"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings...”
This is perhaps the number one question that I get asked by folks, after “What the hell are you doing?” and “Why are you occupying my bank?” The answer to these second two are somewhat complex, the answer to the first is refreshingly simple - Sweeney’s. This is a remarkably accommodating pub across the road from the Central Bank which at times comes to resemble the overflow lot of the Camp itself. This is where we go to charge our phones, laptops, abuse their free wi-fi and on occasion get a quiet moment away from the frenetic activity of Occupied Dame Street.
This is not one of those moments. As I speak The Gypsy Rebel Rabble are in full flight ten feet away with guitars, string bass and a rockabilly swing that puts dinosaur-stomp ripples across the surface of my cup of tea. They dropped into the Camp earlier on their way to a sound check, and if I worked in the Central Bank I’d be feeling pretty sulky looking out the window all day and seeing the fun everyone is having in the Camp. Then again if I were working in the Central Bank come the cold November rain I might be tempted to parade in front of the windows in my Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirt, sucking down a frothy beverage served in a pineapple with an umbrella, looking down on all the folks shivering their backsides off outside, but this says more about my own nasty streak and lack of any understanding of the reality of office dress codes inside the Central Bank.
But back to Sweeney’s. The tea is great, the staff are incredibly tolerant if not downright supportive, and the crowd is mixed enough that I don’t feel like a creepy old man sitting in a corner writing down everything everyone is doing around me, Attenborough-like, amongst the Highland gorillas of students and Emo kids (back when I were a lad they were called goths, all that seems to have changed is the shape of the haircuts; their mating rituals are exactly the same. Oops, there goes the creepy-meter). At night it is returned back into the slightly intoxicated hands of its more usual crowd as evenings in the Camp are what it’s all about for most of us, but during daylight it’s fair to say that #OccupyDameStreet would not be as strong as it is without it.
Sweeney’s is just one of a whole rake of local businesses that have stunned everyone with their levels of support, from pizza restaurants sending up wave after wave of free pies (and not just margheritas, the proper ones with meat and vegetables and all), printers offering free colour printing, couriers offering free pick-ups and deliveries, builder’s suppliers dropping in ropes, cinder blocks and, my favourite, cable ties. The City Council workers on the street stop off to have a cup of tea with the Overnighters, the bin lorries honk their horns as they race by, as do the taxi-drivers, the delivery vans and the bus drivers. Even the Gardaí have been caught with a surreptitious foot tap or two as they stroll by an impromptu jam on their afternoon beat.
While I was initially taken aback by the strength of this support, I really shouldn’t have been. Cafe and shop owners are being squeezed dry by extortionate rents and their revenues have collapsed as the populace has no more money to spend; public sector workers (from the street-sweepers to the Gardaí) have seen their pay packet’s slashed; and everybody is being affected by cuts in the health and education systems; and meanwhile the man from the IMF sits above us in the Central Bank to make sure that the cuts go even deeper and our destitution gets even worse.
The purest message to emerge yet from #OccupyDameStreet is that we are the 99%, you, me, the street sweepers, the journalists, the guitar players, the bar staff, the couriers, the teachers, the web designers, the students, the folks between jobs and those who have never had one and yes, even the Gardai. We are all the 99% and this is our Movement.
And right now that Movement is very thankful to Sweeney’s and their toilets.
Image top: infomatique.