Monday, 29 December 2008

The End?

I can’t actually believe it. The whole court thing was such a shock.
It was just after our decision to give ourselves a short winter break… it’s been a stressful year after all. People had gone to visit family. I was one of the few left behind the day we found the notice for a possession order stuck to the gate. This was shortly followed by 14 envelopes containing the same information for an assortment of previous caretakers. It was the first contact we’ve had with the Council for quite some time. We quickly got together a proposal for them to try to avoid taking it to court... 15 grand up front and the rest with the full amount to be paid up within a year. With Triodos Bank (Positive Ethical Lenders) still considering loaning us the money, it was the best we could do. It was, in the words of the Council, “utterly rejected”. We had 2 days to get our defence together. It was apparently to be a 15 minute hearing. We asked for an adjournment. A group of us and our solicitors got to the court to find a 2 hour wait. When we finally got in there the judge declared that we’d continue through after lunch to get it over and done with. My gosh. It was horrendous. The first half hour was a painful discussion about leases and licenses. It all felt so far away from what it was actually about. By lunchtime we were feeling hopeless and powerless. Thank goodness Rik managed to speak up in the second half. He managed to say a lot. He thought he’d finished but got up again to end with a plea for leniency as we needed more time to get the money together. The judge listened and relayed it back well in his judgement. He admitted the Council had probably been underhand. I must get the court transcript. He described it as a clash of cultures but said at the end of the day the Council owns the site and now they want it back. As the owners they have the right to say how much they sell it for and who they sell it to. But how about as the Council? Aren’t they meant to nurture communities?

That evening was painful. We were all burnt out and heart broken. Suddenly people were organising where to go next.. where to store things.. The bailiffs could come at any time after all. We’d asked to speak to the guys from the Council straight after court to try to find out what kind of timescale we were looking at but they said that our lawyers should speak to their lawyers. So once again we’re left in the dark.
Rather than planning and packing, I was looking through the history folder again. I was reading about the nuns. The timing of it all is mad.
Here’s what I found:
They were the Sisters of the Christian Retreat. In 1848 a group of seven Sisters were to leave Les Fontenelles for London. As they left they were told by Fr Jerome Magnam: “leave dear Sisters for the land once known as the island of saints and scholars, carry with you the zeal for your rule, plant the Retreat in that house in London. Form the people that God will send you in the spirit of your vocation”.
On 16th December 1848 they arrived at their new home, which they called Nazareth House, the base from which they were to help the poor people of Peckham.

They arrived on the site 160 years to the day before we were told to leave it.
I’d read a newspaper article from the 80’s with a quote from someone mentioning that they felt as if the nun’s prayers were stuck in the walls. I’m certainly not the first to feel it.

Anyway, the next day brought madness. Suddenly there were loads of men with florescent jackets on in the yard. The gate was open. Quite a few people from the community were about coming with their condolences. We were all so baffled. It’s true there had been a smell of gas. And the guys had GAS written on their backs. But it was so bizarre as Spike doesn’t have gas. Next they were telling us we had to evacuate the building. But we hadn’t packed.. there’s 10 years of stuff to get back to people.
They told us our lives were at risk, but we couldn’t abandon Spike… not yet.. paranoia was creeping through. “The gasman cometh”…
The sensible among us managed to get us out of the building and explained that a pipe had cracked in the road and the gas had found its way up the electricity pipe. Yikes. That would be a crazy way for us to go out. It all seemed a bit too far fetched as an eviction technique. The gasmen decided we could apparently remain in the caravan at the far wall. 8 of us crammed in. Then a 9th, and then a 10th came. We moved into a larger caravan. It was sweet. It brought us together. Mark went off to his to make us all dinner and came back with a huge feast (some of which supplied by the wonderful people at the Frog on the Green Deli!). And the road was blocked for days. Wow, peace and quiet. It took them ages to fill in the holes because of the holidays so we had silence for our ceremony around the fire on Winter Solstice. Bob did us proud. My favourite part was when he opened up the circle for all to speak. There was a passionate remark. Then silence. Then another remark. Silence. A poem. Donna gave a heart wrenching speech. That circle was powerful. I know we are a strong community. So we lose our base. I’d rather still think we don’t. But it was agreed it was not the end of the world… though we should continue preparing for difficult times.
The fire was followed by a beautiful and melancholy Sunday Sounds jam. In difficult times we were thankfully all together doing what we do best.

I still believe we mustn’t give up. I wish there is more time and hope. I have become attached to a space. I think it’s magical. But I guess it is really a community I am attached to. What comes next I don’t know. The final push. More work.

Closed for gas works

1 comment:

marmitelover said...

What synchronicity, the date...