Wednesday 21st December 2011
TENT City University hosts an address by Professor David Harvey. Hundreds sit on the broad steps below St Paul’s, most bare-headed in the dry evening air. A red London bus noses its way down Ludgate Hill, once, it is said, the site of a Roman temple to Diana, goddess of the hunt, of the moon, and birthing.
“You’re in the heart of the beast, the belly of the beast, and your job is to give the beast a stomach-ache.”
He stands on a rostrum of pallets, talking into a microphone. Some sip beverages from the Tea Tent. Placards and posters hang on railings. There is no litter, no chanting, no anger.
“But the more stomach-ache they get, the more grouchy they’re likely to get. And then you have to stiffen your resolve.”
Stiff-standers, dilly-danders, lookers, crookers, and a wig-wag. The camp is stronger, a month into the occupation: the weaned calf grown sturdy, frolicsome, rounder-bellied. On full-laden, wooden shelves in the kitchen stand cartons of milk, jars of honey.
Visitors linger longer now: browsing in the library; thumbing The Occupied Times; glancing at watercolours in street artists’ sketch-books; tinkering on the upright piano, also under canvas.
“This is going to be a long haul for all of us, I think. This is a marvellous site and a marvellous initiative that you’ve taken.”
Professor Harvey has been speaking, without notes, for half an hour. General Assemblies stop when the cathedral, busy again after a week’s closure, is soon to hold a service. There are more wanting to sweep the steps than available brushes.
“And this is going to change politics in a very fundamental way. Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it.”
The applause is that earned by a respected academic: no prolonged ovation, no hero worship.
In the kitchen, a young man announces he’s going to cook meat.
“We only do vegetarian here.”
“Call yourselves anarchists! I thought the idea was that there’d be no fucking rules!”
Out he stomps, spittle-mouthed, red-templed, shot-eyed. Like a roused bullock.