Thursday 22nd December 2011
WIND, raw-knuckled and unforgiving, ripped the legal tent from the encampment’s womb-warmth, damaging others, herding the calf-young into a huddle among the sanctuary of stalls. Winter stalks the thinned figures, the occupied fingers. Tarpaulin and sand-bag defences strain against onslaughts, some of malice, some goaded by malcontents.
“If we lose the court case, nobody will be able to seek sanctuary on the steps of St Paul’s ever again. In its three hundred year history, nobody has ever slept rough here before.”
There are seventeen bells housed in the cathedral towers, including two quarter-jacks cast in 1707, adding forty-eight long hundredweight to the belfry: ringing the changes.
Slippery now are the stone walk-ways, steel-sharp the frosts, dark and drenching the rain-pours. Those on Nightwatch tread cautiously in and out of shadow.
“I’m good for up to minus ten degrees. Or do I mean down to?”
Several have strayed from the original camp to occupy other sites: Finsbury Square, the Bank of Ideas, an abandoned court-house in Old Street: grazing land for foals; barns for roosters, doves and night owls; roofs over frowned heads and cavaliers.
“This is only the beginning of the beginning. People are having to re-learn forgotten ways of doing things. Everyone’s been talking at once. We need to remember we have two ears, but only one mouth.”
The high court judge, with entourage and carrying a furled umbrella, has visited the camp. The hearing draws to a close. Whatever the outcome, choral voices will celebrate the coming feast days; hugs will be embraced; assemblies will be held and consensus reached.
“We’re opening up about feelings: why we’re there, what irritates us, what inspires us. Some have said they’d rather die here than anywhere else.”
Bulls champ on neighbouring land, maybe yet to be unleashed in fierce stampede. And there remain those desirous of slitting the throats of the calf-young, of further engorging their obese bellies with cuts of tender veal.