The 900 year old Cathedral of St Peter in Exeter was subject to a clean up after it became a ‘hang out’ for street homeless, drug and alcohol users. They had begun to turn the grounds of this place of worship, tourist attraction and place where locals relaxed, into a mess. It now has strict rules of behaviour in its beautiful green environs. That is, until last month when ‘Occupy’ arrived.
Now there are up to thirty people camping out on the once pristine lawns, complete with dogs, small children and banners. There are around fifteen tents which include a kitchen,
library and even one they call the university. They plan to continue their protest indefinitely and have even had a sculpture created by a sympathetic, anonymous artist.
The last few days has seen the first drop in temperature in what has been a very mild autumn, so we will see.
I wandered around the green with my camera snapping away until a man approached me saying ‘We don’t mind photos as long as you ask before taking pictures of people.’ I said that I hadn’t taken any of people perhaps a bit defensively because I really wanted to; he allowed me to snap him and liked the result. There were lots to see besides people though.
At the far edge towards the cobbled path I stood to watch an ex military type tent being put up, I’ve never seen a tent of its size go up so quickly. No sooner had they rammed in the last peg than the very irritated Dean arrived to remonstrate with them, it was a canvas too far for him, but he has been very tolerant of their presence to date.
I asked a couple of guys what they would be doing if they weren’t there – I really wanted to know what they lived on – and they said they would be somewhere else protesting about something else. Protesting is a profession then? Perhaps to be studied at their ‘University’.
One young man, a lot smarter, told me that he wasn’t camping because he had to go to college and work. He arrived every morning at 6.30 to ‘help’ for a couple of hours, went to lectures and work and then returned every evening. ‘Help’ was clearing up rubbish, very noble but why couldn’t they all clear up their own? There wasn’t any rubbish around but the tents that were open looked pretty untidy as tents do. This tender sixteen year old also cooks and does whatever is asked of him, apparently he is very dedicated. I confess to being a political ignoramus so his awareness of the cause and willingness to put his normal life on hold is impressive, he will go far when he finds his path.
If it seems that I am negative about Occupy it’s not intended, it really is that I am uninformed, she says shamefaced. In the days when Swampy tree-housed on the A30, see https://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/hitching-a-ride/ I could keep up with him, but this bigger stuff has left me behind. I’m actually touched by these people, most of all by their wish list pinned to a post.