OK, so far my only complaint about London is the lack of good coffee shops. Coffee shops are everywhere; it’s hard to even walk into a building without spotting a shiny new espresso machine. It’s a pity that either all the baristas suck and/or the shop itself is the epitome of hipster bullshit. So, next on the list of things to do: find an indy shop with a barista who can pull a double that will make my tongue dance.
Other than that, London kicks copious amounts of ass.
I left Aunt Margaret’s place after most of the snow had cleared, or at least had time to melt into a beautiful slushy mess. I had an absolutely wonderful time there and was sad to leave, yet excited to get into London. I had a contact set up that I could potentially stay with for a night or two, but didn’t want to burden him if I could help it. So I started a hunt for a new possibility. The first place I found with wifi after stepping off a train was a McDonald’s about a block away from Victoria Station (I still can’t believe that one of the first places I sought out in London was a McDonald’s, but hey it had free internet). I didn’t order any food, but I must say, It was by far the nicest McDonalds I have ever been inside of in my life. It looked more like a modern spa in Tokyo than a cheap burger joint; there was designer furniture everywhere and fresh cut single tulips in slender glass vases on every table… double U tea eff? There was even a lounge downstairs.
Anyway, I went to 56A’s website (an infoshop whom I have been in contact with for a few months now, they have a list of radical contacts and collectives around the city) in hopes of finding a promising place to stay for the evening. I stumbled upon something similar to a food not bombs meal taking place that evening. It was a benefit dinner for Sri Lanka at a squat in Southeast London called The Library House. Forty-five minutes later I was knocking on a door behind a public library with a Section 6 taped to it, the lights were on. The people I met were extremely nice, one girl was from Georgia (in the states), another girl I think was from Italy. I was a little early so I offered to help cook, they put me on brussel-sprout duty. Before long people were trickling in, everyone from a different corner of the world. Soon some gentleman from Sri Lanka came and brought some native food as well, which I must say is quite choice if you ever have the opportunity to sample it. There was a presentation given about the genocide occurring in Sri Lanka now and the government’s silencing of any free media trying to cover the situation within the country. About 25 people attended in all. Afterwards we sat around and discussed, among other things, the presentation. I managed to inquire about potential squat opportunities, as most people there were squatting somewhere in the city. Eventually a group of three offered me some floor space for the evening. They are part of a group of fifteen who had only the previous night found a four-bedroom flat in SE London and were able to escape the snow. (I may introduce some of the fifteen at some point, but for privacy’s sake it will only be with their permission. For the time being I will refer to them in general as a group, or perhaps use pseudonyms). The group, with rotating members, has been hopping squat houses in London for three years now. Their last squat received quite a bit of (unwanted) press coverage, as they were residing in a £1.2M house in a posh part of North London, I had actually read an article about it a few months ago in the states.
The group is all kinds of incredible, they are so generous and in that way remind me of all the people I love to interact with in the states. They are worried about being a little over-crowded in the house, but for the time being have allowed me to stay for as long as I like, or until a better squat situation turns up. They are trying to find another house to spread out a bit. As it is, there is really never any more than about eight staying in the place at a time (with the others staying at satellite properties), and as a new squat, it must be occupied by at least one person at all times, so having a surplus of people is not necessarily a bad thing. We will have electricity in a little less than a week, but for now it isn’t bad at all. We spend most of the day in the city and really only use the house to sleep, there are a ton of extra blankets and plenty of people, so we stay quite warm in the evenings.
So this is who I have been staying with for the past few nights. These people are loads of fun and have been showing me all over the city. Yesterday we attended a free cinema showing Italian films. In the evening we attended a guerilla radio show, in which several of the mates were invited to come and discuss squatting in London. One of the members works at a vegan café and brings home extra food in the evenings for the rest of the mates. Every Saturday there is something like a cattle auction in one part of the city, except for bicycles. A few of the mates are attending that today, I have other plans so will be attending that next week.
That’s it for now. I am about to meet up with Margaret for falafel, as she has come into the city today.
For more info on squatting: http://www.squatter.org.uk/