Thursday, 17 April 2008

Lost boys of the lido

Once upon a time, there was a park called London Fields. This park was very special. Ley lines criss-crossed it. A plague pit lay underneath it. A dwelling known as the 'murder house' faced the park. Two streets of narrow houses, leaning against each other in higgledy piggledy fashion were occupied by squatters; all day people were in and out of each others houses like a punk episode of Coronation Street. The park had everything you could want. A playground. A pub. Trees. Cricket. Tennis. Cycle lanes. And adjacent, Broadway Market, now a fashionable organic farmers market. So far, so normal. But magical happenings occurred in this park. Picnics were extraordinary. Days were longer. Sometimes samba was played. Another day there was an open air cinema where we ate popcorn and watched Italian movies powered by the sun.
To one side of this park stood a lido, an open air swimming pool. Within the walls of the lido, lived the lost boys, each in his little converted changing room, circumventing the empty pool. Within the pool there was a garden, the earth having been painstakingly transported from the park, where grew tomatoes and potatoes and all sorts of vegetables. These were the best tasting vegetables you could possibly eat. They were fertilised with human manure, for nothing, but nothing, was ever wasted in the lido. Also in the pool were two bath tubs lined up next to each other, to enable the occupants to chat. These would be filled with cold water and then a fire lit underneath. The water would gradually heat up, and you could bathe, in company, under the starlight of Eastern London.
Some of the lost boys were from other countries, having travelled from afar to alight in this mysterious part of the metropolis. There was Daniel, from Germany, who was tall, thin and bony with staring mad blue eyes and popping bad skin. He took alot of drugs and sometimes fucked boys and sometimes fucked girls. Daniel was part of the Black Block. Wearing a black balaclava, he loved a riot.
Then there was Daft, a tall thin Jewish boy from Western London. He was very very funny and cracked jokes all day, while smoking a similar substance through a hole in a beer can. He never did anything at all around the lido. He explained
"Not everybody CAN buy toilet paper- it's a known fact"
"Cleanliness is next to impossible"
"Money is a mid-week thing, nobody has it!"
It was very unfair that others expected him to do tawdry chores and the like. Sometimes he stole. He was a dedicated vegan and occasionally waitressed in a local vegan café. From time to time, Daniel would allow Daft to sleep with him. Daft preferred to sleep with Germans if at all possible.
Naked John had the messiest cubicle: he wandered around in his blond beauty, dripping with scarves and riding his unicycle. John used to be a famous child actor on TV. He would amuse everybody, an acutely accurate impersonator. He talked to anybody who passed by in the park, when the door of the Lido was left open. So he was well known in the community and could barter with local Turkish shops, exchanging say, a few first class stamps for a loaf of bread. John got arrested for being naked up a tree. Boys aren't allowed to be naked in public but girls can.
Jacko, a frizzy haired wild man who knew everything, slept under a desk in the 'computer cubicle'. It had no light, all the windows entirely blacked out. You could ask Jacko anything and he would know the answer, sucking on a pipe and nodding sagely. He was a walking dictionary/encyclopedia/Google-search engine/interwebber. Jacko was in the process of creating a new computer language which he hoped to sell for millions.
Another German, Jurg, ensured his cubicle was spotlessly clean, kept himself to himself, and washed everyday. His girlfriends were blonde and blue-eyed and lived in houses where he could go and have a hot bath.
Donach from Ireland lived in the dankest mouldiest changing room, so unhealthy he developed eczema on the inside of his body, not the outside skin.
In the largest cubicle (for he was nothing if not territorial), we must introduce Emmanuel, the little French satyr from Les Vosges. Strangely Emmanuel and Daniel lived about 50 miles from each other originally but in different countries, France and Germany. They detested each other. Outside of Emmanuel's room, neatly cut wood was stacked, a natural sculpture, each log fitting perfectly with the next, his stores for the winter. Having been brought up in the forests of the Lorraine, Emmanuel was the only one of the lost boys to be prepared for the cold Lido winters which had no hot water or heating. All year he prepared his wood stacks. Emmanuel had a wood burner made from a milk churn which heated his room in no time. The wood beside was filed in order of size: twists of paper, kindling, twigs, small sticks, split logs. Emmanuel's father was a lumberjack; in fact every member of his family could handle an axe efficiently, including his 70 year old mother.
Emmanuel was short, blond and compact, with muscly arms and shoulders. He'd been in the army, and it showed, the Foreign Legion, reputation had it. He had long hair and bright blue eyes, one of which strayed to the side when he was tired. A survivalist, he loathed depending on anyone else. He was probably the only squatter there from the working classes, the others being on leave of absence from nice homes and normality.
Nobody had any money in the lido. The food was "skipped" (dumpster diving) from Lidl bins and sometimes other supermarkets. Once Emmanuel found 4 bottles of perfect champagne next to a bin. There was always plenty to eat. Finding 40 litres of out of date milk, he made moulds out of tin cans, and lo! fresh cheese. He also used fruit from the apple trees that line Mare Street to make juice in his home-made fruit press. Emmanuel was Pink Block, wearing a pink tutu and flowers in his hair, he loved a party.
One child who visited often with her mother, spent all day riding around and around the pool on a little red tricycle, like a scene from the Shining.
Not so far from the lido, there is an almond tree, a candle factory and a hummus factory (although the 'skipped' hummus was a little fizzy). Barbeques were lit inside wheel hubs. Chandeliers were made from bicycle parts. Almost everything you could possibly need can be found within London Fields and everything in the lido was 'tatted' (finding things on the street). This was a freegan society. If money was needed, metal would be sold, wire would be stripped, particularly copper (a copper heating tank would fetch about £15), at one of the numerous local scrap metal dealers.


  1. This is a beautiful has the makings of a novel. I think you should write it. You know, it's really weird Kirsten but after my early involvement with Reclaim the streets at Kings X I often wondered what happened in the Hackney lido..and I often heard stories about the parties there..but sadly never went along..otherwise you and I would have met in a different space-time continuum...

  2. Agreed, this is a beautiful story.

  3. This is one of the most amazing stories I have ever read!


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