There’s an empty laboratory across the street from my house. I like to call it abandoned, but it isn’t really–it’s just been vacant since the Middlesex Hospital was destroyed. I’ve seen workmen in there doing industrious things from time to time, so it can’t really be called abandoned.
But it’s empty enough. Enough for a crowd to break in and use it as a haven for a rave. I woke on Sunday morning to the sounds of loud techno music. When I say loud, I mean I thought to myself, is there some kind of concert in Regent’s Park today? And when I say woke in the morning, I mean before 8 AM. On a Sunday.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought of Sunday mornings as times for quiet lie-ins, large breakfasts and possibly the Culture section of a newspaper. These people were clearly not of the same opinion.
To be fair, if I were to hold a rave, it would definitely be in an abandoned laboratory. It would also be a good place for evil genius headquarters and suchlike things. But of course I would never hold a rave, because I am just too damn middle class.
And when I say I am middle class, what I mean is that I hid from the rave in John Lewis. (For my American readers, this would be the equivalent of finding a socially undesirable situation on your doorstep and hightailing it to Bloomingdale’s.)
I didn’t want to hide from the rave in John Lewis. I meant to go to one of the many locally owned independent coffee shops in my neighborhood. There’s even a tea house. I like tea, and they have free wifi in there. But nothing in my neighborhood opens before 11:30 on a Sunday morning. I wandered around for a while in what appeared to be an empty post-apocalyptic wasteland (admittedly one where all the restaurants and coffee shops had a chance to tidy up and lock away all the outdoor tables and things, but still really quite empty and most definitely without tea. Or wifi.)
I finally admitted defeat and pointed my shoes towards the John Lewis, which I know to have a very bright and airy cafe on the top floor, free wifi, and most importantly, a view that does not include even one rave. Crayfish salads yes, raves no.
After several happy hours in the John Lewis, I returned to find the rave still in progress–indeed, if such a thing were possible, it had become even noisier. (It was possible. The windows and floorboards of my house were now shaking.) Also, having initially confined themselves to the basement, there were now several people on the roof, doing whatever it is you do on a roof when you’re not supposed to be up there. The police, however, took a somewhat laissez-faire attitude. They told me they couldn’t do anything, and that I needed to call the local authority. The authority too took a distant view of my concerns, telling me that I needed to call the police. In short, of the institutions and processes in which we place our trust to deal with distressing matters, there appeared to be nobody willing to take the initiative and put a stop to the ever-noisier shenanigans.
It is fortunate, then, that the ravers appeared to grow weary after a full day’s raving. At five o’clock precisely the music stopped and I heard stereo equipment being removed from the building. The revelers dispersed.
I’d like to finish this post on a high note. I’d like to say that the world is a wide place and there is room for us all on this crazy carousel, but I’m afraid I don’t feel that way. I’d like to say what a strange yet ultimately amusing and edifying episode this has been in my continuing adventures. Instead all I can think about is how easy it was for me to look out the window and think, “who is going to get this bunch of dirty lowlifes out of my street?” And perhaps I have had some prejudices revealed to me. I thought about how my reaction compares to the way hippies were always spoken about in the sixties–long hair, loud music, dirty, shiftless. But even with a little self-reflection my attitude hasn’t changed. I want to know that not only are they gone, but that they won’t be back. And there is no way to know that.