Subject: Eel Pie Island
Date: 7 May 2009
Eel Pie Island Hotel Commune
Clunching my big hat, I ran through some noble quarters of London, old Victorian houses with wrought iron fences along the sidewalk. It was already dark, late in the evening , and I was afraid. I wanted to see Rudi Dutschke, he was giving a talk around here. I wanted to see him, my hero of the German students movement, symbol of a better future of social justice and the breakthrough of human rights. I had asked my way through all the stations of the Tube, and finally, I was sure I had the right street. Alas, there was no way to find him, as there were no numbers to be seen. So, a little sixteen year old Hippie girl with a strong German accent all alone on a calm sidestreet in London? In the dark? Suddenly I remembered that London was the hometown of Jack the Ripper, and I hesitated to reveal myself as a complete unknown schoolgirl who can't find the place where Rudi Dutschke is speaking. Nobody would even search for me.
I returned home and suddenly it turned into a home. After having hung around on Piccadilly Circus, some people took me somewhere to squat in an empty house. In the morning we were all thrown out by the police, and I had the well founded expectation that it might happen again the next morning. Eel Pie Island was the solution. And a community. And a home. What else to you need.
The house was packed with people, there was no empty room. I didn't need one. I lived in the rooms of the men that liked me. I don't remember any other rule or reason. For quite a while I lived in the chamber of the doorman, I forgot how I got there. But it was on the ground floor, left of the entrance, and normally two men lived in there. I have a faint recollection of one bed along the back wall, and the other along the side. The other man - there is an even fainter recollection of feelings - tried to stay out as long as I stayed in. But I wouldn't have minded his presence so I was sure he shouldn't have minded mine. Most of the surface of the tiny room was covered with beds, and this was the most important thing not only for me. But there was some shelf too, and a sink. And this sink makes me remember my host teaching me a Cockney song: "My baby has gone through the plughole, My baby has gone through the plug. It was so thin and so skinny, I should have washed it in a jug." 39 years later I found out he could have meant me.
I didn't feel poor, but I didn't have money. When I went to eat out with the others in the little take-away pub on the other side of the footbrige, I ordered white beans in tomato sauce. It was only 50 pence, affordable and filling. Otherwise I lived of a mixture of coffee-powder, milk-powder and sugar. I kept mixing these three ingredients and pooring hot water over it. Inviting others too for a cup of instant coffee - everyone went to see the doorman first and I was his coffeemaid, even when he was not there - I think I upset the real owner of this assortment of powders. Maybe it was Scots John – maybe. I read a lot about him in Canadian Chris's "Eel Pie Dharma", and in Weeds memories. It must have been him.
He polished my English with words like cunt and prick, and he taught me meaningful sentences like "Up against the wall, motherfucker!". I remember sitting and staring at the illustrating paintings in his doorman room and I remember too, years later, using this useful vocabulary and getting into serious trouble.
Inspired by Canadian Chris' haibun, I'd add -
Doorman roommateand the following chapters -