A light that never goes out?

Whilst at home over the holidays I made a pilgrimage to Manchester council’s only public toilet.

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Yes, that is correct. One public toilet. To serve an entire city of people, who, we can only presume, are sometimes involuntarily pushed into requiring the bog-standard set of expulsive bodily procedure facilities.

Maybe the council’s strategy is that, by taking away public toilets, one-by-one, we members of the public can eventually learn how to transcend our luxuriously inefficient desire to piss. 

To seek and find Manchester council’s last standing, purpose-built shithouse is in many ways comparable to discovering a mythical oasis. The city is a cruel and inhospitable desert, yet somewhere within, exists a hallowed resting stop, available for use by all. A glimmering promise of satisfaction in the realm of basic human need. Is it really there? Or does it only flash, luridly, before the mind’s eye of a subject too far gone – too irredeemably lost in manic clenching delirium – to be present. 

Nay. It is there. 

But how? The inhumane results of continuing cuts to local council funding have forced municipal government bodies into sharing authority over decision-making with businesses. Councils can’t keep your public toilets open, so slash the free-to-use service and let profit-making companies soak up any extra business, goes the logic. Now, many who find themselves caught short in the city are made to feel like minor criminals if they use customer relief services without actually buying something. 

And on top of this, it increases the pressure on cleaning staff. If you think about how many cleaners it takes to clean an entire city’s worth of shit, and then start sacking people who were doing exactly that job, just hoping that the reduced workforce will be able to absorb this decrease, then the city’s obviously going get shittier. Cleaning staff will be working harder, presumably not at an increased rate of pay, because what individual business is going to take financial responsibility for the council’s (crudely forced) decision to close down public toilets? 

And all this overseen by a man with a famous ability to withhold his own piss for obscene lengths of time.*

So it is only through sheer resilience against a government dead set on flushing these essential services out of town, that Manchester’s only public toilet remains. Perhaps this is why finding it feels like a bit of a miracle. 

Yet it seems important to note that this isn’t just an isolated toilet issue, the problem is wrapped up in a terrible model of reducing local councils’ ability to control how an area is being run, through central government placing harsh limits on budget allocations. Tom Crewe clearly sharpens the focus on this picture in his excellent piece for the LRB.

“We fret and fume about this council here, that service there, while the whole system is sliding off a cliff. There are hundreds of local examples of the impact of austerity, each unhappy in its own way, but it is only when they are viewed in aggregate that a picture emerges of an entire social infrastructure being destroyed.”

Will you find eternal salvation at your nearest council run public toilet? If you have one, I’d advise trying to make the most of it while it’s still there. This could involve kindly directing people towards it, crafting positive messages of support to put on its walls, or even laying a wreath outside the entrance in honour of those we have lost so far.

 

 

*For more on the David Cameron bladder phenomenon, see the collection Piss Cameron by Grant Leuning, @IIIIIIIIIIIIIII 

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Why not spend a day on London’s premier transport network?

A warm and fulfilling experience for the mildly adventurous.

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12:22 Greenford

This seems like a fine opportunity for meeting, and talking with, or at very least hearing the conversations of, strangers. Whoever they are. Weird people with their mad thoughts, considers someone who intends to spend their entire day in an underground network of tubes for no obvious reason. Well, some of them are above ground actually.

Carriages that scoot around the multi-coloured lines separate people. Not from one another – they’re still linked in the network after all – no, what the carriages separate their users from, is all that non-transitory space outside of themselves, the places where pressure is exerted downwards upon a population all-too-often pulled violently apart by the demands of work. Be here, do this now, don’t forget to check that. But the tube system can be experienced as a temporary in-between, a space where it might be possible for these things not to matter. A person in here needn’t feel compelled to do anything in particular aside from just travel, mainly because they are inside a moving tube and underneath the ground. It doesn’t seem reasonable to demand much else from them.

…But an initial dead end is to be found at 12:41 Shepard’s Bush, with no access from red to orange lines (disappointingly the physical tracks are not painted as advertised), at least not without exiting the station and incurring an unwanted fee. The setback allows for some in-station dawdling, a bit of healthy backtracking, and some freewheeling re-direction, ‘there’s no pressure to be anywhere or do anything’; he thinks, in imperious middle-class, cisgendered, whiteness. Those are the labels. Maybe then, ‘pressure’, isn’t the correct term.

What’s really meant is, ‘no rush’.

Coffee gets gulleted from cardboard cups through little sippy holes, which can make a fully-grown adult feel a bit like a baby, but babies don’t drink coffee, and it would be irresponsible to make them do so. So, ‘off with their lids!’ The queen could declare with great practical imprecision from the height of her golden chair. The wind brushes aside our fallen cups, sets ‘em rolling around, incoherently, in semi-circular fashion. The Underground has got no bins because the terrorists are winning.

13:15 Edgeware Road: consternation caused by the Destruction of Hammersmith & City Circus. Clowns everywhere, total jumble, and where exactly are these stairs going? Come back here.
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No, please.     come back.

The news down here generally isn’t worth reading, and testament to that today is exemplary, with one inane headline blasting:

‘Transport For London Introduce Controversial No Platform Policy’

 What utter dross. Proof that political correctness has gone totally off the rails – a bit like that tram in Croydon.

In other news: The Sun

in-other-news-the-sun

13:30 King’s Cross

Same problem as at Shepard’s Bush: snapping barriers closing off paths, crossed with crude and monotonous demands for money. No-chance-o-rama. This is intended to be a £1.90 ride, which is to last eight hours.

Here it is possible to break the law by sneaking out through an open disabled access barrier, but upon realizing the likelihood of closed barriers at the re-entry point, it seems also necessary to unbreak the law by sneaking back through the same barrier. For a brief, exciting moment in time: felony.

However, as exciting developments do indeed happen, it presently comes to light that so long as any passenger can make it from one barrier to the next, as part of a ten-minute time-challenge set by the network operatives, any given journey may continue without incurring an extra charge. ‘Calooh! Callay!’ You get ten minutes.

To find out more rules in this game, participants need only ask one of the many helpful members of staff who live at the stations. Such as James, who operates in Liverpool Street Station, actually has a cousin who was nearly in the band Steps, and enjoys ‘a vegetable stew’ whenever he’s feeling under the weather.

Alright, James. Nice one!

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Exclusive picture of James

 

Pass over some part of Hackney, which from many accounts used to be a bit of a grit bin – the image, however, clearly belied by the nagging closeness of rooftop drinking terraces seen from this raised position of the overground’s tracks, but these are just superficial, surface-level judgments. St. James Street looks nice as it trails off into the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now then, it’s just a palm tree, no need to take a picture. Humanity already has enough pictures of palm trees by now, doesn’t it? What difference would another one make, regardless of how pleasant it’s particular lighting environment is? Some people have a real talent for visually capturing these sorts of moments. Anyway, there it is, a palm tree, making the most out of November.

Here we go, this is where the tough get goin’. Chingford. Do they have in-station toilets at Chingford station? Yes. Ever been to Chingford? No? Not likely. It is here though, in places such as Chingford, that the unique and untainted thrill of being free from any of the usual geographical necessities associated with purposive travel begin to kick in proper. Oof! At the end of a line, because it is the last place to stop, it becomes an accidental destination for anyone making their way along these tracks without any specific intent in mind. This is equally true for those who fall asleep on the line, but this type of scenario is far less hassle than that one. In the clear light of day, let it be known that Chingford station is a totally okay place.

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The city comes back into view someplace around Hackney Wick.

The big city.

The massive city.

The large city. Everyone should hate it.

15:00 Stratford, AMAZING! In as little as 2 hours and 20 minutes, it is entirely potentially possible to travel from The Westfield Shopping Centre, via Chingford, to The Westfield Shopping Centre. WHEW! Next stop, ‘Manor Park Cemetery and Crematorium’, which, comparatively speaking, makes Shepard’s Bush seem no longer like the dead end it first appeared, although perhaps it never was.

Incidentally, she wonders, ‘is it possible for anyone to do anything these days without writing something about it? It is as if everybody is stuck in the belief that documenting their own lived experience is somehow naturally deserving of another person’s attention.’

Well, what if it is?

A luminous London underground logo slides across reflections of the faces staring back at themselves from blocks in the skyline. As the details of buildings fade to dark silhouette, their own silent expressive arrangements grow bolder in the transitioning contrast.

17:02 West Ham.

17:44…

Irrelevance seeps into everything. The canary is a type of adorable brightly coloured bird that was once used to detect whether or not there were dangerously high levels of poisonous gas in working mine shafts. It did this job by dying because of poisonous gas. In 1986, the practice was discontinued and over 200 canaries were made redundant.

‘Wharf’ is the noise that a dog makes when it regurgitates something that has made it feel ill. It is not a nice sound.

Animal Sacrifice-Dog Vomit.

Of course, this must be Canary Wharf.

wharf-wharf

But wait, this isn’t a tube stop. It’s a shopping centre. It’s all a trick. Passengers here, it would seem, are regularly forced to walk into an unsettling, slick, 3D rendering of the adverts they’ve been subjected to at other points within the system. It is all here, in real space, in live time. What sickening treachery.

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Useful fact: If you put your Oyster card in the microwave it tops up.

 

6 hours in a question rears its head: how could something so predictably uneventful possibly serve as a suitably fulfilling all-day activity?

It could be thought of as a kind of meditative mundanity – a way of finding feeling in the contradiction between actively transporting from one place to another whilst really going no-place in particular. Dwelling in a calm understanding that everyone else on-board has got somewhere to be, but that this is not the case for they who travel with the curious aim of experiencing non-directional unpredictability, whose destination is an ever changing, always moving, though never rushing, nowhere.

A conscious water droplet decides to fall into its preferred body.

 

But getting back from this place will require planning.

At Euston 19:00 it peaks.

Steve Reich’s, Music For 18 Musicians, Section II, has been chosen specifically to accompany the detached spectatorship of one particular hurry home, as a train to someplace far beyond the reach of this limited network takes aboard a crowd of apprehension, the sound-assisted view is balletic, is imaginably akin to how it might feel to stand on set in some scene from a Jacques Tati film, only, in this reality, it is filled with a bustling indeterminacy that poses as imagined choreography. It is all of rarely-so-sincere emotional magnitude. It is how being semi-serendipitously in the right place, at the right time, with the right tune can make a person feel. It just is.

Timetabled chaos pulls away, and the faint sound of whistling can be heard from a young man who can be seen floating down an otherwise empty escalator.

All this, and yet the point of re-entry to whatever it was that stood before the closing of this circuit – however wastefully convoluted – is as necessary as the full stop is on the end of a sentence, if it is to have any conclusive grammatical sense, rather than being an open ended call for its completion by a different person, such as yourself.

 

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:To find an unusual variation in the patterns

 

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8:10 South Ruislip. Not much going on here at this time on a Sunday.

The time has come for £1.90’s worth of travel (the whole journey actually totted up to £5.50 if the debt incurred on my Oyster card is included in the total) to find closure once again, in Greenford, now at 8:21 pm

 

 

Performing The Housing Crisis

foxtons-piss

Introducing Crisis

Probably you’ve heard or read of the phrase, ‘crisis’ in some form of news and thought something along the lines of, “oh no, what are we going to do?” But there are quite a few crises, probably too many even.

First off, there’s the financial crisis, then there’s the world food crisis, the EU crisis, the climate crisis, the ISIS (crudely branded as being syntactically two thirds of a crisis), the refugee crisis, the housing crisis, and countless more if we include all the personal crises that are affecting us humans on a daily basis. There’s also the Crisis Crisis (that’s the crisis of their being too many crises). All of these are ongoing and I’m afraid that you are embroiled in their world-scuppering mess.

But what can a person do aside from lilt one dandyish hand across a woe-begotten forehead and moan skywards? ‘OOOooooooOOooo, wretched earth!’

Or join a political organisation?

Or go on demonstrations through town and city centres?

Or attempt to stage an insurrection?

Or make a scathing snark upon on the issues of the day?

Or just do anything to feel somehow better about ALL THIS CRISIS.

Though sometimes it might seem best to blank it out. Inebriate and forget about it.

Do the shifts, steer the path, watch the box set, play the game, read the thing, go to sleep – die if you absolutely must.

Is it your choice?

Who really has the time or energy to resist these days?

Maybe you rebelled a bit at school. Took up a resistant stance at a university, argued with figures of authority – the landlord, the warden, the manager, the bank clerk, the councillor, your parents, anyone who told you ‘no’ – maybe you are still trying to force change despite all this. But haven’t you got work to do now? Haven’t you got rent to pay? What about your future? And then there’s the debt.

What are you going to do about all that?

How are you performing in this crisis?

…But, wait, without wanting to sound offensively presumptuous here: are the crises that make up this crisis really crises, or would it perhaps be more accurate to reckon that they are actually the continuation of long-standing struggles, punctuated by sensational events? The housing crisis, for example, flourished with the occasional high-profile eviction or spectacular new building, involves many people struggling to find a place that allows for a decent overall standard of life. A new report tells us how homelessness is on the rise, whilst many don’t have enough cash left over after securing the daily essentials to enjoy themselves, and work cuts harshly into free time. When did this crisis begin exactly, and how does it compare to all the other things that we might think of as crisis?

Maybe housing is worse today than it was in the past. Maybe it’s totally correct to call it a crisis, in comparison to what the housing crisis would have been back then (whenever that was). After all, the word ‘crisis’ does carry significant propagandistic value. When an issue gets elevated to the level of ‘crisis’, it can zip right up to the top of a political agenda – an urgent appeal.

Whatever’s bothering you, call it a ‘crisis’ then and see what happens! But maybe consider that this ‘crisis’ word could be detracting from the visibility of certain historical through-lines and struggles that might be useful in alleviating wider issues. Is the housing crisis not just a continuing tension between working and living in an economic system that demands the subjugation of a majority through controlling the amount of pressure that is put upon workers? Rent and wages seem constantly maintained to squeeze as much out of people as possible, and I’m not so sure that this is a particularly recent phenomenon.

When we think about one specific kind of crisis, are other crises not always somehow related?

To draw a parallel, calling ‘crisis’ on something is a bit like announcing that you need a shit. Things won’t wait, something has to happen soon, it is very important, and so everybody should be on the lookout for a practical solution. But the shitting crisis is not an entirely new one either; at times it might feel sadly all too familiar. For just as needing a shit is part of a general struggle against the bowels, finding a home is part of a general struggle against the property and labour markets. These are age-old difficulties that we are probably quite accustomed to by now. And so it might be apparent to us, that when all of the typical solutions for experiencing essential relief appear to be blocked, finding a place to squat might be necessary.

Squat?

The squat offers respite to those who find themselves unable to rent. Hans Prujit, who has written authoritatively on the subject, highlights four main types of squatting: Deprivation squatting, alternative housing strategy, political squatting, and entrepreneurial squatting.[1] Common to all of these is the basic premise that an otherwise empty building should be utilized as living space until it is otherwise occupied – which would seem to make excellent sense in the midst of a ‘HOUSING CRISIS’.

disused-building-hangar-lane(A large disused building near Hangar Lane, West London)

Deprivation squatting is the most strikingly necessary of these forms, and it’s probably the kind of squatting that seems most immediately apparent to an outsider. Someone gets evicted, they don’t know where to go, a squat can keep them safely indoors for a while. Very practical, very humane, very nice.

But why would anyone voluntarily do this? And isn’t it greedy or selfish to take up free spaces when there are so many struggling without?

Here’s where your other types come into play. Making these places happen is time consuming and involves a constant play of strategic manoeuvre against the forces of governance. An adaptive and resilient physical network has to be in place so that when one squat gets evicted, the actual-human-beings who have been forced into the street can have another place to be. So squatting is a form of resistance against housing shortage, and for some, this may seem to justify itself. If empty buildings exist, then occupying them constitutes a responsible political choice – but committing to this practical idea can be akin to having a full-time job. Convenient then, that squatting eradicates the issue of having to work full-time for rent.

Particularly well organized and undisturbed squats can turn into proper community centres, which is a little problematic since this lets local councils off the hook – if anything has a duty to create these spaces, it’s government, not people. Still though, in times of ‘crisis’ perhaps this sort of alternative strategy is the only effective means of setting up new public areas. And perhaps the social togetherness that emerges from creating, running, and partaking in these projects offers a whole lot of beneficial experiences for people. However, since 2012 the laws about squatting have tightened, with more arrests and faster eviction rates [2], resulting in less time available for building long-term projects that might offer genuinely helpful services. The Sisters Uncut project in Peckham was just one recent example of this kind of squat, focusing politically on domestic abuse whilst offering childcare, accommodation, and a supportive place for those who have been drastically let down by their council.

So should government step up to the challenge of alleviating these struggles by making more public spaces available and offering better housing support for those who need it, or might they tighten the law further and keep prosecuting people until the problem just goes away for ever?

As things stand, we’ve been lumped with the latter approach, as the Conservative party forces a necessary reaction from the public.

“Agitate, to alleviate.

Theresa May: exterminate.”

-Contemporary folk chant, highlighting a need for disruptive social movements. Alludes to speculation surrounding the British prime minister’s possible identity as a Dalek.

Finally, however, there are the jobsworth wastrel artists who just want to live for as little as possible so they can work on their ‘art’ – which is probably all crap and definitely not the sort of stuff that any right thinking person would ever want to hang on a wall, have in their house, or play to their family over a pleasant Sunday luncheon. These disgraceful reprobates have no right to live outside the system, they’re only in it for themselves, and it’s evident that all they really want is to avoid doing a Hard Day’s Work like everybody else does. Utterly Inexcusable.

“Unsuccessful artists who do not work are parasites on society, they contribute nothing of any real value and never invite me to their parties.” – Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

This perspective aside, some, such as Mark Fisher, have argued for the cultural benefits of squatting. “It’s no accident that the efflorescences of cultural invention in London and New York in the late 1970’s and early 80’s (in the punk and post-punk scenes) coincided with the availability of squatted and cheap property in those cities. Since then, the decline of social housing, the attacks on squatting, and the delirious rise in property prices have meant that the amount of time and energy available for cultural production has massively diminished.”[3]

Wave Machines – Punk Spirit

If we think that cultural movements are worthwhile, then perhaps we could be doing more to help foster the social conditions that enable them. Becoming an artist requires quite a lot of free time along with physical support networks, which unpopular comedian, Stewart Lee, believes have now largely disappeared. “Squats, and student grants, have all gone. We’ve got this whole thing where London celebrates punk rock this year, as if it’s some part of our heritage. But it fundamentally would never have existed, in this city now. Because it’s the music of cheap accommodation.”[4]

What we seem left with today is an increasingly small group of people who believe that they can afford (in terms of both time and money) to seek out ways of getting around the dominant system of wage n’ rent. In return we receive an sickeningly-exclusive, weak-assed, depoliticized death and mummification of our culture (See: Mumford and Son’s).

How can we expect a thriving culture of resistance when the people best placed to contribute are already living comfortably within the existing system?

What would be more desirable then, is if wannabe creators across the entire social spectrum could see for themselves a realistic future in building up large-scale, culturally significant ‘alternative housing strategies’. Perhaps beginning with a popular resurgence in squatting.

…Are you interested in this?

Although the outlook might not seem quite so prime as it once did ‘back in the day’, squats do still exist and can be found/created in London. There is a real network, and though it might not be possible to waltz into a squat at first moment’s notice, the peoples and ambitions are out there, ready to be discovered by anyone who believes in the collective project.

Every week, London plays host to ‘practical squatting nights’, where those with hopes for living without rent can find others with similar goals, talk with those who have done it already, and learn more about how to become practically involved.

http://www.squatter.org.uk/for-new-squatters/practical-squatting-nights/

This old machine hasn’t given up the ghost quite yet.

Rent

Rent too much? Landlord negligent? Don’t want to work in a job that you hate all the time? Better things to doing in life than dealing with all this accumulating hokum?

Too right, pal.

Devout followers of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens might not want to hear a word of it, but The Bible does offer a handy get out clause for paying rent:

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8

Can’t say fairer than that when the bailiffs come knocking.

See also the following relevant Christian ditty:

“Rent! Rent!

From hell it was sent!

Usurped from your wage, an ungodly percent.

A hole in the pocket to surely resent.

If not at all the time, give it up just for lent.”

See, bible proves it.

However, I am aware that many are committed to a strict doctrine of so-called ‘rationality’ and may therefore be ideologically opposed to any form of theological argumentum. Thankfully then, alternative housing strategies have been proposed by non-theistic bodies as well:

“Oh really your folks are away now? Alright I’m coming, I’ll be right there.”

– The Stokes 12:51

Living in friendly people’s spare spaces might play a vital role in transitioning from rent paying to full-time living, allowing as it does the spare time for exploring local possibilities in setting up collective housing solutions.

“At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house…Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly.”

– Henry David Thoreau, in his book Walden, forms a nineteenth century precursor to the phrase, ‘Squat the lot’.

So finding ways to experience life without having an unreasonable chunk of it devoted to the age-old tradition of living in a place that has a roof, can be done with reference to ethical and political arguments. Squatting is socially responsible as it provides direct help for people without homes, it is politically useful as a form of protest that enables organisation, and it is also a pragmatic solution for individuals who want to try living outside the system, which could hopefully lead to the creation of things that the Daily Mail will dislike.

To live without rent is to be part of an emancipatory project.

…Options to do this are available, and if you think the ethical arguments for exploring them can be balanced with what it actually seems possible to do, then this might well determine how visible the range of opportunities is for a greater number of people. More people rejecting rent, either in theory or in practice, means more people questioning and challenging the dominating logic of work/rent that seems to have primarily engineered this whole housing mess in the first place.

Where then to focus? Are we still in a crisis?

How is the crisis performed? Can anyone be involved?

Is it just about people who are without homes?

Is anyone who is at all involved with any sort of property a part of this?

Are we all performing the housing crisis?

What you are encountering here is my own attempt at performing the housing crisis.

What the hell am I doing?

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I’m not trying to diagnose the ‘housing crisis’, surely there are enough projects out there already devoted to this task. Nor am I trying to directly raise awareness of the issues involved (See: LSE’s programme of housing related short films that do this very well). At least, these two aims do not fall into the primary challenge I have set myself of personally exploring this crisis in order to produce work that might directly counter some of its affects. I also hope that it could provide some sort of entertainment, though I can’t help but doubt that it will.

I made my plans for this semi-public by first posting a brief explanation and accompanying plea for accommodation on Facebook, followed by an update of how it was going. Somebody asked me what the end goal of this is. But that’s not really how I have been thinking about it. The approach that I take here is borrowed from one of philosophy’s top-of-the-range serial pontificators, Jacque Derrida. Succinctly summarized by Catherine Turner, Derrida’s term, ‘deconstruction’, “is not a method but simply a way of reading, writing, thinking and acting. Rather than seeking an endpoint or a solid conclusion, the means cannot be distinguished from the end. The ongoing process of questioning is the end in itself.”[5] Deconstruct, seems like an appropriate verb to enact upon the housing crisis.

So I decided to see about exploring this whole mess by turning my life into something of an exhibition.

With a vertigo inducing degree of unoccupied time extending ahead of me after the completion of my studies, I decided not to get a bullshit job[6] or find a room to rent. Instead, I hired a garage in North London that would serve as my storage space and emergency sleep den. Since then I have been living around the city in any place that will have me for free. I have been fortunate, as friends and comrades have been ready to support me since I made this potentially very daft decision.

housing-garage-mehousing-garage-box-me

(Whilst spending a night in the garage, I noticed how a sticker on one of my boxes now held new significance and resemblance to my own life as never before. Just one of the many life-changing revelations that occurred to me whist engaging with this issue.)

From experience I’d say that doing this allows a person to write, think, create, read, and learn more than at any other point in life. It offers access to a wide spectrum of conversations and allows for active engagement in grassroots politics, making possible the attendance of protests, discussion groups, meetings, and strikes. It allows time to be devoted to all kinds of productive projects. But I felt bad because nobody else I knew was doing it.

Perhaps this is because there is a strong expectation that people should be in full-time work, which Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek refer to as the ‘ethic of work’. This is not necessarily a new phenomenon, but they argue that in order to build a world in which doing work that we hate does not come to dominate our lives, organisation must occur between disgruntled workers and wider social movements. “This, at first, involves taking tentative steps and creating communal models of living and building support systems. But if this is to move beyond a mere survival mechanism or niche lifestyle pursuit, its aim can only be the transformation of our world into a truly post-work society.”[7]

So when I began to feel pressured by this ‘ethic of work’ (“Shouldn’t I just get a real job and try to function like most other people?”) I would then think to myself, “work hard? We’re all working hard in one way or another. It’s just that some of us are working hard trying to think of ways and ideas that will enable us all to work less hard.”

This thought made me feel better about things. It probably also means that my project is de-facto situated within a wide-ranging, future-oriented political aim of transitioning to a ‘post-work’ society, one that aims at reducing the amount of time people have to spend on working at repetitive jobs for unnecessarily long hours. All the while, everybody’s livelihood is, (within this framework), to be supplemented with a ‘Universal Basic Income’. This position is advocated by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, quoted above and in their book Inventing The Future, Post-capitalism and a World Without Work, and also by Paul Mason in his 2015 book, PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future.

I supplement this section with one final quote from an interview with Angry Worker’s World group, who have been a significant inspiration to me, with their excellent commitment to organizing forms of worker’s resistance in West London warehouses:

“To question and change our own position in society should be part of the collective process to question and transform it.”[8]

Personal Summary

What is this about debt?

We are born into debt. I was born into lots and am accumulating still more yet. This debt is what I’ve nabbed off society, in one way or another. That’s all the favours anyone has ever done me, inspiration given, stories borrowed, times when I’ve been given the benefit of doubt, supportive laughter, and though I have sometimes fought not to admit it, emotional care. It’s the selective school I went to, access to music, a well-maintained bookshelf, all the material goods I was given as well. Basically, everything I have ever used to eke out a place in society.

That’s cultural, social, and economic capital.[9] And the overall debt is incalculable, but probably enormous. Though it was accrued mostly by virtue of good luck and a deeply flawed political system, to excuse myself from the responsibility that I have to repay it all would be criminal.

The value of everything that went into giving me this questionable position should be transformed into something worthwhile. But what could I possibly add to society? It is what I’m trying to find out.

How to express capital in a way that is socially beneficial becomes a core problem. Spend it on consumer goods? Invest it in business? Give it away to good causes? Save it for later? Use it to free up time for developing a project specifically aimed at addressing issues that stem from capital inequality?

To utilize resources in a way that broadens our sense of society and aids in dissolving hierarchical barriers between people seems pretty responsible to me, so I make the choice to do that. Perhaps I am going about this in a deeply incorrect way, but from my position, the project seems an ethical duty, and I hope that what I am doing is at least marginally useful.

For all of this, housing seemed like a suitable site of conflict to stage a beginning.

garages

[1] Hans Pruijt, Squatting in Europe in the Squatting Europe Kollective (eds.), Squatting in Europe, Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles, Minor Compositions, 2013

[2] http://squashcampaign.org/docs/SquattingStatistics2015_Full%20Report.pdf

[3] Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life, Zero Books, 2011, P.17

[4] http://thequietus.com/articles/19817-stewart-lee-interview

[5] Catherine Turner, Jacques Derrida: Deconstruction, Critical Legal Thinking, May 2016, http://criticallegalthinking.com/2016/05/27/jacques-derrida-deconstruction/

[6] David Graeber, On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs, Strike Magazine, August 2013, http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

[7] Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, Superconversations Day 86: Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams respond to Antonio Negri, “Notes on the Abstract Strike”, E-flux, September 2015

[8] https://libcom.org/library/greenford-love-interview-angry-workers-west-londons-warehouses

[9] These terms are lifted from the work of Pierre Bourdieu, which he uses in The Forms of Capital (1986) to draw distinctions between the different kinds of capital that have been utilized for sustaining divisions and inequalities in society.

Liberatory Coffeeshop Minimalism

Perhaps you came across a provocatively titled article in the Guardian recently? It took aim at the ‘homogenisation’ of privileged spaces across the globe, in particular, coffee shops. With their chalkboards, unadorned light fixtures and ‘raw wood’ tables, this aesthetic can apparently be found all over the world and seemingly composes a monolithic cosmopolitan blend of nothingness that generates an offensive form of ‘fetishized austerity’. The aesthetic is termed ‘minimalism’, and article author, Kyle Chayka, has written quite hotly on it for the New York Times and The Verge.

The minimalist scourge is a silicon valley ideology that aims at nothing less than the total destruction of human identity. 

Beware. 

Beware. 

#Beware

I am not writing this in a minimalist coffee shop, although tbh, I wouldn’t complain if I was. What could I possibly have to complain about? Minimalism eliminates aesthetic markers of political struggle by attempting to remove all traces of the aesthetic in itself. It is an oppressive blankness. 

But it also contains a liberatory potential. With apparently so little to attach identity to in these places, we are enabled to consider who we are or would like to be with minimal interference. In such spaces, ‘you are not the identity consumed by a unique coffeeshop, you are a unique identity consuming in the coffeeshop’. Here, it is possible not to be persuaded by powerful branding or meticulous quirk because the space is so positively blank, it is a place (or ‘non-place’ in the words of Marc Augé, as quoted in the NYT article) that happens to sell coffee, and does so without having to make a song and dance about who it is to do just that.  

However, we can’t escape the reality that these spaces privilege those with the money and time to spend on drinking coffee in them, this much we shouldn’t forget. If our public libraries offered similar services at their usual rates, it would be a much fairer landscape. 

Mind you, does hitting the aesthetic reset button really allow for the proliferation of multiple autonomous identities, or does it serve only to reproduce its dominant non-brand of sameness all over again? Well, this probably depends on whether or not you feel a desire to post a picture of your trendy coffee on the internet. 

What strikes me though, is that it seems as if the coffeeshop, as described in Chyka’s article, is coming to increasingly resemble the feature-limited interior of a contemporary art gallery. However, rather than having paintings and sculptures filling its space, the art that inhabits it principally consists of the people inside. They form a fluid installation that you could watch from the outside, though it wouldn’t do you much good for looking. The space contains an ever-changing participatory work, and so to fully appreciate its aesthetic requires that you be part of it. This aesthetic lies in accordance with Nicolas Bourriaud’s concept of ‘relational aesthetics’, whereby whatever happens inside the space and between the people, (in the relations formed therein), is what constitutes its unique aesthetic. 

But this must be taken a step further so that it includes our ‘online’ relations as well, hence why it does not make for the most thrilling of spectator events. This is to correspond with the online performances that many of us find ourselves involved in on a daily basis. We are constantly producing (or reproducing) social relations in ‘real life’ through digital media, and for this, the homogenous coffeeshop provides a suitably blank background, or canvas, on which it can happen. On this basis then, whilst a lot of coffeeshops do look similar, the differences between what happens inside them can be more or less aesthetically complex (and therefore interesting) than others. This could be rephrased as, ‘It’s the people that make the place’.

But anyway, I’m not so sure about whether some of these homogenised spaces are so homogenous after all. We still find marginal points of friction within them: flyers, leaflets and posters for events and organisations clash with one another on a windowsill, and these signify life beyond the space itself. They hint at a future of difference, filled with unique experiences brought into the static, ‘comfortable’ arrangement of a ‘homogenous’ coffee shop. In the Guardian article, which plays up how this phenomenon is driven by ‘hipsters’, these important cultural nuances are eliminated from analysis. The good ‘hipster’ coffee-shop, I would contend then, is a site for the valuable exchange of information on top of its identikit servings of food, drink, wi-fi, and the means of autonomous identity production. This can come in the form of the aforementioned cultural ephemera, but also in the independently produced free-sheets or zines specific to any given city or district, once again beyond the space of the shop. This I will tentatively refer to as the ‘actually existing scene’, which poses a contradiction to the idealised identity-free space of a trendy coffeeshop and creates the kind of conflict that, for my yelp’s worth, makes a venue worth exploring. 

Then again, whatever, this is all just probably the fault of hipsters again, isn’t it? 

Gentrification amirite MEME

Trendy

– Words: Lil’ Iterate 

Therefore This Relates To You

Of the many things that I have been in life, the most prominent of all that I have been is a notorious time waster.

Less the case that I have been wasting other people’s time, rather that it has been the gratuitous wastage of my own that has been this most prominent feature.

Look I’m even doing it now.

But committed as I am to writing down many of my own time wasting thoughts, it would seem that I also have an occupation in wasting the time of others too.

Close The Window of Violence, Will You?

                                  

Every Monday I write and send a letter to the postal worker who empties my local postbox. I have no idea whether or not any of these letters get read, but it pleases me to think that they might. It costs me very little to send the letters, because they do not require stamps. I do not include on them a return address, and for the time being I have never told anybody what I write in those letters. It has always been a little secret between me and the postal service. 

One day, however, I received a note through my letterbox, which read:

“Dear Allan,

I hate you from the core of my being.

I wish you were dead, but you’re not.”

It had been signed, ‘The postman’. 

This struck me first as alarming, then as concerning, as having never written a name on any of my letters, I couldn’t be sure whether the incident was directly connected to me or not. The most likely explanation, I reasoned, was that a mail delivery person had seen my name on other letters delivered to the same address, and was of a purely vindictive streak. I was just another victim in some mean-spirited game, which made me feel bad on behalf of whomever he or she who sent this note was. 

Being a postman can probably be quite difficult at times. 

What worried me more, however, was the thought that someone had found out about me and my letters, and was now passing their own ones off as if they had been mine all along. It is highly probable that these, should they happen exist and be forged in my name, were of a highly offensive nature, particularly towards anyone working in the postal industry. Perhaps they were from an aggrieved nationalist, still bitter about the privatization. Someone who just wanted to see the RM returned to its former glory, though I could not say so with any real degree of certainty.

The nature of these potentially probable letters remains a mystery to me. 

What seemed least likely, is that I had been singled out as part of a hate campaign orchestrated by my local post office, because hardly anyone works there anymore. And I’m not even sure whether those who do would actually know where I live. I do recognise that they must surely have access to my home address, but where’s the motivation? In any case, it was these suspicions that drove me to throw a brick through my local post-office window.

I realised the mistake in this shortly after whilst tucking into a shawarma down the road. I had failed to include on the brick a return address. 

I might have gone back to explain it all in person, but by this point it all seemed wholly unnecessary. Instead, I chose to keep on writing my weekly letters, always alluding to, but never adding any further information about what it was that I had done. No more notes came through my door in return. 

There was now adequate time for mulling. Had I rattled the cage of this grand old institution just a little too vicariously? The post-office, I thought to myself, must previously have been nothing more than just ‘Office’. How things change, I suppose, sending mail was always meant to be their main thing, wasn’t it? And now it was as if the glove were on the other hand.

I read a book that told me how time once was when the Office would only ever collect mail. But this changed, and a movement within the organisation sprang up that began to push the belief that mail ought be transported to a pre-determined location as specified by the receiver. It was naturally nonsensical that this should be the case, and a counter movement emerged that fiercely opposed the notion. Ultimately, it was decided (by casting a vote upon the nature of common sense), that the location of any mail received was to be chosen by whoever was sending the mail.

Yet fights still ensued between sending and receiving parties, as neither could decide precisely on how the post would be arranged within this process – if at all. Vicious notes began circling round the Office, which resulted in the emergence of a loose logistical structure that would eventually come to serve as a surprisingly functional model for the organisation’s future. However, many pre-post office thinkers still insisted firmly that everything would be much better if their system was left principally unchanged. Emphasis for them was on archiving all received mail for use in building up a strongly selected pile of evidence that would support their collective vision of what was to be done. This meant no sending mail for others, just receiving, categorizing, and ultimately expanding the Office so that it could fulfill as many duties as possible with an ever-growing team of workers… no dice.

The pro-post movement drove their change faster due to strong organisational support from an artisanal class of small paper square merchants and large investment received from the eccentric owner of a factory that produced agreeable tasting glue.

Cunning then, were the political leaders who impounded this factory owner under newly enacted ‘just go mad’ laws of 1843, and who later devised to staunch the economic flow of small independent paper square merchants into provincial post-office territories. It did not take long for these same leaders to start producing their own lickstick-sendybobs en masse, which were steadily standardised and later austerely rebranded as ’stamps’. A take-over was being plotted from the top. Meanwhile, word spread through unofficial public health and safety campaigns that independent stamp manufactures, (supposedly embittered by ‘unfavourable markets’), had been tainting their produce with poison. As such, a collectors market sprang up for rare and poisonous stamps.

It did not take long for the entire post-office business to be privately coopted by queen and country. Many were dominated by the service and forced to contend with the painful snapping of letterboxes on cold fingers for pathetic compensation. Standardised stamps now carried passive aggressive depictions of the queen’s head. Demand grew. Angry letters were written, some of which were sent and accordingly received. The system grew efficient. 

But the daily maltreatment of officers breached what were then the limits of so-called basic human decency, which, it was claimed, ignited The Great Stampede of 1849: an event that saw no less than a thousand angry post-office workers march upon Buckingham Palace with open letters (envelopes were still in their early stages of development at the time and were viewed by many with great suspicion) in hand. All of these had been custom-stamped with offensive drawings that pointed directly towards the receiver. With anger, the officers endeavored to hack an excessively large hole into one of the palace doors, into which would go the letters. Though the uprising achieved some limited victories for a small high-ranking few, along with certain associated business magnates, the widely demanded legal minimum letterbox size was in fact, never implemented.

Sadly, I noticed that the book was long outdated, and the author an ardent proponent of the art form known as hoaxing. I couldn’t believe it, fooled by a mere book! However upon closer inspection I noticed that the foreword did explain in words near enough that ‘art is a lie that makes us realise the truth’. A fine hoax indeed, based as this was upon a questionable dichotomy between what is true and what is false. I took down a note to inform whoever was in charge of categorisation at the library from which it had been borrowed, though they were not in the custom of manipulating their rigid decimal point system in response to user recommendations, despite the apparent veracity of my insights. 

Later on, my librarian informed me that the book was not outdated at all, though it was overdue, and she asked if I might have perhaps been mixing up the words that I had meant to use. I flippantly pointed out to that the word ‘librarian’ is morphologically not so dissimilar to ‘totalitarian’, though she rejected this point on semantic grounds and threatened to cancel my card. I was unsure of her authority but fearful nonetheless, so submitted to the 30 pence fine and put this on credit.

Mulling ruefully, I now believed it thoroughly impossible to ever get my brick back – throwing it in the spontaneous manner that I had seemed like such a rubbish pointless waste. ‘Give me back my brick’, is what I should have written on the thing, but I hadn’t.

You see, the original difficulty I’d found was in willing the message that a brick might send. It had previously been placed on a coffee table in the centre of my living room as a souvenir taken from a frivolous one-time visit to a piece of disused land.

(Making up forms of entertainment in my off-hours was a favourite pastime of mine. The harder it seems to squeeze enjoyment out of something, the more pleasure I feel can be derived from doing so. An afternoon’s excursion to Madame Tussade’s Museum of Waxy Oppressors had shaken my faith in leafleted days out, and so far, my leisure time had become much more culturally stimulating since making the decision to boycott anything with a Trip Advisor review.)

The brick was mine, and it, I decided, was the finest piece of art I had ever laid claim to. Its basic functionality was enough to fill a preposterous young man such as myself with joy. I would gaze at it whilst eating cereal and shock myself into a state of wide-eyed appreciation: its monolithic form, the simplicity of its presence, the sheer audacity of its single colour – and all this in a world of nauseating visual complexity. It was Rothko in another dimension; provoking in me as it did an uncomfortable longing for fixed, definite, meaning and truth.

Each day I could not escape the pressure of deciding what it really meant. With steadily increasing frequency this choice prevented me from going to work. I would stand, transfixed, sometimes for hours at a time, ruminating over everything I had ever experienced, trying always with rising desperation to relate some coherent representational framework to this object of indefinite meaning in front of me, that was a brick.

It never seemed right.

I soon lost my job at the online antiques store. I loved that job, but having been self-employed it was I who had been solely responsible for monitoring my own productivity, and seeing as not one single target had been hit since the arrival of this brick, I was forced to let myself go. ‘A clear lack of dedication to the work’, it had been written in an explanatory statement to myself. 

Being self-unemployed was a different ball game to earning money, and thankfully the inheritance of a single Penny Black stamp a year prior to my totally unavoidable firing situation at work allowed me to coast lightly without a steady income. I lived where I worked, but now that I didn’t, it seemed as though the only proper course of action was to protest this empty workspace by occupying the building. This meant dedicating a great deal of time to shaping demands and fine-tuning the direction of my activism.

Daily, I would write manifestos and create protest graphics. The brick was a constant source of inspiration for this, and sometimes its newly assigned meaning would overlap with the nature of our demands, other times it would seem diametrically opposed to them, and every so often it remained courageously ambivalent.

Excerpt from manifesto:

We, the assorted belligerents of this here Occupied Residence, believe in and in fact DEMAND an end to forced labour under the duress of crude requests for building rental payment. The gross unfairness of this situation ought stick out like a pineapple in a fruit bowl, yet in reality, it is detectable as the apricot is lodged between an apple and an orange. We must compare the options on offer, we must see with open eyes the brute imposition of debt upon our respective domains, we must knock from their heads the rude baseball cap of legitimacy.

WE MUST NOT YEILD PRODUCE IN THE HARVESTS OF THEIR ILL-BEGOTTEN SURPLUS!

The invisible hand of the free market gropes without consent.

It is our demand to forcibly chastise all that which fiddles and diddles to the detriment of human dignity.

I suppose this was my new job for the time being.

One evening, with the majestic 6pm mid-summer glow illuminating some bins outside my house, a local cat – my favourite – had found his resting place upon a garden wall, easily in sight from the chair in which I would tend to sit meditatively at this hour. The moment was perfect and I scrambled for my camera. Having often wished to be a cat in the sun on a windowsill, or a lizard on a rock, or some other kind of basking animal, it was a scene that I wishfully related to.

Out in the garden with my lens focused delicately so as to fully reveal the animal’s wonderfully misshapen skull, a feature that fascinated me to no end, I heard a familiar voice shouting, ‘stop taking photos of my cat!’

This was typical of Jess. She had always gone to great lengths in thwarting my business model, tearing down any posters of mine that she saw. These were advertisements for my powerful collection of “contemporary missing cat posters”, which I’d been cultivating for years, just waiting for the right kind of owner, someone with real knowledge and dedication to the genre who would appreciate the quality of these pickings and pay a fair price. Jess usually griped with me whenever I put them up because I was keen on using photos of her beautiful cat to entice potential customers.

Pat was honestly the finest animal creature that I knew of in our local area, but his chiding nuisance owner, (in her mid 20’s and known to me only through our quarrels over the precise issue), was highly objecting to my practice on the grounds that the commodification of her pet’s image was in some sense disrespectful, given that the cat had never expressed any wish to be used as such. I have tried to brush up on laws regarding unsolicited pet photography, but I’ve found nothing explicit written on the matter, so consider that I’m well within my rights.

“If you use that photo to make another one of your posters, I will be calling the police.” She threatened, emptily. “It’s not acceptable to use my cat’s face to advertise something that hasn’t got anything to do with my cat.” She continued with womanly force. “What you are doing is shameful, Allan. Utterly shameful.”

I was not ashamed. However, the public nature of this discourse forced me into retreat and I slinked back into the house until she was gone. Afterwards, I thought of a decent number of fiery responses that would have numbed her vicarious intervention and legitimated my actions. It was a shame not to have thought of these whilst on the spot. ‘Next time’, I supposed.

Anyway, I had more important things to consider, as the brick had not been assigned new meaning today, though this was not for lack of enthusiasm, more the case that my ability to relate with the object had been stunted for a new and unforeseen reason. The violent note that had arrived was blocking my perception of the brick’s nascent multimodality – its emerging connections with surrounding objects and ideas that might allow me to construct its finest meaning. Previously the piece had sustained my interest as perfectly reasonable representations of, and I quote from my journal here:

‘Power through solidification of disparate forms. Molded into that which exists without excess nor fanfare yet retaining an unspoken potential for exerting transformative energy.’

‘Quite clearly a völkisch symbol of global connection as it delineates a linear conception of temporality –a connection between the mythologized industrial past of Britain and its recent dependence on extra-territorial digital resources for the effective organisation of construction work. The lost echo of empire suspended in time on a table.’ 

‘A cold and indifferent father figure, emanating authority in the stasis of its being. Enigmatically inaccessible, indomitable, unquestionably always correct and present without regard to structurally supportive elements.’

‘An organ or cell within the body of some greater structure than could ever be perceived. It is brick, but perhaps not before it is first the wall, then the house, then the street, the neighbourhood, the city, the world, the cosmos. All alive and yet somehow imperceptible in absolute totality. An invisible contradiction that occupies both life and everything beyond.’

‘The death of humanity, which too must die unless it can somehow interpret itself from a point beyond… Perhaps it can, and so the subject of post-human sentience becomes the brick’s object of urgent interrogation. What will live through interpretation after we are all dead? Is a brick always a brick if even there is nobody left to think of it as a brick?’

 ‘Just a brick today… or is it?’

This time, the room we shared seemed claustrophobic and limiting. The brick goaded me from its position on the coffee table. I pointed at its solid form and aggressively enquired, “Yeah? You and who’s context?”

Following my run in with Jess, knowing that the brick would be there, waiting for me, passive and docile, always accepting of my playful interpretations… It was immense comfort at such a time. Before the brick I knelt, hands clasped, forefingers extended and closed in tight contact pressed up against my septum, both thumbs nested beneath my chin. Whatever now?

The day’s manifesto had been written without confidence. Its focus this time was on the importance of principles in guiding action, “So long as essential principles are met, any act may be unquestionably correct.” I didn’t think to question this, but kept it in mind whilst determining to understand the hate message I’d received. What principles did its sender operate on? How could I come to terms with their worldview, conflicting so deeply as it did with my own? I didn’t want to die. But moving through the mind of my tormentor meant to me exploring what was broken in my own regime of sense, perhaps even if this would result only in the death of something within myself.

The possibility of my brick seemed until now without end; research into it was going on indefinitely. When rapt in this beautiful process it was as if the thoughts would lose their edges and become frictionless, gliding over one another like ill-fitting similes, yet now as like never before they seemed only to crash into themselves like planes of self-reference into mountains of their own source material. In this moment, my own brick felt like it was pointing at itself, drawing me into its capacity for struggle and liberation through hijacking the imagination. But now I suffered here from what I could describe as an overwhelming life-induced psychological immobility. It was time to go for a walk. The brick could come with.

We wandered in a directionless stupor, signs passed without relevance, frosted windows left ajar let mild breeze into private worlds. Dislocated, semi-intentional dis-acknowledgement. A hobby. A job. The week goes by unnoticed. A crossroads offers choice. The map is acknowledged but the recognition of its authority refused. The luxury of decision forces redundancy upon objects, passive annihilation of value. Screaming terror suppressed, pants round ankles. A helpful attitude, a mocking surrender. A fighting chance, a flight of fancy, the inaccessible whirring of consent, a product designed and manufactured at industrial scale, with fences, to block and defend, offending the senses. 

That note had wished me dead, impractical I thought. The brick now wished for life, (my duty yet unclear). It was night; I viewed myself from afar, as if in electric white, stumbling through darkened underpasses. So alive. Too alive. My research could go on no longer, something had been built to completion, my letter to ‘the postman’. These words I spoke aloud to myself, in peaceful tones it went:

Dearest violent lover of mine,

One less of me would be one less for you, wouldn’t it? My letterbox receiving your hand and my mail not once more again – unless I’m accidentally subscribed to catalogues. I am subscribed to a few of these actually, need to sort that out. Not for this specific reason though.

Yes, one less on your route, but you haven’t known that it was me who’s been trying so hard, so very hard, to love you in dutiful monogamy, with my one-sided secret letters to you in the local postbox. I never even asked for anything in return, except for active service Monday through Saturday excluding bank holidays.

To wish me dead for this? It seems bad form from someone who has delivered for so long with such admirable devotion to neutral consistency. Although we’ve never met, I can tell that you’ve changed. But the respect I have for you will never die. And here I have in my hand something with which I might fulfill your wish.

The value of my anonymity, this principle that I have stood by, I break it now in order to show you my devotion in the face of a newly constructed circumstance, that of my extremity. I must commit this unquestionable act, part with self-imposed rules, embrace the unknowable potential of a future that we might share together. Do I really want this to continue? Can I kill myself for you? Will I end this letter with a question mark or with a full stop?

The brick went through my post-office window.

To kill a piece of art is to relinquish the monopoly of control held over deciding what it means. Writing up my letter as the sun rose, the question over how it should be signed and addressed brought my issues up to the precipice of ‘reality’. Make it happen or else go back to life as before. My first name I put in print at the bottom of this letter, and the namesake written upon the envelope was pitched, ‘To whomever it does not concern’. I placed this on my coffee table and went to sleep.

Waking up at a leisurely 3pm, my cursory scroll through the day’s events led me to find a small piece of news that had made it online about the brick. Reading a headline that included the phrase ‘Local Yob’ thrilled me now as like never before, though I was less keen on the accompanying article’s informative content – not enough rampant speculation for my tastes. Still though, that my piece had been offered a status of meaning by some external source was enough to make me want it back. I dithered with tea and brooded. ‘How it would make such a powerful addition to somebody’s chimney, if only there were safe and legal means of reclaiming the object.’ But there was not; it was far too dangerous.

I sent my letter backwards through the letterbox of my front door, so that it would lie upon the paving slabs in waiting for dearest, who I reasoned would be quite excited to finally learn of my residence. I peeped at it from the living room window and was overcome by the kind of nervous excitement normally felt by teens in possession of an untried drug. Licking itself behind a small ballerina fruit tree was my favourite cat. It was all too much. I retired to the bedroom for meditation and study. Today’s manifesto had been especially brief:

We, the Occupying Resident and assorted onlookers declare everything to be better than usual. That is to say, beginning with the future, we see how it is imperative to arrive at a new historical precedent without scraping a single knee upon the mystic barnacles of misfortune that line our past(s). We must reinvent everything, and can do so, and we must. We may organize to disorganize. We must acknowledge that the world is officially run by boring people, yes, but that beyond these scabs that cause a common itch around the anus of respectability, is something far deeper, that our present moments are purported to belong to them, let us say now then, no! For time belongs, more than ever, to those who dawdle with great purpose, who self-distract to uncharted degrees, and who incline to think, and feel, and yell:

RESIST!

RESIST!

RESIST!

IN PEACE.

Utter and abject horror struck at shortly afternoon when I found the letter lying on my inner-porch doormat. ‘To Whomever It Does Not Concern’, I read back, with one sweaty palm now cradling the sinking features of my rapidly flushing face.

‘What the hell kind of ending is this to my project?’ I thought to myself. I didn’t have the guts to resend the letter in case it failed again, the brick was gone, and my occupation totally burnt out. It was over.

The letter made a very ill man out of me. If I read it again it would hurt too much, if I threw it away it would kill my most important relationship, if I sent it to anyone else it would only feel like some artless hoax. On its own, it said nothing of what was meant, it begged for an interpretation that had been absolutely rejected. So I wrote this very sorry story, the one that you read here, with the letter included in it, which I handed in as a neatly packaged bundle to my local library (along with the mandatory 30 pence fine), before walking home, informing the neighbours of my intent to set my already petrol-soaked house on fire, and then I did exactly this, and now I am dead.

Or maybe I would end my protest, keep the letter in a drawer somewhere, perhaps as a souvenir from this time in my life, maybe I could even work up the courage to try sending it again perhaps. I would keep one eye carefully trained on the news in case any more comes up regarding the post-office and attempt to rehire myself as an online antiques dealer again. This seemed like a suitably feasible and sensible departure from the dead end I had discovered.

But when it came to making a final decision about what to do next, however, I could ultimately bring myself to pursue neither of these two options, choosing as I did instead, to find a new brick.