Friday, 31 October 2008

First supper

What's so significant about this photo :

Because the rice has been cooked... in the flat, by a rice cooker that was bought over today.

So, in a way, this is the first result of food cooked in the house, thanks to our electricity-restoration efforts.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Chopped Potato : Oh, part 2

"They're just trying to scare you... just go on with what you're doing", according to one of our houseowner neighbours about the recent eviction news.

According to Kitchen Sink Neighbour, the house that sits in between her place and ours belongs to a private houseowner, who is letting the place out to language students.

The eviction news is aimed at the renting households in our block. Private owners need to be bought out by the local authority before they can move, and Language Student Landlord has yet to receive any papers, any compensation notifying him of such. It turns out that there are three other families in our block in the same predicament.

By the middle of November, all the renting families will have been shipped out. What happens after that, apart from leaving behind a virtually empty council block, remains to be seen. For the moment, then, our squat can relax.

Over a late night supper though, it becomes apparent to USgal and I that this is what squatting is all about. The anticipation, the unease, the uncertainty. The trade-off with not paying rent is keeping your eyes open and being prepared for anything. The only thing for certain is that living this way will not be restful. You only need to step through the front door to be reminded of the uncertainties of our home and how we must to adapt to its needs. We really will be living for the moment.

An intriguing prospect all round.

What comes down must go up!

How do you put the Sitex back on, and quickly, when there is a police van downstairs from us, that is perhaps investigating a flat that junkies have broken into overnight?

Kitchen Sink Neighbour urgently instructs us to do so, because part of the window in SoundsNorwegian's room has a hole in it -- any sign of criminal damage to our property will be an invitation for the police.

After a series of long and short nails failing to go through the window panes outside (that look as though they're made of wood, but it turns out they're a combination of metal and grout), a new idea! =>

(For the concentrating eyes amongst you, you may be able to pick out the string that is holding the Sitex to the window)

Two bolts and two lengths of string.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Heft metal

SoundsNorwegian decides that we need to angle grind off the Sitex that is attached to her window. She wants natural light to come through and properly too, rather than through the poke holes of the metal sheet. The chance to close the open window is a bonus, given the increasingly chilly nights of late.

The task of removal generates a few concerns... by having the Sitex up, ugly as it looks, it may also be shielding us from onlookers. The Legal Warning on the door keeps potential squatters away, and having the Sitex deflects residents or at least the assumption that we're a bunch of junkies. Taking the Sitex down may also endanger the security of the flat, create an opening to intrusion.

SoundsNorwegian decides to go for it, despite all this. We can create the illusion of the Sitex being up afterwards, by reattaching it in some way.

Here are a few photos of the angle grinder going at it :

Sparks flying, as seen from the outside.

And post-angle grinding!

The light really does make a lot of difference to the room, as any light would. A few panes of glass will need fixing.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Where were you on the night of..

IMMINENT or a speculative 4am.

Either way, tonight, a major squat eviction at rampART is due and the text message bleeping in on my cellphone contains urgency:
"Cops have left, but people reckon eviction will be before tomorrow am (as early as 4am) so asking if people can stay here tonight, help barricade and defend building, and also people be ready to resist outside."
So, what to do next? Do you go? Do you launch yourself forth without question, because as a squatter you've automatically signed an unspoken agreement where you are compelled to act when all squats, any squats, are threatened? That tonight, you must mobilise? Are evening meals being disrupted, squatters downing forks and stepping up?

In the pouring pouring rain, I am caught between going and not being sure.

I envisage hordes of squatters from all over the city, converging in their raging hundreds on the squatter social centre that is in danger. A determined and angry army of activist marchers ready to barricade themselves into the premises and fend off the police no matter what. My housemates amongst them, fists in the air.
'Wanna know what your arrestability is worth -- come and find out today.'
Sat in Kitchen Sink Neighbour's living room with her one-dreadlock housemate, a welcoming cup of very hot tea and a heater ablaze, I ask them plenty of questions, in an attempt to gain a realistic hold on the circumstances from those in "the field" longer. Basically, do you go, without hesitation?

Is not going not an option? Is one indebted to a social centre, regardless of how many times you've used it, because it is imperative that all squatters come out and unite no matter which squat it is or whether you know it? If you've never faced the police this way before, is that an okay reason to hesitate? Even as these questions are being spoken out loud, I can't tell if they're stupid to ask or not.

Without realising it, it seems that, yes, something like peer pressure tinges my enquiries. It's without a doubt that my housemates are most likely there, battening down rampART's hatches the minute the alarm sounded. Seriously, in situations like these, will people suddenly start to develop long memories, stuff of "where were you on the night of.." that can be reminded of when it comes to your own eviction? This peer pressure is surely piercing my common sense.

Both Kitchen Sink Neighbour and One Dreads are pretty relaxed and adamant about not going. The callout has probably attracted enough attendance and anyway, the heater is just doing the business on such a cold night. rampART itself has faced constant eviction threats throughout its four-year history but they're both certain it will endure.

A friend of mine drops a text message during our chat:
"Just play along if [the police] come, they can't do much. They'll just ask you to leave that's all. They can't book you for anything and unless you act like an arse they won't be arsey with you."
Round about 11pm, we learn that 8-12 people are currently holding the fort at rampART. Quietly building barricades and other defenses, they're happily doing so, even if no further assistance from the callout is forthcoming. Of that, 5-6 of them will sleep there overnight, keeping watch. Apparently, what sounds like minuscule numbers is a-okay with them.

Yes, just 5-6 people. No anarchist hordes encircling the building in 10-people-thick moats, arms locked together, defiant, grimacing, growling, ready to fortify.

"Solidarity can be shown in lots of different ways", SoundsNorwegian later says, when she and her friends pop by to look at our meter. I eventually drop by at around 2am. The night air is freezing cold by then, -2c the newspapers will report in the morning. The streets surrounding the centre are dark and empty.

The crew compliment is now roughly 9 people. Barricades and huge wooden posts lodged against doors populate most of the ground floor area. Sawing and tidying up the kitchen are the main tasks, most of which appears finished.

A nonsquatter student I meet reckons the next callout will be when the police are actually here, but until then, it's calm times are ahead for all. The mood is nothing as frenzied as the original callout text messages.

UPDATE: a Scottish friend tells me that no follow-up callout was made at 4am. In fact, no callout at all on the squatters network phone. Nothing since, and it's about 10.08am or so as I jot this update. Perhaps they're okay after all.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Jacket Potato

Thinking about squatting in London, but have no idea where to start?

First up, is the Advisory Service for Squatters, off of Whitechapel Road in east London. An unpaid collective of workers, the service offers daily advice for squatters and homeless people and has been doing so since 1975. Check out their very useful noticeboard for future squat housemates. This place definitely kicks A.S.S.

Also kicking ass is 56a Infoshop, Elephant & Castle's Crampton Street hub of squatter advice. A radical social centre, as it bills itself, 56a houses an extensive archive of international radical literature and also sells books, zines, music and t-shirts. 56a runs many workshops, including a free bike workshop and practical squatting nights.

A cool hangout to meet squatters and the like-minded, Pogo Cafe offers delicious and healthy vegan food with a bit of music, art, books and information to boot! Organised as a workers' cooperative, their vegan breakfasts are to die for!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Chopped Potato : Oh, part 1

Some news news tonight ...

We may all be evicted by Christmas...

According to Kitchen Sink Neighbour, almost all the residents in our council block have received a notification from the local authorities in the last day or so -- that they will all be rehoused by the middle of November. "Almost", as all of the owned flats in our block, all of the squatters and the many other residents on the estate, have gone without such touching news. And "rehoused", as in temporary long-term accommodation, rather than a permanent home like they have right now.

Our upbeat spirits crash straight away.

"Well, that's squatting for you", Kitchen Sink Neighbour sighs, as USgal and I stand there on the outside walkway, in the cold evening wind, astonished.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Squat's in a name, part 2

The kitchen above is of another squat that has just opened in London Fields, in a boarded-up school caretaker's house. All its utilities were intact upon opening, no fiddling with meters or wires required. Lucky them.

The way "squat" is described by other languages and cultures also offers another way of viewing things. In our search for a name to call our squat, here is a brief look at what other countries call a "squat".

First up, Ding zhe hu. Or, Nailed Down House, which it is Chinese for.

It literally translates into "House resisting demolition". The usual practice of demolishing homes in urban China is to take out one entire street at a time. Residents will usually stay in their homes until the very last minute before being moved to their new premises, which means that no space ever goes uninhabited.

Squatting in Berlin is known as "instandbesetzen", a portmanteau of "instandsetzen" (ie. renovating) and "besetzen" (ie. occupying).

In Mexico, squatters are known as "paracaidistas", which means 'paratroopers' because they "drop" themselves mostly onto unoccupied land.

The following is taken from a web article by Hari Srinivas entitled "Defining Squatter Settlements":
"Some of the local/colloquial names for squatter settlements (often also used for slum settlements)

Ranchos = Venezuela
Callampas, Campamentos = Chile
Favelas = Brazil
Barriadas = Peru
Villas Misarias = Argentina
Colonias Letarias = Mexico
Barong-Barong = Philippines
Kevettits = Burma
Gecekondu = Turkey
Bastee, Juggi-johmpri = India"
Our own potential name for the squat is, Now. Given the finite nature of where we are, it feels apt, if a bit trite, and maybe even a bit dull.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Light saber

Seriously, a lookalike for Obi Wan Kenobi, as played by Ewan Mcgregor, comes over to sort out our electrics.

Or, to be put it another way, an electrician Obi Wan stunt double who could very well have fought Darth Maul, instead fights through our tangle of electrical wires whilst balancing himself carefully on the edge of a broken metal chair, with all the silent concentration that would probably be the envy of most Jedi.

First up, we get wired into the fuseboard.

An extension cord is then attached to act as an interim power socket.

New switches are added to the ripped-up kitchen sockets.

Thanks to the company head being connected to the outside supply, the electricity box is now live. With a desk lamp from next door wired up to a kitchen socket, we huddle about it, waiting for a moment of revelation. Obi Wan stands eagerly at the box, ready to flip on the power.

Will the wall sockets explode? Will the lamp explode? Will nothing happen?

We are standing within an inch of power restoration, but is this still too much distance to run?


For this happens :

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have electricity. It is momentous.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Spot the difference

At some point, you'll stop seeing multiple pictures of our electrical pipes at various stages of hacked. You'll stop seeing them in this blog, probably at the point when ALL the electrics are up and running and our candelit nights become a distant myth.

Some day, we will all be able to look back on these photos together, with either nostalgia or with memory lapses, thanks to other more fun memories overlapping them out of the picture.

In the meantime, forgive us for this long game of Spot the Difference.

The following images are all the work of SoundsNorwegian, whom in the past few days has made the state of our electrics look less impossible. The sheer joy in her "It's just having the right tools!" says it all.

Sawn-off pipework, up until 2pm today.

Diagram Drawing Electrician was right all along -- a ratchet does the job. Just loosen the nuts below the pipes, for extra pipe malleability!

SNAP!! This is what all the sawing was about! Such ease in the way it breaks off (but the entire process has not been in five minutes, boys).

The wires are free! Freedom to wires! Wire liberation!

At last.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Squatshots, 4 : Open sesame

After squeezing themselves (unbelievably) through the tiny coal chute of our flat, on the night of September 27th, the opening-squat invaders found themselves in a premises that was almost intact. A nice find, they all agreed, and as we have discovered in the weeks since.

Here are some photos from the morning after the break-in (with many thanks to USgal's squat-opening ally for providing) :

This was the way in!

If only the electric stove could speak, what stories would it tell us?

Ever get the feeling you're being grilled?

It's like Easter Island in here.

Getting in sink with the old people's home vibe coming from this photo (yes, the councilmen who ripped up the squat were kind enough to leave behind flowers).

Pipe down, will you!

The post-break-in night watch.

Keeping an eye on the premises in case of police or local authorities.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Thoughts about water


Thanks to USgal, the running water in the kitchen is now connected up to the waste pipes :

The other night (Saturday, I think), whilst eating a hearty vegetarian curry at a neighbour's, the topic of domestic water usage arose. Said neighbour does not have a cistern in her toilet or a waste water pipe in her kitchen.

Instead, as you can see from the photo below, the excess water that drains from the kitchen sink does so into a bucket directly underneath.

The bucket is then used as waste water in the toilet. Kitchen Sink Neighbour has a number of buckets in rotation. The biggest thing she has noticed is just how much water can be wasted in the kitchen and how much water is needed to flush the loo. It is something she is sure would go un-thought about if the conventional pipework was in place.

Without water bills, we're sure that households with the traditional plumbing don't get to realise how much water they flush away or throw out daily. Just physically witnessing it is eye opening. Even in these ecological times, there is no government advert warning people about their toilet use or educating them into conserving water in the home. We are flushing, boiling and unplugging away blindly.

The other day, we were discussing baths and whether we wanted a bath or shower installed. Would we return to our habits of a shower a day without thinking about it? Right now, a bucket of hot water from Kitchen Sink Neighbour and a scrubbing brush is all we rely on, a basic but efficient way to get the job done. You can see the dirt before your eyes and you boil the exact water you need, using it well, appreciating it as you cleanse away. That, or dropping by a friend who kindly lets you use their facilities.

How did the pre-hot water generation take their baths? A friend of mine told me that back in the 1940s, her father's family used to take their baths in the front room every Monday, boiling the water in kettles and bathing the entire family one at a time, maximising the resource. We weren't entirely sure how they decided who took first go at scrubbing clean -- was it decided by who was the dirtiest (with the cleanest going first) or by age? Either way, baths had to be planned.

Just like the candlelight reading sessions in the squat, such affairs were communal. Families united around a precious resource.

Spinning off from that, the talk of impending electricity has triggered new thought. If candlelight unites, then does electricity divide? After all, you can have electricity in each room, you can have it on without a glance or discussion as to who can use it or how much we need, whereas once a candle goes out, you have to replace it in order to continue your activities.

These resource-strapped situations do make you think about what you have and what you need. We wonder if those in their lit apartments with their ample electricity ever wonder about their electrical output in such detail.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Squat squatting

Squat sitting is basically that. Housesitting, but with the intention of safeguarding the belongings of the squat's occupiers and preventing any uninvited guests from entering, whilst they spend the day in court defending their right to stay. Squat squatting, I suppose.

At the meeting last night, a call went out from a young dark-haired woman who needed someone to mind their space, so that she and her housemate could attend court. With their day divided into two (first half, to be in court at 10am to deliver their defence; and then to return for 3pm to hear the verdict), I volunteered for the afternoon shift and turned up at their parkview house, to be overjoyed by the fact they had working electrics, water and wi-fi (all of which they had found intact after opening the squat and all much missed in my life).

Thankfully, the afternoon goes well, with no unexpected visitors or trouble. Thankfully too, Courthousemate neglects to inform me until much later that their squat may be haunted, thanks to the previous houseowner hanging himself somewhere in the building!

Because squatter support or not, I'm not doing it if there's a dead man floating about. I do possess some integrity!

Courtgirl returns later with some amazing news... that they've won. Their defence was so well prepared, that the court could do nothing but give in. For now, or until they are issued with an interim possession order, Courtgirl reckons they can live here for another month or so.

As the rain pelts down heavily outside, I join Courtgirl, Courthousemate and their Berlin friends for a celebration dinner, wildlife documentaries (involving shark embryos battling for supremacy) and some blessed thanks that the judge today was sympathetic.

Squatshots, 3

Here is our trusty Sitex security door.

Sitex sheeting protecting the bathroom (and us from voyeurs).

Section 6 is watching over us.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Secret defenders

The squatters network does exist, nothing mythological at all or something to sneer at.

SoundsNorwegian invites me along tonight, to sate my curiosity although she herself has a personal stake in the group, having been involved with their work for a long time. Unlike the Book Fair, this group of activists are far more friendly and welcoming. Wearing a pair of torn jeans this time somehow helps me feel less out of place.

We meet in one of their many secret meeting locations. Crammed onto sofas with builders tea to warm them up, the meeting begins swiftly following the passing around of an agenda for every one of us to view and amend. A random guy in a brown hat then nominates himself as meeting chair and off we go. We discuss recent evictions and run-ins with the police. We discuss how best to prepare squatters to protect themselves from bailiffs and ways to humiliate the door-breakers who intrude on properties but with no law-enforceable reason to do so.

We discuss assisting locals who are being evicted from their own businesses and aiding other low-income people in distress, forming solidarity with their campaigns and taking direct action. We discuss possible ways to oppose fascist groups.

The idea of uniting squats via a catalogue, where each one identifies the tools, skills and space they have, in order to coordinate our resources, is welcomed excitedly by all. It's the kind of useful prospect that USgal and I probably would've liked to have called upon in the early days of the electricity 'saga'. And would we have qualified for assistance anyway, considering we live in Tower Hamlets and this network is based in Hackney? (it's local needs first after all).

Another welcomed idea is that of free workshops, where different skills can be shared with others across squats, from plumbing to metallurgy. All very positive and inspiring.

The meeting goes by in two hours, packed with information, local squat news and proposals. It feels reassuring to know that a network exists, that your back is being watched (even if it's a borough away), that support is out there for your protection and education. SoundsNorwegian reckons we have been lucky tonight; some meetings have been known to go on for seven hours!

As we disperse into the cold air -- but as it turns out most of us are all heading for the same local chippie -- with our own squatting stories, to our own squats far and wide across the city, I feel encouraged. A bit more depth about some of the issues and insight into other people's situations. Some of the group gave away a hint of why they squatted, the reasons behind it. We are caretaking these empty properties, and yet the law reacts towards us as though we are illegal even though the law says it's legal.

How strange to be.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

No double dutch

Skipping really has nothing to do with rope.

Here is a photo of USgal being mauled by a double mattress we skipped from a local parking lot.

No damage to it at all, as you can see, except for one minor picked stitch on the side.

Anarchists together? Really?

Part of the squatting life, it seems, appears to embrace activism or anarchism that housemates who live this way share as a common value. Not every squatter though, I'm sure. The suggestion that squatting sits in a greater ecosystem does nudge my attention.

Today is the Anarchist Book Fair and so the ideal place to discover more. Conveniently, it's across the road from our estate. Our neighbour from the angle grinding session the other day describes the anticipated attendance as "being like Piccadilly Circus". By the time I leave for the Book Fair with SoundsNorwegian, USgal is already there. SoundsNorwegian is enthusing over her zine, that she can't wait to sell at the event.

Great quote. We can all probably agree to some extent.

If you can imagine a comic book convention or busy trade show promoting travel or food, and then replace all the people with activists, you'd be pretty close to imagining the scenes of the day. Despite the building crowd of attendees, the atmosphere feels surprisingly low key, even mellow. Nothing riotous about it.

The fact that books are the uniting hook for everyone's attendance is quite a cute thing really (as opposed to, say, attacking the police).

Relaxed is one thing, but it soon becomes clear that unless you know someone at the Book Fair and/or can speak activist/anarchistic and/or have some knowledge about campaigns/causes, you're going to be in for a tough time of it. Thrusting pamphlets at me from all camps (ie. Rising Tide, Earth First, Class War, Justice4Jean) is all very useful, but an introduction/welcome -- forget it. You're on your own.

And then, being singled out as "the only person of colour in this room is him" during a workshop where an American chap is recalling to everyone scenes of violence he'd witnessed between black and white anarchists, because the latter group claimed that anarchism is a white preoccupation only -- even more on your own.

Yes, I can't believe they're looking at me. Having the entire room go quiet is not a pleasant feeling and having no one jump in to dispute such a slur, or protect you, even less. I half expect them to point and applaud, "oh yes, there it is".

White preoccupation? Today's attendance did not disprove the American's claim. I should've been preoccupied with leaving.

Instead, taking note of the fashion sense of the day keeps me on. It seems that in order to feel "part of the scene", activists/anarchists must wear one/some of the following :
* Dreadlocks or just have scruffy unwashed hair.

* Anything militaristic -- combat boots & fatigues, torn khaki t-shirts, parkas; added mud a bonus.

* Layered clothing of luminous colour, eg. t-shirt over t-shirt over jumper with bright-pink leggings and so many bangles.

* The skinhead boy look (particularly if you want to hang about the Class War stall).

* A t-shirt that says "Fuck you pigs" (maybe they can't eat pork, who knows, I didn't ask).

* Long braided pink-purple-blue-orange dyed hair.

* Shaven haircuts of some sort (women included).

* Denim, preferably not made by Calvin Klein.

* That unwashed look again, but the whole body this time.

* A t-shirt featuring one of your anarchist heroes.

* If you can't do any of them, just have a mean-looking doberman by your side, so no one will dare ask you if you are anarchistic.

* Or wear a t-shirt with "Anarchy" across it.
Diagram Drawing Electrician, whom I bump into, accuses me of being an anthropologist with my 'activist fashion' probing. Maybe I need to dreadlock my Chinese hair in a bid for crossover and then I'll shut up. After all, I'd look the part. Except, why should I need to even look the part? Surely anarchism/activism is about ideas, not uniforms?

Heck, I'm using 'anarchist' and 'activist' as though they're interchangeable. Because again, all of this is surely about sharing ideas, not siding with labels, hiding behind unwashed hair and declaring grease as groovy.

It isn't until I stretch my legs on the grass outside that I really notice how tribal all of this is. All the various 'clothing types' are huddling in their respective groups. Even the combat fatigue smokers are sitting away from the bangle smokers. Being asked "are you a foreign student?" moments before the stretch is the last straw for me. Why am I being asked this question? Are any of the white people being asked the same thing? It's tiresome, and pathetic for a so-called 'alternative movement' that's trying to fight towards equal rights for all.

How can they ever hope to appeal to the mainstream with attitudes like that?

Eventually, the cold evening air moves me on, all the pamphlets on me chucked in the bin.

UPDATE: around 1.30am or so tonight, at a squatters benefit party at rampART, a random partygoer points out to me that I may have come to the 'wrong club'. Say again? Because I'm wearing a pin-stripe blazer. Ho hum.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Behind the scenes at the toilet

Do you remember this moon-like oddity?

As the sole repair job that has gone unchallenged, today I decided to bear the odd chemical smell coming from the waste pipe and bring the toilet in line with the rest of the house (ie. almost repaired). Someone had to do it, and with workable electrics in our grasp and USgal bringing the kitchen and bathroom waste water pipes into the modern age, I was without a task.


Some toilet surgery. Like an episode of CSI. Note the Marigolds doing their noble bit to protect me from the mystery that lies beyond the foam.

What mystery substance will gush out of the waste pipe?

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

A moment more...

Nail-biting stuff isn't it?

Oh my god, what's that?

It's a bag from Waterstone's the bookshop!

It turns out that the councilmen who had smashed up the flat to deter squatters were a literate bunch of people after all.

Seriously though, this is a tactic they use to block the pipe. Stuff it with newspapers or plastic bags before plugging it up with hard rock foam. This will be easier for them to unplug when it comes to the flats being reoccupied by rent-paying people.

A photo of the waste pipe, post-bag.

A giant reddish toadstool aka the toilet seat.

Hole-y moley!

Eventually, the following concertina-like nozzle will connect both holes and a working toilet (assuming the cistern works) will bloom from that. No more escapades to the local pub for their restrooms or using the toilet of a neighbour.

The toilet as of today. Looking like artefacts from an archaeological dig.

Toilet surgery, as sponsored by McDonalds.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Squat alliance is that?

USgal has obviously had some time to think, for her second question of the night is -- our alliance with the neighbouring squatters on our housing estate and what that means to us. From what we have experienced so far, there has been little networking or support that is forthcoming.

We've made a few doubting remarks about an advert on our noticeboard, regarding a squatters network and whether something like this really exists. The very fact the squatters on our doorstep cannot get organised with aid for their fellow newcomers, and yet squatters beyond us feel they are capable of organising a network throng, how is that even possible?

They must be dreamers, we think, to believe they can possibly help local people being evicted from their businesses or residents being thrown out of their homes thanks to the global credit crunch. How can they think out of the box, when they can't even help newbies on their own patch?

Talking of that patch : when the evictions do begin to roll in on our housing estate, and the neighbouring squatters are kicked out one by one, what do we do, as neighbours? Do we stand by them? Do we barricade ourselves in their homes and make a united stand against the police? Do we risk arrest for our compatriots?

Is there an order of priority as to who we stand up for -- the oldest squat gets our total support whereas a younger, ie week-old squat gets little defence? Is there an unspoken equality/unity amongst squatters, or only equality/unity towards those who opened the squats? (another hierarchy lot of thought)

And if we aren't ready to risk our arrestability for someone else, for whatever household or personal reasons, what then? When it comes to our turn, are we alone?

All of these questions, and possibly more.

We shall have to wait for those days to come for the answers. Which could be any day now. Even tomorrow.

The fourth housemate

USgal has identified a potentially awkward situation festering quietly in the squat.


As the only housemate involved in the opening of the squat, she feels that unfortunately this may be giving her leverage over the rest of us in the flat. Already, that is the external perception from neighbouring squatters, who defer everything to USgal, in spite of Hello, I live here too. She has already used her 'position' to decide who should live with her and feels she is becoming the main decision-maker.

Disturbing, eh. And I, as the sole other housemate at the moment until the new one joins tomorrow (a Norwegian-sounding girl), am hardly doing cartwheels on our balcony and setting off fireworks with this issue to hand. Hierarchy. Quite simply, our fourth housemate. The equivalent joy to living with your landlord (aka, no joy at all).

If we really wanted to, we could also invite other hierarchies to join in:

Atom Tom as the oldest of the housemates
SoundsNorwegian as our veteran squatter (three years and counting)
USgal as the newcomer to the city
Atom Tom, the only guy in the house
SoundsNorwegian, the only housemate with light-coloured hair (yes, I'm reaching)
USgal as the housemate whose been in the squat longest
Atom Tom whose ethnic origins come from the oldest civilisation on the planet (aka China)

Except, opening a squat has a value attached to it, and unless we devalue that and find an opposition that we can assign an equal or greater weight to, the squat is doomed. USgal is disturbed by this. Get in line.

So, forget about anticipating what grotesque substances may shoot out of the toilet waste pipe when we begin working on it. Forget about our inevitable pending eviction and our day in court to defend our stay. We have possible household politics to contend with and it's only Thursday. Adjusting to a housemate dynamic will be hardwork enough, without a hierarchy also being in there. Isn't that why you squat, to move away from systems like that?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Tool colours

Okay, the jailbreak technique isn't working. I'd been putting all my previous days of frustration with the electrics into the nail filing, but clearly don't possess enough annoyance to make an adequate dent in the steel pipes.

We decided today to go with Diagram Drawing Electrician's idea of using an angle grinder tool to slice at the base of each steel pipe (whilst being careful not to cut through the wires). Thanks to a neighbour and their many extension cords, here is USgal with the angle grinder at work. Sparks and noise, the sign of hard work at work, as you can see. She found the entire process exhilarating.

Next tool - The Dremel, here at work on the main steel pipe (referred to by both electricians, as "The Puppy", for this is the one that connects to the outside electricity supply) :

The mysterious Dremel that USgal has been going on about since I arrived. The name of a brand of tool I learned today. Here is our attempt to use the Dremel to slice down the hide of steel. A laborious process, but our shoulder joints are glad for it.

By the way, does this look like five metres to you?

It is, according to the packaging for this extension cord. An alien five metres perhaps. Five metres, maybe, if you had to imagine what five metres looked like.

UPDATE: as of 7.38pm, I have managed to cut through the bases of all of the steel pipes (bar the 5th and 6th, which don't have any connectors anyway). This feels good.


This is the current state of our toilet.

It is apparently policy for the local authorities to smash up toilets of uninhabited homes, to deter squatters.

Of all the repairs taking place in the flat, the toilet is the one repair job that neither of us has yet to approach, apart from buying parts for it. Our job is to re-connect the toilet to the waste water pipe. The key question I have been asking is...

...when we start to chisel away at the foam blocking the pipe (as seen in the photo below), will anything come out from it?

Will all the Marigold gloves be able to protect us? All the veteran squatters around us seem to have no answer to my enquiring about this, which means they can't be proper veteran squatters then.

An answer obviously awaits (with much anticipation), let's hope it smells nice.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Squat's in a name, part 1

We were discussing the other night whether to refer to our squat by another name, instead of "Are you going back to the squat?"

It's the word "squat", mainly. It's not as if we're hovering our butts over a patch of grass for some satisfying but unpleasant internal bodily release, or about to pounce on someone in a rugby tackle. It's almost a disempowering word for the cause that it is, as though the people who do it are not far removed from dirty animals.

Are we "snob squatters" by thinking like this, as though we're too good for squatting and yet here we are, squatting? As though we're trying to dress it up, a way of disassociating ourselves from the task to hand? We're not sure. It would be nice for the squat to feel like home, having said all that.

Possible names so far:

The liberation house
The liberated house

A small list, for now. Let the brainwaves roll. Any suggestions?

Squatshots, 2

One day, we'll be able to eat off here.

And take a bath.

And enjoy the view from the bathroom.

And make a bedroom out of this.