The Old Main Drag

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As the assorted cast of characters that live upon the streets and stairwells of Trastevere have reminded me over recent weeks, we are a divided population, with clear lines drawn between the homeless and the homewith.

But just how is it so that in the modern civilized Western world there are still people who don’t possess that most basic of human requirements a home, I hear your bleeding liberal hearts wail. Hmm let’s see…

In order to inhabit a home one must first consent to a plethora of pre-requisites, the most obvious being that you must consent to work in order to fund the acquisition of said home. Take a little peep into the offices and factories of our society on any day of the working week, and you will bear witness to the vast majority of ‘workers’ labouring at tasks in which they find no fulfilment, which are no doubt causing them either physical or mental ailments, and have with certainty contributed to the deterioration of all loving relationships in their lives.  How brave you are, my working brethren! What fortitude you show! Each day courageously grinding your teeth and clenching your muscles, groaning ‘Got…to…keep…a…roof…over…my…head’ as the merry whips of that relentless succubus, Mortgage, or her insatiable money gobbling sister, Landlord, lash your contorted torso to scarlet ribbons.

You must consent to contributing taxes to a government whose main priority is a systematic genocide of all peoples who do not share their sacred ‘democratic’ world view, commencing as we can see with those regions most rich in the natural resources required to choke our planet to death as efficiently as possible. But fear not, your tax monies will one day soon be used to kill innocent civilians on our own soil. Jean Charles de Menezes, whisper the trains as they pass through Stockwell station.

 You must consent to your refuse being disposed of as your local civic leaders see fit. These leaders, I must add, are the calibre of  Burton-suited blue-sky thinkers who pump out propaganda-verts on the propaganda-box, declaring the ingenious alchemy of turning aluminium drinks cans into aeroplanes, a system of recycling that one can immediately see makes great ecological sense. Ah, thank god we have these state-sponsored brains to show us the way to a ‘greener’ life. Personally, I could never have possessed the intricate knowledge of the problems of climate change and environmental pollution to know that the solution is more planes.

You must consent to paying for water, a clear liquid which is a necessity for all life on planet earth, and a natural resource which our very birth bestows us with access rights to.  And what  marvellous chemical-cocktail version of Adam’s ale your hard-earned currency will procure for you and your loved ones! A hazardous fluid that has been ‘purified’ with amongst other poisons, liquefied chlorine, aluminium sulphate and calcium hydroxide, because for expediencies sake we flush our bodily excreta into the aquatic reserves that also serve our taps. The water that arrives in your homes is imbued with arsenic and lead and pesticides, a liquid testament to the ongoing march of human progress that has put rusting pipes under the ground and cultivated the wondrous diversity of edible vegetation our land once offered into a hideous, labour-some monoculture. What’s more, your thirst is being quenched by water that is full of oestrogen and Prozac and cocaine, having been  flushed through countless human bodies that can only survive existence by controlling their moods and natural functions with white powders.

You must consent to heating and lighting your home using fuels for which our common mother, Earth, is daily violated; for which wars are waged; for which communities are expelled from their homelands; for which our fellow human beings are abused and raped and murdered by corporate mercenaries. And if Nigeria, or even Rossport, are too far away for you to imagine such a fate could befall your home town as Shell waging all out war on any member of the local population that can not be bought off, then I hope for your sake that you are not sat atop a rich reserve of natural gas, so you ever remain in the bliss of ignorance.

You must consent to a system in which you are dispossessed of your natural right to space upon this planet from the moment you emerge from the womb. Indeed that warm fleshy cavern contained within your mother’s body is the only truly free space you are likely to inhabit in your lifetime, for to make a home anywhere else will always entail exchange of currency and parameters of ownership.

What, pray tell, is your prize for consenting to all of these infringements of natural order and peace and decency? A home? Perhaps, if you can call a bricks-and-mortar box created by hands other than your own such a name.

And let us not forget of course the magical piece of paper that declares your ownership of a portion of an entity that existed billions of years before your entire species and will no doubt outlive us all by billions more. Oh blessed deed indeed! Read it well fellow citizens of Britain and then read

But what on earth has all this to do with those poor shivering grubby street urchins that made my liberal heart bleed, I hear you ask.

It is an oft-repeated snippet of wisdom that many homeless people choose to be homeless, an estimation of the facts that I regard to be, if not incorrect, then at least incomplete. Many homeless people choose not to participate in the system of violence and intrusion that underpins homewithness. They choose non-consent to the conditions set out by the noxious mafia racket that is our hallowed British democracy and the outcome of such a choice is homelessness. Co-operation or exile.

And if you will forgive me for stating the obvious, many more homeless people have themselves been so violated and broken by this system of brutality that they are left, through addictions or illness, unable to consent or otherwise. Endurance or destitution.

Given the real choice every human being would exercise their right to make a home; to be homewith not homeless; to have a place to shelter and nest, a hearth to share with loved ones, a space to create whatever cause one has talent or liking for. Be they one who prefers the diversity of the open road or one who enjoys the stability of a fixed position, we all desire a place of our own to reside. Nomad or settler.

For what other animal on this earth does not at some point in its lifecycle require a home? The bird to raise young, the bear to hibernate, the beautiful bee to provide sanctuary for their magical community and a workshop to produce their miraculous honey harvest. Must they first visit a fat-necked greed ravaged banker to provide financial assistance in becoming a new home-owner? Are they required to grovel to brain-washed planning officers for the right to construct whatever meagre dwelling they desire? Should such a thing be suggested to them by a representative of our revered democracy, let us imagine for example Mr David Cameron, I would hope that the birds would pluck at his eyes, the bears maul at his limbs and the bees bombard him with stings until the poor wretch finally understands he is a part of nature, and has no authority over her realm.

And what, my lovely reader, can you do to convince these preposterous politicians to address the domiciliary divide? Leave that to the birds and the bears and the bees is my advice, and instead go forth into your world!

Claim back your natural inheritance and withdraw your consent from the system of violence that governs our shared home. The land is ours and we must act with the authority of nature to undertake again our role as her caretaker.

So until I see you out there, one and all, populating our shaded vales and windswept hills, crafting your own dwellings in joy and harmony, stoking home-fires with wood you have chopped and drinking the fresh water you have collected, well until then, dear friend, we are all homeless, each dispossessed, every one a vagabond.

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I’m a human fly and I don’t know why

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The streets and stairwells of Rome are paved with shit. And it is not just of the canine variety – my darling Zapatista knows the difference. She would never dream chowing down on the faeces of her own species, but human excrement? Um umm, she loves it, and our city walks provide her with a veritable buffet.

Are you disgusted? Well dogs eat whatever they like the smell of and not every human in the Western world has easy access to a toilet.

Have you never been so desperate to relieve your bowels that with flushed face and spasmodic sphincter, your whole being is overcome with urgency to pull down your trousers and defecate where you stand? Then you have not walked the streets long enough, no where to go, no homely comforts near at hand.

Have you never asked to use the facilities of a near-by bar and been looked at like you yourself were an odious turd? ‘Leave it clean’ hissed the meagre lipped waitress bitch. Then your clothes are too fine and your gait too undefeated.

Do you really believe taking a dump on the pocked lifeless concrete is any worse than flushing all that you excrete into our waterways? I know an otter that lives on the Tiber who would say it is not.

Of course I don’t relish having to skip through an obstacle-course of human waste, traversing stairwells scented with an astringent sting of piss that hits my morning-empty stomach, contracting my throat into a retch. It is no joy to me having to grapple with Zappy to prevent her feasting on feculence, and when failing in such an endeavour, having to avoid her eager putrid kisses as she bounds towards me in a heady state of glee and guilt at successfully snacking on such delicious bounty.

I imagine a city where every street has a compost toilet providing every citizen with a comfortable, private space to evacuate their bowels; where all excreta is transformed into nutrient rich fertilizer for city parks and gardens. Would this be more costly to the tax paying public than the current legion of street cleaners sent out every morning to hose down walkways with a chemical cocktail more noxious and toxic than the dirge it disposes?

The streets of Rome are testament to the fact that shit happens. Let us not shame-facedly ignore the ignominies of this most natural of human functions, and instead understand that in building a new world, what happens to the shit is fundamental.

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White riot

On the white white sofa, within the white white walls, of the white white apartment on the white white street, in the white white neighbourhood, sit me and Zapatista.

I am unwilling to venture out onto the cobbled streets of Trastevere and walk the line of despising looks we raise in the eyes of a large proportion of its population, being neither fashionable nor kempt enough to fit in to the particular pigeon-hole here represented. Shop-keepers worriedly eye the stock as I enter their domain. They look over me and serve other people. I must have made a mistake, gone to the wrong part of town. Or else I’m there to beg or steal.

Well what do I fucking expect walking around in an army coat, black-lined eyes, dirty-dusty-smelly clothes and a dog on a rope. In the city, you get the reaction you play for.

I remember the hospital squat in London. One of my co-residents earned his keep by a street scam that took advantage of just that fact. Rather than beg on the streets in scruffy clothes with a cardboard cup, he would spend his days begging in Canary Wharf, dressed in a suit with a briefcase. He would explain to the hapless target that he had left his wallet on the underground and was in need of money for bus fare in order to return to his office. Oh how many bulging bags of groceries and cold pints of larger did he enjoy at the expense of those who would never dream of parting with their cash for a beggar! Indeed, you get the reaction you play for.

Being as I am a middle class rebel I have normally resided in neighbourhoods populated mainly by immigrants and outsiders where difference is, if not welcomed, then at least tolerated. But here in the bourgeois stratosphere I have so painstakingly lived thus far to avoid, I am about as welcome as a condom machine in the Vatican.

Rousing myself from my white mausoleum I take Zappy for a walk. Eyes scan us full of questions. Why are you here? What do you want? My wallet? My fur coat? My husband…

Ah yes those well-turned out men, so numbed and bored by their financial transaction marriage and the frozen-faced perfumed spouse it bought them. Their eyes flicker with illicit desire. How they’d love my non-shaven body writhing on their face, smelling not of chemical flowers but of sweat and arousal and honey…Of course having spent the last 30 years  banging away at a disinterested wives, and possibly a few prostitutes,  I doubt any of them could begin to understand how to get a woman’s body to secrete such a scent.

Keep your pathetic husband, your wallet, your fur coat and your white white world;  for I inhabit another sphere and it is painted in a riot of colour.

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Here comes the sun

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The north wind has ceased to dance and the sun again takes command of his heavens. Yesterday I briskly baby-stepped through the woods to the Great Mother and, placing my hands on her rutted bark, asked for an interval in the intemperate conditions.

As a bright orange butterfly lands on the grass at my feet this morning, I know she has granted my request.

What wonderful power we hold when in symbiosis with the spirit of nature! We who have been disenfranchised from our lands by force and now have no true conception of why. I myself had long believed the origin this violence lay in the sphere of economic power.

But in nature and through nature I have seen that we were forced to migrate to cities not because influence is increased in proportion of territory accrued; nor because human bodies were required to drive inhumane machines; nor that greedy persons needed lands to graze their greedy animals. These are merely historical, material explanations, that our continued suppression of land rights makes a nonsense of. After all these land owners believe in the mystical power that a piece of paper gives them over a physical reality, and it is legally possible, they believe for them to own land upon which we live. Their inhumane machines have long-ceased to clatter in Europe, finding instead other shores on which to carry out their pointless labours and now they feed their animals by unnatural means, having found a less sensible more lucrative alternative to grass.

The fundamental need for our umbilical cord to be severed from Mother nature by those who wished to wield control still remains though  in the fact that if we regained this connection, we would become uncontrollable. Our natural power is our secret history, concealed from us by the monotonous violent narrative of History espoused in school rooms and lecture theatres. We are taught to scoff at the naivety of primitive cultures that believed they could effect weather and crops by rituals and dance and song. I suggest you try it some time and scoff no more.

Shamans, witches, and mystics are always the first to be annihilated when ambitious hands reach out for domination – those who act as gateways of our interface with natural power must be shut up. Such natural power is not solely the domain of specialist, we are all witches, and they can not stake us all and light fires of oppression at our wriggling feet.

The sun, the moon, the weather, every star in the encrusted firmament, every grain of soil on our glorious planet is in you and of you. Manifestation, healing, magic – all at your daily disposal.

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But I never saw the good side of the city, Till I hitched a ride on a riverboat queen

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An early morning walk by the Tiber. White radiant sun, sharp winter air. I hear the city yawn in rumbling trams, the rip of a moped as she stretches her limbs; at this time she is only limbering up, yet to fully awaken. Her pulse, as with any living entity is not one constant thumping pace but a multiplicity of rhythms and beats changing with the time of day, the energy of her inhabitants. We are present today as one of the first stirrings of life, part of a fleeting tranquillity which in less than an hour will be crushed by the frenzied beatings of hunger and excitement, laughter and anger.

The reeds of the river bank rustle. I still Zapatista and watch to see an Otter emerge onto the gentle current. She scouts around, weighing up any danger, measuring the threat we pose, then disappears and returns a little up river with a cub, her perfect miniature replica.

In the silent moments of the city, tilt your head and listen – nature’s heart beats on.

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I see angels above me Demons below me Fighting over heaven, heaven, heaven

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A night time walk with Zapatista we stand at the intersection between two city worlds. A dishevelled woman, eyes full of the peace of practiced solitude, crouches by parked cars, doling out cat food to the waifs and strays of via San Francesco di Sales.

Headlights announce the approach of a shiny status symbol automobile. It hisses through the drizzle, halting to spew out a cortège of glitterati, furred, bejewelled, eyes flashing with disdain at having to traverse this short passage between luxury interior and luxury interior.

An angel at our left, the devil to our right, Zappy and I stand in limbo

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This apocalyptic isolation is fast driving me feral. I stalk about the kitchen, gnawing at a piece of bread, pouring myself red wine, refrigerated by the winter air.
I had been much less acquainted with alcohol when I arrived here, my party days long behind me, and whilst I was socially drinking again, a year of abstinence had ended any dependency I had on the drink.
I had seen at the London eco village and Westminster peace camp the true power of alcohol. It was not merely an evil perpetrated against the individual, infecting people with alcoholism, causing embarrassing behaviour and morning-after regrets. Alcohol’s power is much more prolific than that.
I watched as many times her corrupting fingers served to cause huge rifts within my community. At the peace camp any cohesion or even prolonged discussion was made impossible by the presence of alcohol and the effects it wielded on those who imbibed it.
It is not only colonised populations that have been controlled and over-powered by the state-sanctioned drug of choice. Where ever there is heavy alcohol use, community (aside from that based around the imbibing of liquor) becomes a non-entity.
It has not always been so.
I collect cherries on the first week of June, nervously teetering on the step-ladder. What a mouse I was – now I clamber unconcerned through windows, on wind buffeted scaffolding, over rocky outcrops. The Alchemist laughs at me and orders me to climb further, to over-stretch toward just-out-of-grasp crimson bounty.
With the baskets full and the tree almost bare, he strides off to his workshop – for tonight we make Aqua vitae – the water of life.
This alcohol, distilled from fruits using steam, the Alchemist tells me, has replenishing properties for both the material and spiritual form. It is not to be drunken casually and to be seen more as a medicinal tincture than a form of social lubricant. It is, however, drunk at any time of the day and I admit to occasionally having a sip or two from the communal vessel we supped from, at hours before nine in the morning. I felt no negative effects, no lethargy or dehydration or altered perception. In fact I would say it rather helped my labours on the building site and sent a feeling of warm strength extending out through every cell in my body.
The distillation process is slow taking many hours; my understanding is limited, but as I recall the fruits, being contained within a huge dome covered copper pan, are heated from underneath. The pan must reach a certain temperature and remain stable at that temperature for alcohol to be produced. Vapour from this pan travels down a pipe, to a coiled condensation tube, and then the sanctified liquor drip-drips into a vessel. Not all of the produce is fit for consumption. The liquid that first emerges is very high in methanol, if I understand correctly, and of no pleasure or benefit to drink; of course this is not wasted, but set to one side, in order to later make skin creams and medicinal balms. Several grades of grappa are produced, the smoothest and cleanest being known as the heart, and this is held to be the most beneficial liquid to drink. And that is about all I learned of the process, due as usual to my limited Italian.
Whilst the grappa distilled, I made cherry jam and cordial, and once finished we enjoyed the fruits of our labours together and with gratitude to nature’s cornucopia. I walked in the moonlight to the cherry tree and placed a slice of bread and jam, and a nip of grappa at her roots.
It was the first of many brews made during my time here and the only occasion that they were drunk without due respect or temperance was during a visit by some English friends, who were left to their own devices when we had all gone to bed.
In the morning the Alchemist looked in disbelief at the empty jar – I pulled a face to illustrate my discontent at his grappa being drunk. ‘Ma non e grappa’ he said eyes wide. It was the methylated spirits.
And were my country-folk in anyway adversely effected by this nasty brew? Why by all accounts their hangovers were less savage than a night drinking the liquor we are succoured on in Blighty.

So fill up your glasses with brandy and wine

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we riot not rally to live and die

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A high rise concrete box. Thick skunk smoke fugs the air, gangster rap fuck-you-nigger-bitch-fuck-fucks through the speakers. The young men watch a video of a man in New York being beaten half to death by a gang, eyes aflame with adrenalin at bearing intimate witness to such violence. F looks at his friend ‘Ma, perche?’

‘No lo so’,  his friend responds. They turn up the English soundtrack and replay the video. No answers there, they don’t speak English and anyway it’s only more fuck-you-fucking fuck-fuck.

They look to me, the native English speaker for an explanation.

I want to tell them that since arriving in the city I have noticed such violence abounds here, expressed in seemingly more minor ways, but always a constant throb.

That it isn’t rap music, or drugs, or poverty that catalyses fellow humans to beat one another, film it, put it on facebook, but total detachment and desolation.

That, over 200 years of industrialisation, the pain of our species at finding itself housed for so long in an unnatural environment has become so potent I can smell its rotten stench and taste its bitter wrath from the moment I return to the urban sprawl.

That I myself had until recently been so desensitised to the fundamental violence of the city,  I ascribed the expressions of pain and imbalance it caused to some sort of defect in me; a caged animal desperately pacing her prison back and forth, ignorant of her natural habitat and the salvation it contains.

‘Bo’ I shrug, censored by bad Italian and good weed.

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The grey damp filthiness of ages

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It is so strange to spend my final days here in such desolation. All other human inhabitants have moved to places of comfort and security to sit out the Siberian weather. Ten months ago I arrived, a good friend at my side, to a dusk lit Eden populated by sun-kissed hippies, the first handful of hundreds of visitors that would pass through, but never stay. Only I stayed, I and the Alchemist.

You would not recognise in me today the well dressed, prettified woman who hitched her way this far. Instead you will find a bedraggled, coarse mountain woman, cloths and body filthy, hardened through months of elemental change, my upper body strong as an oak, my soul imbued with the tranquillity of nature.

I stayed because I was an exile, from a country I had no affinity with, from a lost love that would not cease to claw at my heart. From cars and computers, office jobs, recession, depression, addiction, desolation…there are some sorts of malaise that distance can not salve.

As this wind blew in, all thoughts of the road were fixed. Connected again, I love my homeland now.

Easy comforts, friendship, familiarity, small talk, blitz spirit, gallows humour, fish n chips, tea, rain

But dear England, I know you are no rose-tinted spectacle. If the world has cancer, then it is on your body the tumour grows.

A population more enslaved and disenfranchised than poverty ravaged faces pumped out through televisions on charity nights designed to remind us how fortunate we are. Fortunate to have had our ancestors evicted through force from their natural environs to alien cities populated by clamouring clacking metal monsters. Fortunate to live in a democracy where empty homes are denied to the displaced, where warriors of peace are silenced by houses of politicians. Fortunate to live in isolation in a red bricked cage with hot running water and a soft pillow on which to lie your exhausted head, the sole escape from your too-comfortable prison through the sweet elixir of slumber.

In exile the chains that bind me to my country-folk are reforged; I share in their bondage no matter what foreign soil I tread, what personal freedom I find.  Who would chose a solitary sunny utopia, over standing next to friends on the battle-lines?

Now I return to battle once more, your love an archived memory, the prize my sacred country.

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Well I just got into town about an hour ago, took a look around, see which way the wind blow

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That’s right city go about your business, everyone sticking to their tribes, visual expressions of social categorisations. Each body a ghetto, projecting separation, policing interaction – costume, gait eyes, telling of class, culture, taste – barbed barriers to human harmony. Contained within your streets, not one city but innumerable worlds, disparate, diverse;  I a visiting spectre, unwelcome and unknown by all.

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