Detectives told the inquest that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The future of the Mansions

I have no refuge in this world other than thy threshold;
My head has no resting place other than this doorway.


* * *

A note on the front doors of the Mansions, a couple of weeks ago:
On the 5th of March the House of Lords has reached a decision on the appeal of residents of Central Brixton, on the Human Rights Act, on the question of tenancy... this case is now lost... this is a huge disappointment for us, and it immediately effects all residents which do not have a tenancy in the area, even if they were not represented in the case... the minimum time for eviction is two months.

Eviction stories are always full of legalistic crypto-speak, soaked with details. For people involved, these details mean everything (another month; another year). For others, they are intractable sagas of a bizzare kind. The case of the Mansions is especially complicated: whenever I asked, no-one seem to be able to describe the situation. It's been going for years - long before I arrived in London, in various courts and disguises. The word Kafkaesque is overused, but I think it is adequate here. Each time people would say that this is probably the last year of the Mansions. And then there was another year. This was the safest and most stable squat I knew; many of my friends lived here. It is probably the last of its kind in London.

The history, as I understand it: once there were 19th century appartment blocs of social housing in central Brixton. Gradually the Council stopped maintaing them; the houses slowly fell into disrepair. People complained for years, and when the Council didn't do anything, they stopped paying rent. Some left, as conditions became difficult. Squatters moved in. All the while there was a battle over the ownership of these estates; when this was decided, the residents had their own court case against the Council. But now it's over. All legal means and courses have been exhausted. We're basically waiting for the council. It looks like this is the last summer of the Mansions.

So now it's the usual story, all too familiar in my case. A court date; a possession order; a date for eviction. Anytime this summer, from July onwards. And as always, speculation begins (it never stopped); nothing will happen before the May elections; we may be here till the end of summer; even if they get a Possession Order, eviction can still be a year away; they won't evict us before they have concrete plans for the buildings; it doesn't make sense to leave so many flats empty, they'll just get resquatted, probably by crack dealers.

The truth is that no-one knows. I've lived with this uncertainty for almost four years now. At times it eats you from within, incapacitate you, make you feel at the mercy of powers you have no control of. I just moved here a month ago, hoping for a quiet summer in a stable house; now I discover again the feeling of walking on a shaking ground.

But then you shrug it off and carry on. Eviction will come, but you can't let it take over your life. You can't live constantly thinking that this is temporary, that very soon you're going to be kicked out. And as a first act of defiance, I buy a 5kg bag of rice.

Where NOT to Spend the Passover

Happy Passover to those who celebrate it, and happy spring to everybody

Sunday, April 09, 2006

West Indian comments

1. Sentence sructure: In the Jamaican take-aways, you are offered curry chicken, unlike in Indian restaurants, where it's chicken curry. It seems that in Jamaican cuisine, curry acts as a property of the chicken, hence it acts as an adjective.

2. Of all the ethnicities of London, West-Indian people seem to be the loudest. It appears many of them have not adjusted to the English way of murmuring your way about. Even the guys on the corner muttering SKUNK as you pass do it a bit too loud for pushers. And people shout to each other all the time, across the street or from moving cars: hey MAN! come here! RASTAMAN! to me they sound pissed off, but when they catch up with each other it's usually smiles and hugs.

In a way it makes me feel at home. A Swedish guy travelleing in Asia had once told me how sitting next to a table of Israelis, he would always think 'these guys are going to beat each other up any minute, they don't stop shouting at each other'. After a while he figured this was the Israeli way of amiable conversation.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Obscure Visual Sign of the Week (23)

You don't often come across this rare element in the streets of London, so better take a deep breath.

Dodgy Brixton

I woke up at 4am by a strange, loud sound of something bashing against the window. "They're fucking outside" said S. I immediately remembered the time E (the former resident of this flat) told us how "a crack-whore fucking against his window" kept him up at night, and how sick he was of Brixton.
S turned the light on, and shouted 'Stop it'. For a while the bashing stopped, but then it started again, in a steady rhythm. 'Stop it!' it was just getting stronger and faster. I could imagine them
outside and the thought was disgusting. I was just hoping they get it over with so we could go back to sleep. Strangely, there were no human sounds - no sighs or breathing or anything. But still the bashing didn't stop. "This is outrageous. I'm going to throw a glass of water on them through the kitchen window". "No!" said S, "what if it's someone in distress?"
Of course they're in distress, I said.
I'm going upstairs to I+M, to have a look through the window.
But you'll wake them up!
D is sleeping on the sofa, he'll let me in.
As S left the noise starte again. This time I shouted with the top of my voice: GO AWAY! and it stopped. A couple of minutes passed and it was still quiet.
I was falling back to sleep, when I heard the key in the door.

'You won't believe what it was,' said S, disappearing quickly again. I heard the front door of the building open, and then a happy miaouwing, and the footsteps of R's cat running upstairs.
"I'm sick of Brixton" said S "the cats here are so rough".

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Writing on the Wall

Out kitchen wall, to be exact.
Can any Classicist readers of this blog tell me what it says?

Obscure Visual Sign of the Week (22)

Taking hallucinogenic drugs may result in playing football with triangular objects.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

At Last

Suddenly, almost overnight, winter's oppression is lifted off our shoulders. I never thought I'd be so happy to see the fascist-yellow of the daffodils. March was cold and bleak, but now it's gone.
It's still grey and dull, and far from warm. But the edge is there no more; the cold does not bite your face, it is now tame and harmless. People walking pass you look up, and sometimes smile. And it is no longer painful to wash dishes.

Living without hot water in such cold weather is no treat. Especially at nights when the temperatures drop below zero. The kettle became our new best friend: heating water to wash my face, wash dishes. I've lived in a squat without electricity before, and one without flushing toilet. But living without hot water I find the hardest. It feels 19th century workers-housing: only we have electricity for light and heating.