Occupying the mind 10

Sunday 4th December 2011

TOBY Veck, the central character of Charles Dickens’ The Chimes, stood all day long just outside a church-door and waited there for jobs: a ‘breezy, goose-skinned, blue-nosed, red-eyed, stony-toed, tooth-chattering place it was, to wait in, in the winter-time’.

It is a sad tale, written, according to John Forster, the author’s friend and biographer, as a ‘plea for the poor’, in which Dickens ‘was to try and convert Society… by showing that its happiness rested on the same foundations as those of the individual, which are mercy and charity not less than justice’.

One hundred and sixty-seven winters later, a motley assembly of individuals has gathered outside another church to do the same.

Although chosen almost by happenstance, the location of Occupy London is pleasingly symbolic. Rabble commoners have had the audacity to lay siege to the most powerful bastion in the land. I applaud their courage and the irrefutable reasoning they represent.

Meanwhile, a City of London Police Terrorism/Extremism update for the London Business Community, published two days ago, tells us that ‘the worldwide Occupy movement shows no sign of abating’.

It’s six weeks today since I first did a bit of washing-up at the encampment alongside St Paul’s. Never thought of myself as a ‘domestic terrorist’ before, but, deep down, I knew I’d one day get my comeuppance for insisting on keeping a tidy kitchen.

My researches – if casual, random and lacking the ‘suspected hostile reconnaissance’ available to the police – have reached the same conclusion. More and more people are questioning the social and economic injustices of a country riven by division, deprivation and a despair one could describe as Dickensian.

The Chimes includes this pithy quatrain:

O let us love our occupations,
Bless the squire and his relations,
Live upon our daily rations,
And always know our proper stations.

The author called it a ‘Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In’.

May our Occupations prevail.



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