Strawberry Fair, Armpit Hair

Here’s a piece from the e-archive. It was written in 2005 and published by Gyrus in the stunning DreamFlesh Journal in 2006. Gyrus had been involved in the Unlimited Dream Company publications of the early – mid 1990s, producing the incomparable Towards 2012 series, which were always well worth a look.

“Earlier this year, in the spirit of Cambridge’s Strawberry Fair, Dick & I dressed up as Prima Ballerinas, all pink netting tutus, green tights & flowers in our hair…read more

Walks with Mistletoe

 

Mistletoe is a plant of deep winter, in that as an evergreen it is most easily seen when it’s deciduous host trees are bare of leaves, so the next few weeks are crucial if you want to see mistletoe. Spotting mistletoe in summer with trees in full leaf is a much more of challenging prospect, but one that, for me, has become a regular pastime on long car and train journeys. Since reading Rod Chapman’s “How to Grow Mistletoe” I have become quite attuned to spotting colonies of mistletoe amongst the winter and summer branches. I was therefore delighted when Rod suggested he and his partner Rue come over to Cambridge at the end of last month to see the mistletoe. They’d already checked out the profusion of mistletoe in the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens earlier in the winter, so we devised a one and a half hour walk that took in some of the larger colonies and a few odd solitary clumps around the city centre, as well as a couple of the major attractions of our historic university home-town. From the train station to Trumpington Road, skirting around the edge of the Botanic Gardens, across Coe Fen to the Mill Pond, along the ‘backs’ crossing the River Cam at Garrett Hostel Bridge  and on up to the old Castle Mound, home by lunchtime for warming soup, home-made bread and the luxurious wine and chocolates Rod and Rue brought with them.

Rod and Rue also brought a copy of C. James Cadbury and Philip H Oswald’s article “Mistletoe undergoes an explosive increase in Cambridgeshire”  (from “Nature in Cambridgeshire issue number 51” 2009) which attempts “a complete survey of mistletoe within the city” drawing on extensive material from two successive winter surveys from 2007 to 2009, it also uses other surveys and anecdotes going back to the nineteenth century. The article includes detailed tables showing the locations of over 1500 clumps of mistletoe in Cambridge, as well as their sizes, numbers, height from the ground and species of host trees. It is fascinating and informative reading and has certainly been guiding my steps for the past few weeks when out walking.

Our mistletoe expedition with Rod and Rue was no where near as comprehensive as  Cadbury and Oswald’s, although Rod took a number of good photos, from which information can be gleaned (these have been posted on The Mistletoe Foundation facebook page). As our walk circled around the city centre, primarily close to the river, we missed out on the fabulous colonies around Madingley Road, near Churchill College and the University Observatories, which we have marvelled at in the past. However, the mistletoe on Chaucer and Latham Roads were certainly on our walk and while notably visible high up in the distance from Trumpington Road, their size and profusion is even more astonishing close up at street level. Cadbury and Oswald’s survey explains that the distribution and spread of mistletoe in Britain is generally via mating pairs of Mistle Thrushes, who feed high in the topmost branches and this is clearly the case with the colonies around Chaucer Road. The increase in the spread of mistletoe over the past decade or so may well be attributed to an increase in the number of Blackwings overwintering in eastern England, and possibly accounts for an increase in mistletoe on lower branches where Blackwings feed.

By the Mill Pond on Coe Fen we found mistletoe that didn’t seem to be mentioned in the survey, a single fairly large clump on the lower branches of a Poplar just beyond the weir. There is little mistletoe in the immediate area and it is possible that this clump has grown since the survey of 2009, giving the walk the added pleasure of discovery. We ended our walk at the foot of Castle Mound, where a number of long-time Cambridge residents had spoken of mistletoe. We found innumerable clumps chiefly on crab apple trees around the Castle Hill area, most of them quite small, although there were a few well-established large clumps. Again, these colonies were not covered in the 2009 survey, so perhaps they have developed quite recently. Being on small trees these Castle Mound colonies perhaps attest to increased distribution by Blackwings. My one disappointment of the day was verification of the loss of mistletoe at St. Peters churchyard on Castle Hill. Back in August 2003 we were shown a small developing clump on a small tree close to the church porch by friend and geomancer Patrick McFadzean. We took a photo back then, and although slightly blurred, the distinctive shape of the mistletoe leaf is clearly visible low down amongst the leaves of a domesticated apple tree. In preparation for the walk with Rod and Rue we visited the churchyard only to find that not only the mistletoe but the whole tree had been removed. All that remained was a much damaged and scored stump in the ground. St Peters yard isn’t mentioned as a site in the survey and so perhaps had already been destroyed before 2007. I felt sad at this, especially since St Peters is said to be one of the oldest churches in the city centre and is built on a circular walled-in rise, as if atop a pre-christian burial mound, and seems to be be exactly the place where mistletoe should be found.

Jean Dark
March 2012

Further information and links on mistletoe:

Rod Chapman’s How to Grow Mistletoe
Rod Chapman’s Mistletoe Photographs
Jonathan’s Mistletoe Diary
C James Cadbury and Philip H Oswald’s survey
Earth Pathways Diary 2012 How to See Mistletoe by Jean Dark
Cambridge Mistletoe walk.  email: jean@paganbooks.eu
National Mistletoe Week is the first week in December each year

Many thanks to Rod and Rue Chapman for a wonderful day out.

Jean Dark’s Book Reviews

Below are links to a selection of my book reviews that have been published in UK magazines. I am always on the lookout for interesting books, zines, pamphlets & broadsides, so if you are a small-press publisher or run a magazine, please contact Jean Dark with free samples and review copies.

Review of Cambridge Creates anthology
2011

Review of The Modern Antiquarian by Julian Cope
1998

Review of Little-known Leics & Rutland by Bob Trubshaw
2003

Review of The Roebuck in the Thicket 
– Anthology of the Robert Cochrane Witchcraft Tradition ed Michael Howard
2004

Review of Secrets of East Anglian Magic by Nigel Pennick
2004

Review of The Reiki Subversive’s Manual by Karl Hernesson
2005

Review of King Arthur’s Camlan by Laurence Main
2006

Review of The History of British Magic After Crowley by Dave Evans
2010

Review of Dice & Dysfunctionality by Fay Knight
2011

The Satanist & My Kindle

This Yule I was lucky enough to be given an e-book reader. After switching it on and frustratingly browsing some e-book distributor websites I chose to download George Orwell’s 1984. There are complicated reasons for this choice, not the least of which that the last time I read 1984 from cover to cover was early september 2001. I was actually reading about the Ministry of Peace at the exact moment that I heard about the twin towers, it seemed as if the face of Osama Bin Laden had been forever superimposed over the goat-like features of Goldstein – Orwell’s archetypal terrorist scapegoat. Winston Smith’s job in the ministry of Truth is to re-edit historical documents in prescribed ways in order to justify and uphold the shifting pragmatic views and actions of a monolithic state. For me the book is a study of social control through the control of information, the manipulation of minds through the manipulation of accepted reality – propaganda, censorship and outright lies as strategies to maintain the position of those in power. I have for sometime now viewed the rise of the e-book as a form of Orwellian censorship, the change in technological format resulting in the unavailability of more marginal, less popular, or less marketable texts. Just as the transference from vinyl to CD and from VHS to DVD accentuated the predominance of blockbusters, bestsellers and profit considerations in film and music output, so the e–book may serve to narrow literary production. Although this fear has proven unfounded, downloading Orwell’s evermore relevant 1984 as my first e-book went someway to alleviating my anxiety at the time.

The second book I downloaded was The Satanist by James Mclachlan (published in 2011), a very different book from its 1960 namesake by Dennis Wheatley.
I’d become interested in James Mclachlan’s novel a few months ago through a re-directed mailout to the small independent bookshop I used to run in Cambridge and I emailed the author to say that although we had to close the shop in a state of financial meltdown over a year ago, I was intrigued on a personal level and would like to read the book myself. I was much heartened when Mclachlan said that it bore no relation to the Dennis Wheatley book, but saddened that his book was undergoing a reprint and so unavailable. When I got the e-book reader I began browsing titles and discovered that Mclachlan’s The Satanist was available in a Kindle version.
Angus, the eponymous Satanist of this new novel by James Mclachlan, is a much put-upon and exploited character – besides being cheated on, walked out on and generally thrown into confusion by two consecutives girlfriends and his mother, his friends at the Melbourne chapter of The Church of Satan are hell-bent on driving him and themselves to distraction (if not destruction) in a series of locations across Australia. Remarkably, Angus remains an engaging and likeable character, even if at the start of the book he has a toxic lack of self-esteem, views most people as mindless “herd” and would rather watch re-runs of The Avengers than engage in meaningful social contact with his peers or family; by the end of the book he has grown and developed, he has not only saved the lives of a whole stadium-full of pappy-pop-fans, he has come to terms with the infidelities of his first girlfriend, fallen in love and settled down with his second girlfriend, made contact with and connected with his estranged father, caught up with his old mates in Tasmania and put a viper’s nest of literally homicidal evangelical bible-bashers in jail. So I guess he turned out alright in the end.
In many ways the Satanists – Angus, Sim, Dim, Jerald and the two naked girls watching Hammer Horror films from under the blanket (don’t ask!) – are by far the most honourable and admirable characters in this novel. They certainly stand up well beside the Christians they are battling with, a murderous, cowardly, superstitious, psychotic bunch whose constant justifications for their atrocities “(we are) to deliver God’s judgement” “it is the Lord’s will” and “The Lord God is working through me” recall the god-made-me-do-it excuses of the Yorkshire Ripper.
In an email James told me that his ideal readership were people who identified with those in the novel – young or not so young, goth/camp psychonauts, determined on upholding the principles of self-will. They are also Satanists. If you are not familiar with Satanism as it is practiced in the English-speaking world today, perhaps I need to explain (as Mclachlan does) that far from being the drug-addled blood-lust-orgy shenanigans of an elite of crazed libertines, the Church of Satan presents a lucid and cohesive philosophical and practical denunciation of the life-denying sexually repressive extremes of christianity. Based on the writings of its founder Anton La Vey, the Church of Satan seeks to encourage an awareness and identification with ones real, deep and untamed needs outside the strictures of a morality defined by the monotheisms, and to engender personal responsibility for meeting one’s own needs. Although I find La Vey’s writings a tad dated (particularly the unreconstructed sexism of Diary of a Satanic Witch), I find the self-determinism liberating, and what normal human being wouldn’t prefer comfort over a hair shirt, emotional satisfaction above eternally delayed gratification. (To find out more read Gavin Baddley’s Lucifer Rising (Plexus 1999) for a superb history and commentary on C20th satanic groupings).
This may all sound very heavy and cerebral but Mclachlan’s story bounds along, leaping from one surreal improbability to the next, twisting in hilarious character-driven episodes, it is fast and entertaining. Although I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story and delighted in the acerbic wit of the character asides and vignettes, it is difficult to discuss the plot without divulging too much. In this and other ways the novel reminded me of Jack Barrow’s The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil and Dice and Dysfunctionality by Fay Knight. All three novels are essentially comic occult thrillers concerning contemporary occult social groupings – Satanists (Mclachlan), Chaos Magicians (Barrow) and Role-Players (Knight) – who are running around like headless chickens trying to avert a snowballing, potentially global, catastrophe. I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that it all turns out sorta alright really in the end. Incidentally, all three authors are also published by small independent presses and are worth keeping an eye on in the future.

The plot of Dennis Wheatley’s novel, first published in 1960, is the typical trite class-bound occult mumbo-jumbo that we’ve come to expect from this once popular author. I have read about half a dozen Wheatley books in my time, and I am hard pushed to distinguish any of them apart – it is formula writing in the occult thriller genre that is thoroughly lacking in imagination or insight. All the so-called Satanists greet each other with “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”, none of them are English and they all speak in ridiculous phonetically transcribed accents. All the goodies work clandestinely for the War Office, throw holy water in people’s faces and all speak in ridiculous phonetically transcribed English accents. The cheap trade paperback red cardboard cover was an imitation of an august nineteenth century library-binding but like tacky, with smudged gold blocking (lettering). It was published by Grove Press and it cost me a quid second-hand from somewhere or other. The cover cracked and the front fell off, although no actual pages had fallen out by page 145, when I couldn’t take anymore sexist racist classist twaddle and stopped reading the damned thing.

What does all this tell me? For a start, reading from a kindle is a better experience than reading a badly made paperback that falls apart, particularly if that paperback is by Dennis Wheatley. Further, I sense an ecological dilemma with buying paperbacks. Frankly, the vast volume of best-seller trash that has been committed to paper in the past decade or so is enough to make a whole forest weep. It probably is better to keep the throw-away cheap fiction pot-boilers in cyberspace. I have also discovered that out of print books are often still available as e-books, quite the reverse of my Orwellian censorship fears. It may in fact be the situation that a book need never be ‘out of print’ ever again. Finally, a few writers and small publishers have explained to me how easy e-book publishing has become, easier and cheaper than publishing paperbacks, which of course opens up the range of titles available rather than narrowing it. Perhaps nobody will be re-issuing Dennis Wheatley’s backlist in e-book format, but that can hardly be a bad thing when all’s said and done.
On the other hand, I still do have qualms about the threat that e-book readers pose to some aspects of the book industry. Independent bookshops have been in decline for some years now. In the 2 two years around the time of the closure of my own bookshop, 6 other independent bookshops were forced to close in Cambridge alone. Partly this was due to the rise of the multi-national corporate chain bookshops, the burgeoning of internet book sales, the cornering of the second-hand book market by charity shops and the proliferation of bookstands in supermarkets, cafes and most other public spaces. My worry is the loss of the expertise and experience if the independent bookshops all go to the wall. I am very disappointed by the categorisation and presentation of titles available on Kindle – either you type in a specific title or accept a recommended best-seller from Amazon, who are hardly qualified to distinguish literary quality from profit-generated quantity. Furthermore, although traditional bookbinding skills have been in decline since Penguin invented the non-sewn paperback in the 1930s, the sewing and casing of books is a much-refined and functional craft that has been perfected over centuries to be the most effective and aesthetic way of keeping texts for long periods, the total loss of this art-form could have Orwellian consquences.
This is not all, I encountered three serious practical problems in reading from an e-book. Firstly, progress is indicated by a percentage and I am totally lost without page numbers. It doesn’t seem possible to make an index using these percentages which, like the visible screen, bear no relation to a fixed page, starting and ending in different places each time I switched away. There didn’t seem to be a contents page either, so chapter headings became inconsequentially clicked by and forgotten, and I felt I had no point of reference for a structural overview of the book and how the elements fitted together progressing to the final chapter. The second practical problem is that on the Kindle reading progresses from the start sequentially to the end with no room for flicking back more than one screen at a time, this is simply not how I read. The experience was a feeling of plodding, whereas I naturally read back and forth reading and re-reading, sometimes by whole chapters, in search of a vaguely remembered choice sentence or poignant metaphor. This pleasure was lost in the limited linear start-to-finish capacities of the e-book reader. Thirdly, what will happen to e-book readers when the oil/gas/electricity finally runs out, are they developing a solar or wind-powered extension? And what will happen if e-books are made obsolete by some other yet undreamed-of book-reading technology. Will Kindle go the way of Betamax? (a joke there for anyone over 40).
I can’t imagine what a bookless world would be like, I have 1000s of paper books in my collection and one of my pleasures is stumbling across a book I haven’t seen for a while, some cannot possibly be reproduced on an e-book – graphic novels and art books for instance. Many readers I have spoken to say they miss the tactile qualities of books, the physical turning of pages, riffling, skimming, jotting in the margins and turning over corners. Some even obsess about the smell of books (as a former bookshop owner I can vouch that there are people out there who sniff books rather than read them!)

But it all turns out alright in the end, because the book version of The Satanist is now back in print and James Mclachlan has promised to send me a signed paper copy for my library. The best of both worlds!

Bella Basura
January 2012

Adventure in the Paris Catacombs

Back last century, while I was a squatter in Hackney East London, I took my boneshaker to France and set off on a bicycle journey to Paris with the artist Emit Snake-Beings. We took our lead from Guy Debord and the French Situationists and investigated the Paris Catacombs. I recently revisited Paris  with Dick but was disappointed that the Catacombs had become part of the tourist itinerary with queues winding around the block, official expensive guided tours only and waiting times of several hours. Back in 1989 the catacombs were less popular and our visit was a wild unaccompanied surge through silent unpeopled tunnels and chambers. They were dead creepy!

The essay below was originally published in CamFin (1998) and later appeared in Necro-Tourist (1999), an early collection of my travel writings which was subsequently reviewed in The Headpress Guide to The Counterculture (2004).

Adventure in the Paris Catacombs

We chained our pushbikes to the railings, and trotted across the bright late afternoon road, bought tickets at the tiny ticket booth in the entrance, then clattered unattended down an iron staircase deep down into the chilly damp depths of Catacombs that burrow innumerable labyrinths underneath the streets of Paris.
Briefly, these Catacombs had been most extensively used during the French Revolution by aristocrats evading the guillotine. After the revolution they were used to store the bones from surface cemetries which were cleared to create land for building. More recently, it is said that they were used by the Resistance during the Nazi occupation to hide fugitives. During the 1950s, the Parisian Situationists accidentally discovered a previously unknown entrance in to the Catacombs and spent sometime exploring the disused and unlit sections as part of their Psychogeographical research. Guy Debord makes references to this Situationist activity in his 1958 essay “The theory of the derive”, claiming that “…slipping by night into buildings undergoing demolition, hitch-hiking non-stop and without destination through Paris during a transportation strike in order to add to the confusion, wandering in subterranean catacombs forbidden to the public…” were typically seen as revolutionary acts by the Situationist participants. Later, (in another essay “The Adventure” December 1960) Debord re-uses the Catacombs as a metaphor for the subversive nature of the Situationist ideology …”The Situationists are in the catacombs of the visible culture”.
There was no tourist guide when we visited, yet it wouldn’t have been possible to discover revolutionary situations in the section of the Catacombs that are presently open to the public. A prescribed route was clearly marked with bright spotlights, contained by locked iron gates that cut off access to any enticing diversionary paths. I found this reassuring, only a few minutes after entering the Catacombs I’d felt so disoriented by the circuitous labyrinths that I already felt I’d never remember the route to return. This was an unnecessary fear, as I discovered later, return by that route was already a pre-determined impossibility. During those first few moments of disorientation I was swamped with an incredible helpless animal fear, that numbed me with its intensity. My conscious mind struggled with encroaching claustrophobia. I was deep underground, lost in confusing tunnels, which were centuries old, that perhaps had been used by the aristocrats and others for all sorts of hideous tortures, imprisonments and assignations. The vivid awareness of the savage barbarity of recent human history crouched snarling in my mind, seeing off the claustrophobia good and proper. Neither of these sensations was what I’d expected to feel, so I quickly overcame my fear and horror with my usual sadistic fantasies. I followed the prescribed path, pausing at locked gates, peering through off into unlit recesses. There was no possibility of deviation from the one winding route, inevitably leading I knew not where.
About half-way into the Catacombs the tunnels seemed to widen out, and we came to an ante-chamber, with a portal to the right. Through the portal I could see another larger room, lit selectively with spotlights, dimly-lit passages leading off, over the portal were painted the words “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”, or something similar, in French, which I don’t speak at all.
Through the portal, this larger room was decorated with human skulls and crossbones, I swear that this is true. The passages off this room led to other smaller rooms, with bowed ceilings like wine cellars, they were filled to halfway up the walls with human thigh bones, arm bones, vertebrae. All arranged neatly, like the bricks in a wall, and topped off with designs made from human skulls, some had teeth missing, some skulls were bashed in, others still with jaw-bones, grinning. We wandered around these rooms, cellars and ante-chambers for another twenty or so minutes, and I had a good chance to examine the designs, and imagine what the information plaques in French could mean.
I suspect that I was operating in some altered state of consciousness, possibly brought on by the earlier unexpected attack of claustrophobia, and very quickly the grisliness of human remains exhibited in this way wore off and I found myself stunned by the sheer number of human bones stacked so precisely in these tunnels. I thought about how odd the people who’d done this strange work must have been, daily, gaily building walls from the bones of the dead, so many bones. I was overwhelmed and mindblown by the sheer power that the grinning skull symbol of death held over my consciousness, and I felt awed in the presence of death. Momentarily, I felt I’d made peace, for death seemed to wink at me, dispel my wonderment and left me with a stilled dispassionate gaze. I looked carefully at the bones, particularly the skulls, which were very smooth and shiney, without a trace of the flesh and skin that once covered them, they were like polished wood, solid, unyielding, somehow inanimate, yet so familiar for the life they once contained. And other strange unnatural musings trumbled through my mind.
Suddenly, we left, clattering up the iron staircase, out into the bright street. Our appointment with death terminated, at least for the time being.
We emerged blinking from the gloomy Catacombs, blinded in the burning sun, like vampires with broken internal clocks we stood shivering in the August heatwave. The heavy traffic stormed up and down the busy road and rush-hour commuters pushed and shoved on the pavement. Behind us we heard the attendant wearily usher away the last of the visitors and clangingly lock the big iron doors.
As the sunlight shock receded, I began to feel an increasing sense of geographical confusion, and it slowly dawned on me, that the entrance to the Catacombs was not the same as the exit. They were in different places. There was no prescribed route of return. We’d walked through underground labyrinths for forty five minutes, oblivious of surface landmarks, walked in god-knows-what-direction. We could be ANYWHERE in Paris. We began to evaluate the situation, concluding decisively that our Paris street plan was with my packed lunch in a carrier bag, bungeed to the back of my bike. And my bike, I now knew, was in another dimension…

by Bella Basura 1999
From the pamphlet Necro-Tourist
First published in CamFIN

Guest Blog by Spider Anonymous

I few weeks ago I wrote on this blog about two underground 16mm films I’d  been to see in  London. The article I eventually put up was only half of the intended post, I had gone on to write as much again about my experiences earlier in the day at the Occupylsx ‘Bank of Ideas’  social centre in Sun St,  just behind Liverpool Street Station.
At the Bank of Ideas I’d met a group of very creative, inventive people, who were putting on meetings and workshops in the squatted offices of Swiss Bank USB. People who were organising, planning and carving another new autonomous zone right in the heart of the beast. I met a guy on the door who’d been at Newbury and other 90’s protest sites. Upstairs I helped paint one of the banners on a stunning bamboo and netting structure known as a demo-unit.  There was tweeting and speaking and drinking tea all round. I felt most welcome and at home. In fact it was only once I’d left and was tacking through the city of London rush-hour crowds, somewhere along London wall, that I again felt that familiar awareness of myself as a middle-aged ne’er-do’-well in tatty second-hand clothes, one of Boris Johnson’s ‘fornicating hippies’ in fact.
Just as I was about to post the second half of the article a friend gave me a copy of a more hands-on piece he’d written about St Paul’s Tent City, where he’d been sleeping for a while. Although I would recommend an afternoon (any afternoon, every afternoon) knocking around at the bank of ideas, I thought this report by Spider Anonymous was more interesting than my own…

 

Occupy LSX: First Recon Report: Covering the Story 6-8 November 2011

I hitched down to St Pauls with Raula Duchessa on Sunday 6th. We got picked up after a mere 40 minutes by an ex-LSX finance adviser/trader who was really keen on the Occupation having served the 1%er Empire from the inside for enough years to have been spiritually broken by the experience.

We took part in a General Assembly almost immediately. The system of responsive hand-signals used by the crowd throughout made participation as easy and intuitive as swimming. The executive includes everyone divided into small-groups reporting back on a daily basis. Topics included switching to solar power from diesel generators and building a compost bag based garden.

We were assigned a pitch by a very friendly no-longer-homeless dude. You probably won’t need to take a tent as there are usually a half-dozen empty tents at any one time (caveat: Sod’s Law states however that if you don’t take a tent there won’t be any spare that evening). Do take a ground mat and a couple of sleeping bags – concrete is foken cold man. Big socks and thermal leggings are essentials too.

The toilets are well clean – people seem to treat ‘em with a degree of respect sorely lacking at every damn festival on the circuit. Everyone knows that dysentery could kill this thing faster than more than 10,000 riot kopz.

The Information Tent down at the front (near the loos!) is a good place to start. There’s always someone who will give you the tour and help your orientation. This is good moment to make a good friend. We met Bobby, an ex-serviceman and veteran of the war inIraqand one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. A diamond geezer as they say.

Further up is TentCityUniversity, full of books and information about what’s going on in terms of discussion and policy groups, i.e. what we believe and want from the Occupation. I got a copy of the initial demands and a summary of our aims in about five minutes. It took a further twenty to disentangle myself from Discuss Further Man. You quickly learn that starting a conversation is more than 10,000 times easier than ending (or even just concluding) one.

There’s also a Meditation tent, First Aid station, massive Kitchen and finally a Tea & Welfare tent. They do what they say on the tin. There are about 250 people there at any one time although more people come in for the evening meetings. Of the 250 I’d say about 150 stay for only a couple of days at a time, popping home to recharge before returning, which means that the number of people involved could conshervatively be at least 700.

So who are these people; what are they like? Well, to not put too fine point on it, they are not at all short of crazy loons. If you point the finger at how silly they are it won’t take much doing. There’s the Reindeer Ears Jesus Woman, who preaches the Love That Surpasses All Understanding while wearing reindeer ears and holding an Israeli national flag. There’s the guy who claims to have been a member of the Pogues but won’t tell you his name or even what instrument he played. There’s the chef who works a twenty hour day and sings opera (pretty well) to the passers by. There’s the IT professional who collects antique gold coins who seems really really straight until you realise he’s wearing home-made chainmail and is trying to tell you about how aliens from Sirius are going to transform our cosmic consciousness. There’s the guy who just may actually be God since he seems to be everywhere, doing everything, all the time (while dressed entirely in white). When asked he vehemently denied it, of course, which obviously means that he is…

Sheeit! Get a grip! I think I’m succumbing to the madness of the place. You certainly don’t get much sleep between the cold, the incessant traffic, the bells of the cathedral, the 4am security alerts – EDL spotted! Six big fellas in footie shirts and white reebox and shaved heads seen getting into a tent together, no-one thinks to ask ‘em if they just having a big gay gang bang. Sorry, I take that back, a massive transvestite does just that. The ‘EDL cell’ stumbles off in broken and humiliated retreat in search of another drink.

The ex-LSX trader who gave us a lift turns up one evening. We take Trader Tom round the site since we are now old hands having spent the day helping out here and there as it might be, washing dishes, making tea, removing an ear-plug that’s become dislodged in someone’s ear canal, sweeping the streets clean; and incessantly dealing with the demands of Joe Public(school) who in his own lunatic way wants to tell anyone willing to listen about how We Are Wrong and that the Free Market (propped up by massive public subsidies) is the only way to ensure our families and future. Actually he tends to steer clear of the massive public subsidies bit.

Quite often the Sirius guy sounds more down to earth. Tom is blown away by the breathtaking level of organisation, the cleanliness, the food, the people. We try to point out the loons, remind him that it’s cold and frequently wet; that trucks pass by at all hours day and night, the impossibility of sleep or hot showers. To no avail – he stays to see a General Assembly and decides despite our best efforts to come down the following weekend. “I know it sounds crazy but this feels like home somehow” he says as we say fond goodbyes.

I know what Tom means. I stay awake most of the night, cursing the place, hating the hippies and promising myself that I’ll leave today. And yet, within twenty minutes of stiff, sore waking up I know there is nowhere else I would rather be; no other people I would rather be among.

Well, I guess that you’ll be wanting to know what these crazed loons want from the 1%er Empire.  It’s bound to insane and unreasonable, I, like you, would probably be lead to expect. I won’t bore you with my opinions on this, I’ll just list their demands given in response to the demand from the Corporation of the City of London to vacate the site by Christmas.

 “We will agree to leave the site by Christmas if the City of London Corporation agrees to:

1. Publish full, year-by-year breakdowns of the City Cash account, future and historic.

2. Make the entirety of its activities subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

3. Detail all advocacy undertaken on behalf of the banking and finance industries, since the 2008 financial crash.”

I was there at the General Assembly when this was agreed by overwhelmingly warm majority. I was astonished that these are the demands of a bunch of unkempt crazy loons. They need your help – getting the message out, and bodies on the ground. This may be the start of something good, a tethering of the predatory capitalism that’s been making our lives increasingly miserable of recent years. They need your help, even a pair of warm socks would be a worthy action.

I’ll be reporting more, from the concrete pavement of Tent City of Occupy London, I am, Spider Anonymous. Thank you for taking the time to read this. We are the 99%