Here in Jakartass Towers there seems to be something that makes me blink, a WTF moment, every day. Until recently, WTF stood for the World Taekwondo Federation and, as I’m sure everyone knows, it’s also the language code for Watiwa, a Trans–New Guinean language.
Then there’s this ….
However, even Indonesians understand the acronym. After all, as a departing friend remarked at our farewell meal, they’re delivered to the table on a daily basis, and I’m getting tired of muttering in various degrees of volume: “What-the-eff?!“
That is why I thought of opening a Farcebook page for folk to note their mental blinks. However, there is already a Daily WTF online, but that’s about software development cock ups and nothing to do with what I had in mind.
However, friend’s use of the word “daily” took me back to my hippy squatting* days in Summerstown behind St. Pancras railway station in London. There were 60 houses awaiting renovation by the Greater London Council (GLC). We were a mixed bunch of young single folk, couples and the rare family. By and large we were excluded from the housing market even though some of us were teachers, like me, junior doctors and lawyers, artists, mechanics and musicians, as well as a few who fit the image of vagrants.
We were disenfranchised from the local services, yet engaged with the GLC. Very simply we told them that although they thought that we were a problem, it lay at their end. If they were to give us permission to stay, a licence, until such time as they had a proven schedule for their building contractors to move in then with the stroke of a pen the ‘problem’ wouldn’t exist anymore. Both parties signed an agreement.
However, above all, we were a perforce community, so much so that we had a newspaper, and shop which we called the Great Joint Happiness Co-op. In that pre-Thatcher era the GLC was still an elected body with local representatives. We nominated Roger Rabbit, our co-op’s pet rabbit. To our amazement it attracted 67 votes, but none from us because we hadn’t been allowed on the electoral register.
Were we anarcho-subversives? I wouldn’t know: we were using the system in a satirical way. We weren’t particularly left wing; the Trotskyite and International Marxist squatters were to be found in West London behind the barricades with Piers Corbyn (the elder brother of the Jeremy Corbyn) warring against bailiffs. To put it simply, we had home lives to lead and liked to have a bit of fun.
‘Housing For All’ was our slogan and Self-Help our credo; we improved the houses we were occupying because they were our homes, and we didn’t see ourselves as consumers needing the latest gadget because we wewre only concerned with our needs. The annual Ideal Home Exhibition was the antithesis of our core idealism.
We knew that parading with handheld placards outside the venue, the giant Earls Court Arena (image) , would only antagonise the attendees and exhibitors, and could also lead to our arrests. That the exhibition had been sponsored since 1908 by a right wing daily newspaper, the Daily Mail, simplified matters.
The Daily Hernia was born. We saw it as an alternative Private Eye, the UK’s semi-satirical fortnightly magazine with a serious side. We sought contributions from whoever wanted to join us: our Horoscopes reflected our collective nine astrological signs, there were Small Ads and a big headline extolling the souvenir edition of the Daily Hernia’s Ideal Hut Exhibition. There were I suspect (but forget) serious articles on homelessness, the legal rights of squatters – which dated back to the 14th century, plus other relevant matters.
What I do recall is the theatrical nature of our demo. We got hold of some long white lab coats, stencilled Daily Hernia on the back, took our stack of ‘newspapers’, made our way across London and then looked to get in without paying. The exits were the type found in cinemas: to get out you had to push a bar, the door(s) then swung shut and locked. Beside each door inside was a ‘gatekeeper’ who was there to prevent the likes of us getting in: we found one who was sympathetic to our cause.
Once in, we separated and wended our way along the aisles between the exhibitor stands.
“Try me and stop one,” we cried out. “Get your free issue here.”
“Free?” Yep, such is consumerism that we soon ran out of stock.
We returned the following year, and for me that was significant for a conversation I had with a lady who’d travelled down from Blackpool in north-west England.
“Eh lad,” she said, “I’m glad you’re here. I got a copy last year and wanted another one.”
I would have offered her a subscription, but that would have been too consumerist.
Now I’ve shared the ‘why’, please add your ‘whats’ on the Daily Hernia FB page, but with much greater brevity please.
* The print media labelled us as ‘hippy squatters’ after we were raided early one morning by the police Bomb Squad because, they told us, they were looking for SAM missiles capable of taking down jumbo jets on their way to Heathrow Airport. Yes, there were social connections with the Angry Brigade, but that was a period of civil rights violations across a broad sector of British society and we empathised with workers in the construction industry and others ‘targetted’ by the establishment in the pre-Thatcher era.