The International Writers Magazine: Squat Party
was late. He lay still watching the droplets of water running
across the ceiling. He watched with gathering fascination as the
little silver autos raced faster and faster until suddenly they
kissed, embraced, swelling into one, slowing to a stop. There
they hung for a moment teetering on the edge of oblivion (a bit
like him really) and then, all at once, drop. Clang.
The noise was like
a trigger and despite being alone in the room he said Better empty
them frigging buckets. He leapt energetically from his disgusting
bed. Happily, he found that he still wore his jeans, his socks and his
favourite Joy Division T-shirt. Vigorously he roughed-up his short,
red Mohican, collected the crusty bits of dried sleep from the corners
of his eyes and began searching the floor for his boots.
His rising ritual complete, he strode across the room to an array of
brimming buckets, pans, tins and bowls strategically placed to collect
the nights drips. One by one he poured the contents into the ragged
hole, which he had previously smashed through the floorboards with an
axe. A crude but effective arrangement considering he had no sink in
this room and no way of stopping the water from dripping through the
ceiling. Later he would go down to the basement and take a look at the
enormous bulge in the ceiling below. He grinned as he imagined the moment
when the old skin of yellow plaster would finally give way under the
pressure and explode its bomb of filthy liquid into the already derelict
cellar. What a frigging show that would be he thought as
he brushed away the overspill.
Throwing the broom into a corner, he pulled open the door and stepped
out into the wide, empty hallway. Andy would still be asleep but judging
from the sounds emanating from the room next door he deduced that Colin
was up and no doubt doing something weird. He knocked, got no immediate
answer and so opened the door and walked in anyway.
Colins room was dramatically different from his own, his being
really, only half a room. This was due to the leak, which forced him
to live at one end and to collect its water at the other. He was not
bothered about this, Charlton Mansion was a huge house, three storeys
with enormous (though mostly derelict) rooms and so his half-a-room
was bigger than anywhere he had ever lived before. It was true that
the noise of the drips clanging all night was a bloody nuisance but
he was nothing if he wasnt stoical and gradually he had got used
to the random, disharmonious music that played in his room both day
Colin, who had found this squat, had been entitled to choose the best
room for him self. This he had done but he had also worked hard to make
it comfortable and undeniably unusual by anyones standards. He
stood now on a tall stool, which was itself on top of a wooden table.
He had a row of drawing pins clasped between his white lips and was
fiddling with a long piece of turquoise wool.
Colin only managed a kind of humming reply whilst reaching up to push
his pins into the ceiling and wrapping wool about them.
"Can I have a rolly Col? Cheers mate."
Free of pins, Colin looked down at his daily visitor who was now sat
in his burgundy, art deco armchair, his horrid great boots up upon the
elegant glass-topped table, recently rescued from a skip in White Ladies
Road and which, he hoped, might actually be a valuable antique.
"Yes, good morning Keith
please, help yourself." Keith
had already rolled and lit his cigarette and now, as he breathed out
his first smoke of the day he gazed up at Colin who had produced the
ball of wool from his pocket and was unravelling a fresh length.
"What you doing then Col?"
Colin stopped whatever it was and began to fiddle with his glasses.
They had snapped sometime ago (under suspicious circumstances and involving
Keith actually) and were now held together with flesh-colourer, though
quite filthy, sticking plaster.
"Im making a web actually."
"A web, a spiders web, out of wool you see."
whats that for then?"
well it's not for anything really, its a
web you see. I made one once before, a black one, when I was in halls
at Leeds actually, but that, well, that one was rather small, ran out
of wool actually. But then yesterday I found this ball of turquoise
upstairs, in one of the cupboards, enough to make a much larger web
so I thought
well, why not?"
Keith stared at the ceiling with its few blue threads stretching out
from the corner trying to imagine the finished web.
"Wow, a bloody great spiders web
As Colin went back to work Keith pondered his strange friend, for despite
being incredibly selfish, he did worry about his companions here in
the squat and tried, after a fashion, to cheer them and to bring a little
happiness to their otherwise boring, pointless lives. Take Colin for
example, he was well into his thirties, middle-class, well educated
but, lets face it, a total loser. He came from somewhere near London;
some suburb that Keith had never heard of. Colin rarely talked about
his family but it was evident that they didnt care much about
each other. Colin had a brother who had done well, at least in his parents
eyes, but Colin had dropped out of university, drifted around, smoking
dope, living in squats and growing weirder by the day and so they had
lost contact. There was nothing unusual about that; Keith was in a similar
boat though hed never been to university. Colins biggest
problem, or so it seemed to Keith, was women. It was obvious he wanted
a girlfriend and it was true that women did like him but only as a friend,
Once, when Colin was particularly drunk on a bottle of gin (which Keith
had stolen from the supermarket to celebrate Andys escape), he
had told Keith that he was still a virgin. Worse still, he had once
had a girlfriend named Barbara but throughout their three-year relationship
he had not been allowed to so much as kiss her. In tears, Colin had
told Keith that, one day, he had received a letter from Barbara informing
him that their relationship was over and that, although she thought
very highly of him, she had felt nothing but revulsion at the thought
of their doing it together as she had put it. She went on
to say that she had recently met a nice young man who was an apprentice
telecom engineer and, once qualified, would have his own van. They were
soon to be married and he was invited to the wedding reception so long
as he wore a suit and tie.
Not sure how best to respond to these revelations, Keith had asked if
the reception had been any good. Sadly, Colin could not be sure because
due to Barbaras forgetting to give him any details
he was not able to attend.
Keith worried about Colin but he was still optimistic. He had made inquires,
researched the matter, and his findings showed that a disappointing
one hundred per cent of all women asked in his survey, insisted that
they would never sleep with Colin under any circumstances whatsoever.
Admittedly, he had only used a sample of five but nevertheless his findings
He had even gone so far as to question two of their closer, female mates
(Anna and Hannah who lived upstairs in the attics) about their views
concerning Colin and each had given roughly the same reply, that there
was something missing in Colin; basically, he had no sex appeal
none at all, not even a bit. It was as simple as that. They both agreed
however, that Colin was a great guy, they enjoyed his company, felt
safe being alone with him (despite his being a little weird) but the
thought of ever having any kind of sexual relationship with him had
simply never entered their heads. Determined to understand, Keith had
now forced that particular idea into their minds and their reactions
had been to pull faces, shake their heads in the negative, and laugh
in that exclusive sort of way, which Keith had experienced before in
the company of women but which he could never quite understand.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Keith felt certain that there
must be someone, somewhere who would fall for Colin
it was just
a question of whether or not they would ever actually meet.
He pondered this as Colin dragged the table and stool a few feet further
into the centre of the room. With wool and pins stuffed into his pockets
he clambered back up to the ceiling. Keith watched and waited as the
web began to take shape. Eventually, an idea popped into his head.
"Col, what you reckon to a party?" Colin dropped his ball
of wool and seeing that Keith had no intention of getting it for him,
began to climb down from the stool. He stood on the table the sun shinning
on his back as he looked down at Keith.
"A party, here
well Im not really."
"Come on Col, think about it, weve got all this space and
look at this room, its party perfect." Colin thought of his
room full of drunken punk rockers leaping about breaking things, stealing
things, anything could happen, furniture ruined by cigarette burns,
alcohol stains, vomit. He tried to be assertive.
"Keith, I really dont think
"Weve got the squat of squats Col, the cream of squats, the
best squat in the world and we dont do nothing with it. Just look
at this room for Christs sake, its brilliant, what with the mobile
mirrors, the metal flowers, the sea-worn tree trunk and now, a bloody
great spiders web. Brilliant, bloody brilliant." Colin was really
"Im not really a party sort of person."
"Exactly, all the more reason to have one."
"Im not sure I follow your logic really
I..." Just then there was a knock at the door and Andy walked in.
He was tall and dark and had the look of a man who rarely slept. Keith
turned to him.
"Andy, me and Col were just saying what a great idea it would be
if we had a party, here, in Colins room, what do you think?"
"Yea great." Said Andy rolling a cigarette from Colins
"Brilliant, obviously itll have to be on a giro day so we
can buy loads of booze and well need speed, loads of speed and
dope obviously well need loads of dope." Andy lit up, nodding
"Yea, next Friday. Better start inviting people." Colin still
stood on the table. He felt cold despite the sun. He said.
"Im sorry, Im not sure
"Brilliant!" Shouts Keith as he jumps up from his chair. "Ill
go tell the punks upstairs."
Andy was a thief. He liked to think of himself as a serious and experienced
housebreaker, the sort of villain who could tell, through experience,
whether a particular drum was worth breaking into or not. The trouble
was, he knew that in reality he was a crap thief, the kind of suspicious
looking character that hangs about in well-to-do suburban streets, hands
stuffed into the pockets of his black bomber-jacket looking shifty and
obviously up to no good. On more than one occasion he had been arrested
before he had even broken in and on those occasions when he did manage
to get into a house, it was rare that he would find anything of much
Andy was on the run. As usual he had come out of prison with a great
new scam, which he had worked well. The scam involved forging Post-Office
savings books and he had made a packet for about three months. In fact
he had done so well that he could have fulfilled his dream of travelling
around the world and maybe smuggling a load of smack back into the country
when he returned but, as always, he had gone too far, been too greedy
and got caught. The judge gave him five years for the PO books but after
a few months they had put him in the open prison at Lay Hill and he
and another guy had escaped. He would never forget the thrill of that
night, the daring belly-crawl across a railway bridge to freedom, the
screws all running about flashing their torches and shouting to one
another. And the amazement on the faces of the others when he arrived
here, at the squat, the following morning, they had celebrated all day
and into the night and Keith had toasted him as a latter-day Robin Hood,
a hero of the lost generation of Thatchers Britain. Priceless.
It was Friday morning. The police had just left with Andys few
belongings. They had searched the house from top to bottom but had found
nothing except for a few roaches and a shopping-trolley full of larger,
vodka and gin but since Keith had still got the receipt there was nothing
they could do about it.
They had smashed down the front door at about six-thirty that morning,
pulled Keith from his bed shouting about someone called Eric Hayes whom
Keith had never heard of. Once the situation had calmed down, they herded
everyone into Colins room (it being the only decent room in the
house they said), and started asking questions. Eric, it turned out,
was the guy who had escaped from prison with Andy a few weeks earlier
but since they had gone their separate ways no one in the squat had
ever met him or had any idea where he might be.
Eventually, the detective in charge began to mellow and finally told
them what had prompted the raid. On the previous night, an elderly woman
had phoned the police to say that a man was trying to break into her
house via a downstairs window and that, in the process, he had made
so much noise that she and her neighbours had been woken. A Mister Evans,
who lived next door, had challenged the burglar who, on trying to escape
over a back fence, had slipped and sprained his ankle. When the police
arrived sometime later they found Andy sitting in the garden sipping
a mug of cocoa, whilst the elderly woman wound a bandage around his
rapidly swelling foot. Andy had been re-arrested and taken straight
It was obvious. He had gone out that evening to steal money, jewellery
or whatever he could so that he could buy drugs for the party the following
"Now the poor bastards back in prison doing five years." Said
Keith after the police had finally left them alone. "And weve
got no speed for tonight. Shit!" Colin sighed and looked up at
the finished web on the ceiling.
"Yes, poor Andy. I suppose well have to cancel the party
dont you think?"
Keith spun round pointing at the shopping-trolley.
"No fucking way! Andy got nicked for this party and the least we
can do is have a bloody good drink in his honour."
"Oh yes, yes of course, I didnt mean
well yes, absolutely."
Keith was in that strange state of being asleep but being almost awake.
He knew that he could not open his eyes because it would be too painful.
His head hurt already and he knew that sunlight would be unbearable
if he exposed himself to it too soon. He thought about the party, it
had been a dull affair really. Due to the raid, hardly anyone had turned
up, they all thought that everyone in the squat had been arrested and
so saw no point in going. Hanna and Anna had come down from the attics
and the punks who lived in the derelict rooms on the next floor had
stayed for an hour or two, drank all the larger and then left for last
orders. After they had gone, Hanna produced some good blow prompting
Colin (tired of listening to The Ruts, the Slits and The Fall all evening),
to regain control of his own record player and put Pink Floyd on.
It was all very nice and in his drunken state, Keith had begun to wonder
about the possibility of the four of them becoming more intimate. He
knew that Colin had a thing for Hanna and Keith had always fancied both
of them even though he knew they were a couple. Still, you did read
about these things.
He lay still, thinking and decided that the last thing he could remember
was opening another bottle of vodka and singing Shine on you crazy
diamond (very well as he recalled) and there was something else,
yes, a memory of soft, warm skin, of hands caressing his body, his hands
exploring in response, lips and tongues, kissing passionately. Bloody
hell he thought, Anna must have been well pissed to sleep
with me. But then his eyes flew open. Anna didnt have a
Despite the pain, his eyes began to focus and he saw above him a turquoise
woollen spiders web. Slowly he turned his head to the left and saw Colin,
naked beside him, a contented smile upon his sleeping face. As carefully
as he could, Keith slipped out of the bed, gathered up his strewn clothes
and crept towards the door. Just as he reached it he heard Colin stirring.
He stopped and turned around. Their eyes met across the dishevelled
"Great party Col." He said. "Brilliant."
© Graham Attenborough Nov 2005
Graham lectures in history at the University of Portsmouth
Fiction in Dreamscapes
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