This was work.
HANGING AROUND I N T E R M I N A B L Y FOR DEMOCRACY
Thursday 14th December, 2006
Meet companion for coffee to fill in SOCPA forms. The Application for Demonstration forms (3175A, retention period 7 years), will enable us to demonstrate outside Parliament in celebration of democracy, provided we hand them into a police station six days in advance of the demonstration. Our intention is to join a 'mass lone demo' on the 20th December in which many people obtain individual permission to protest simultaneously. Faffing about with bits of paper as is now required for us to carry out this most basic civil right is something we’re happy to do, in order to essentially give the entire oppressive rigmarole two fingers in public. Swig drink, feel warm glow of righteousness.
Arrive at police station in north London. Find young trendily-dressed couple, a single woman and a bloke or two waiting. Plonk down on fixed metal seats. Have a bit of a natter. Check forms correctly filled in. Observe bleakness of waiting room, out-of-order phone and scribbled-on walls.
Become aware of friction between couple queueing. She seems to be trying to reassure her fraught boyfriend – he is irritated and harsh. “Just back off, Gisella. Don’t touch me again. You’ve wasted four hours of my day.” Female officer is dealing with a bloke at the window. Gisella slinks away in her heels, then wanders back. One or two more people come in and ask if this is the queue. It is. They shrug and sit down.
A gaggle of teenage boys in hoodies slouch in and occupy some of the remaining seats. One of them slips off his pristine Fila hi-tops. The others complain loudly about the “cheese”.
Gisella continues to stroke her boyfriend’s leather-jacketed arm, cuddle up to his back and put her arms around his waist. “You touch me again and you’ll see what’ll happen. I will hit you in the face.” Exchange worried glances with companion. Gisella murmurs something sullen in unidentifiable European accent and hovers near boyfriend’s elbow. Boyfriend sets jaw and glares about him. We seethe quietly at his beastliness.
Read graffiti. ‘Bacon sarnie die’. ‘Jihad’. Someone’s MySpace URL in fetching blue felt tip under the hood for the knackered phone. The single girl gets out a laptop. Samuel Beckett is mentioned.
Gisella draws near boyfriend, puts fingers on his sleeve. He flinches violently to shake her off, throwing his arms up and out and turning away. Heart drops at the movement. More worried glances. Is he really going to start beating the crap out of his woman in a police station? Officer has disappeared from behind window. Gisella traipses off again. After making a call on her mobile and having a fag outside she circles back around. Begin to question her state of mind. Shortly, there is a revelation.
“Look, Gisella – this has got to stop. You come to my building, the porter puts you out, you come back in again. You have been following me around all day. You need to stop. There is no ‘us’. You need to get in a cab, now, and go home. Just… delete me from your memory. And everything will be okay.”
Wish for television, and perhaps a hot chocolate. Gripe softly about absurdity of bureaucracy intended to prevent people criticising the government. Consider going out for a paper. Think about horrendousness of the news and mendacity of Tony Blair. Reconsider. Shuffle feet about. Teenage AsBoy fires up 50 Cent on his mobile and slumps down in seat.
Man we now understand to be harrassment victim occupies a seat, leaning forward to prop chin in hands. Gisella hunkers down to look into his face, unmindful of the fact that she is hunkering almost between the previously unfettered knees of companion. Companion scrunches up in seat. Frowns exchanged, and some of those stifle-it-or-there-will-be-bad-things sort of nervous smirks.
Gisella and her man get to the window. Fiddy is in full effect and drowns most other things out, but the man is evidently explaining to the officer that this woman will not leave him alone. She strokes his arm reassuringly. AsBoy flicks through to find The Game. “I slept with her a few times last year,” says the man. Imposing Irishman comes in, asks where the queue starts, shrugs, sits down and opens a paper.
Officer takes man away to take a statement. Gisella leans, like a forlorn cat out in the cold, against the door to the inner station where her beloved is telling the police about her. She paws at the door. Then, in hypnotic state, wanders out for a fag. Get a glimpse of her face and see her glazed eyes.
That bit from ‘8-Mile’ where Rabbit finally trounces everyone in the battle on the mobile. AsBoys rap along with considerable skill, but also with touchingly-deferential hushedness. Blair’s noble ‘Respect’ project can wind up in the knowledge it has done what it set out to do, and more.
No one at the desk. Decide to stand up and get in the queue proper.
No one at the desk. Single girl quietly tapping on laptop. AsBoys getting fractious. Lead AsBoy, in tall woolly hat, presents himself at the desk and spies officers of the law photocopying in back room. “Scuse me,” he enquires. “Ooo-oooo.” Rest of gang sniggers. AsBoy whistles as if to errant Staffy. Photocopier continues important photocopying. AsBoy swaggers back to seat. Speculate as to the possibility that we’ve been run over by a bus, and are in hell. Note there is no clock. No clocks in hell.
Low-level grumbling swells, like a growing storm of pissed-off people who want to be in the pub.
Really want drink.
A man and a woman with a clipboard appear. “Is this the queue?” “Yes.” “Sigh.” He approaches the still-bare, lonely window. A woman materialises on the other side, her back to the desk, doing something with some paper. “Excuse me,” says the man. Her back shows no recognition. “Scuse me.” Nothing. “Excuse me.” She turns with a blank face. “I need to somethingsomething.” “I don’t work here.” She vanishes. Man retreats in defeat. Man and clipboard-woman loiter beside queue. Gisella circles restlessly, silently.
A woman and two men come in and go straight to the window. We watch them warily. This is Britain. A nation of dignity and honour, where people queue. We are renowned worldwide for the orderly and humble nature of our queues. Some of our queues can be seen from space. This is how things are done. Commence muttering about having proper system and avoiding fights. In the distance, past the glass, Gisella’s man is still giving his statement, his leather jacket hung on the back of his chair. More people come in, see the queue, look a bit aghast. No one at the window. Photocopying.
Bit of Justin Timberlake. Excellent.
Companion gets on phone and calls the police station we are standing in to enquire brusquely as to why there is no one on the desk. People smile. Talk to Irishman and other man behind in queue. “I’ve never waited so long to sign my name,” says Other Man. We say we’re just here to hand in some forms. Explain SOCPA. Ponder the subtle genius of the red tape involved. It’s almost as if they want people to get put off demonstrating.
Companion goes out for a fag. Officer comes out to talk to Gisella. “Look, he doesn’t want to see you, he doesn’t like you. I know it’s hard, but you just have to accept it.” Gisella says nothing. Young man talks to mate on his mobile. “I been here an hour. Got hunger for the desk, bro.” Check as requested companion’s head for fresh grey hairs.
Another officer comes to window and sees the woman and two men. Companion points out not unreasonably that we have been queueing for an hour and a half. Woman blasts with authority that she is there to pick up the belongings of someone who’s been found dead. “My brother,” says one of the men. Companion is silenced. Atmosphere balloons and subsides like fitfully-snoozing sea-creature. Officer emerges from a side door and is almost rushed by loitering man and clipboard-woman. They are accepted and vanish into the belly of the station.
Group leave with dead man’s effects. AsBoys rock up to the desk again and recommence Operation Copper-Attention-Get. Operetta of moans and gripes is now into its thrilling second act. AsBoy tilts head to the gap at the bottom of the window and is gallantly insistent. “Hey. Hey! There’s some ladies here that need to hand in some forms!” Resist urge to pat him on his woolly-hatted, uncertain-futured head.
Gisella hangs around the automatic doors, gazing out into the night. The doors stay expectantly open. There is a draught. Want to slap Gisella.
Officer comes out and asks Gisella to go with her. Gisella accompanies her eagerly to inner door, then seems to finally gather that perhaps she should get in a cab and go home. She takes a faltering step back. The officer takes her by the elbow and gently but firmly moves her inside. The door closes on “I am arresting you for -” and they are swallowed up. AsBoys erupt in cackles.
Companion gets call back from the station we are standing in with bollocks explanation of why there is no one on the desk, despite the fact that any normal office would make sure reception was covered at all times. Muse on the possibility of the police, like the Post Office, being opened up to competition from other companies. Dream of lovely Duluxed waiting rooms with fish tanks and water coolers, and a better world for all.
AsBoy, who more closely resembles the Artful Dodger (the 60s film version) by the minute, hangs around the inner door. “If you kick it, they will come out,” he explains to us in matter-of-fact voice of experience. “But they *will* arrest you.” Start to weigh up pros and cons of this option.
AsBoys finally succeed in attracting attention and hunch over in deep discussion of forms. They are jumping ahead of the single girl but she is unperturbed. And it is only supposed to take them a minute, after all. But we are on police-minutes.
Single girl has got to window and is attempting to get back her missing handbag. Two other women come in and stand at the other window. We tense and glower, having by now returned almost entirely to the wild. Officer disappears with reference numbers.
Officer apparently despatched into wardrobe and currently negotiating with Narnia officials to obtain location of handbag. Other Man is now into his stride and starts complaining bitterly about how long it can possibly take to find it. Go up and ask single girl what’s going on. “They’re not going to find it,” she shrugs. “I’m going to lose it twice.” Someone emerges and takes the two women inside. Irishman and Other Man go through initial phases of bonding process. Hover behind single girl waiting to pounce before officer can flee. Irishman insists the yellow line must be stood behind. We all smirk at each other.
Officer returns empty-handed. Single girl takes her reference numbers and departs. We lunge forward like jaguars and push our limp forms through the gap. Officer apologises for wait.
Companion finishes explaining to officer what to do with the forms. Officer duly takes forms to cursed photocopier.
Tumble through automatic doors into street clutching validated photocopies of silly forms. Cheer lustily. Skip down road full of glee. Decide to just quickly check second page of form marked ‘Police use only’, crucial to validate our presence at the station today and protect us from possible detention under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act of 2005. Find it blank.
Back in queue. Irishman and Other Man and two others very understanding.
Point out error of officer’s ways. Officer stamps forms upside-down.
Labels: asboys, bile, bureaubollo, justin, politicians are funny, some alcohol may have been taken, the law is ass