A Waste of Time




A small hunger gnaws at me, so I make my way through the milling group of humans toward the café that huddles beneath the flyover. Obstructing me are a tattooed lesbian couple who shout at their small terrier and sup on small bottles of beer. Finally joining the queue with a self-satisfied smile on my face, I read the chalkboard advertising upcoming film screenings, boat rides and later today, a brass band. I overhear thrilled Australians ask the girl behind the counter if this is a temporary set-up. 

“Yes, it is” she says. 

They seem happy with the answer, excited by the impermanence. They are part of Something Happening. The future memories are already forming in their heads, and the tweets are being punched into phones.

I order a cream cheese bagel with added cracked black pepper, and think about what it all means. A coot flies under the flyover, evidently unimpressed. It has seen it all before, unlike the Australians. They come from a young culture, I reason, so I’m more forgiving than the water bird.

I take my pop-up bagel back from the shanty-café. I eat it and the bagel is gone, but I imagine I’ll have another one in my lifetime so don’t find the experiencing that exciting. I settle on the grass a few metres from the shade created by the flyover, roll a cigarette, look at the sluggish water of the navigation and observe a grey heron languidly flapping toward me.

“If the Pop-Ups are popping up everywhere”, the heron says after landing by my side “then surely this artful impermanence is a falsity. And what really annoys me is the suggestion that reclaiming unfashionable spaces and using them for artistic endeavours is in anyway a new phenomenon. As an addendum, I would like to say that I live here, permanently, and find this influx of new bohemians irksome.”

The heron’s scornful and superior tone annoys me. Who is he to say that this isn’t a wonderful, vibrant re-imagining of space? He must be part of the’ Keep Hackney Crap Brigade’. I pose this to him.

“True, true” muses the heron. “I can’t dictate what people can and cannot enjoy. But I would suggest– and you are fully aware of the history of the free festivals and the squat scene, I read your fucking blog – is that these things have been happening since time immemorial without any sanctification from the state, or endorsements from liberal mainstream newspapers.”

He pauses for breath.

“And haven’t you yourself run events in squats and reclaimed social centres, without any help from the fucking Barbican? You’ve read Hakim Bey and you know what a TAZ is.”

The bastard has got me by the short and curlies. The wildlife of Hackney talk to me a lot these days.
“So I’ll leave you with a dilemma to solve” he says, stretching his wings. “Go on www.boxpark.co.uk
At which point, with a beating of wings that nearly spooks a passing cyclist into the algaed water, he flies off in search of lunchtime fish and frogs. As he flies off I notice small wooden sticks emerging from the earth, pages ripped from a book attached to them. Curious literary flags.

Investigating further, I find the cover of this dissected text - ‘Discourse on the Method and Meditations’ by Rene Descartes, Penguin Classics edition. 

I need a piss, so I follow the trail of pages into the bushes, and tap the URL the heron gave me into my Smartphone whilst urinating.