Even though the restrictions were lifted, there was everywhere yet nowhere to go. Barricaded into our place of refuge, it took a child’s naivety to sneak through the hastily erected obstacles, arranged to prevent access but also to look as though there were no entrances amenable to sanctuary to begin with. And off I headed, evading the insomniac exchanges, the endless discussions, the fighting, the tears, the initial panic, the frenzied preparations for surviving the first few days – the belief, crazy now in retrospect, that it would only be for a few days… but then I now know that’s the kind of thing that kicks in. It gets you through. Through those first days. Through the shedding of the layers, the moulting of things, tangible and intangible, familiar and precious. Things evermore removed. No. Can’t be done. The long view gets you nowhere. Got to close that stuff right down.
I don’t know what they were thinking. Expediency, I guess. A total lack of options. Cut off by the patrols on the Mancunian Way, drones stationed at Whitworth Street/Oxford Road crossroads, logging everything, live capture, end of story. An upper floor in an unfinished tower block, student accommodation, still windowless and concrete grey, everyone fretting over making sure we were effectively sealed in… while I was squeezing between improvised furniture and fences, using all my infant ingenuity to break out. My white t-shirt muddied and wet from the puddle beneath the fence on the perimeter of the site, my hands black from gripping the enormous treads of the abandoned dumper truck, my back against the rough brick interior wall of the arches, the silent tracks above me. I found the limits of my territory on that very first night. In the decades that followed I stalked it like a tom cat. It was all I could do.
I thought that my work would become saturated with vivid colours when the old guard finally fell. I savoured the inevitable effervescence of language as things long dead to me became reanimated. I waited for those little epiphanies to explode, raising the hairs on my arms and my neck with each corner I turned. I waited. And waited.
I’m still waiting. I could use those words, describing the small pleasures in vivacious detail. Despite it all, I was well educated. Probably more so than otherwise, it was something else to hang on to, another thing we were determined to prove that they would not take away from us. But it would be some kind of epistemological fraud to write like that in the reports, to use those words, that lexicon of intensity in the interviews, the testimonies. Because now there is a disconnect. I don’t think those things anymore. I cannot think those things.
Certain colours were contraband, outlawed from the very start. I won’t go into them. I can’t. Occasionally, occasionally, we’d come across them – we were outside their control but of course we had no means of acquiring contraband and we didn’t need the attention. I don’t see them now. I never will. Those colours, they’re just words to me. I might use them in rare moments of conversation, but it’s just like wearing someone else’s clothes.
5th September 2015