14 December 2010
Inside the Cop Kettle, New Scotland Yard
This wasn't what I was expecting. For a start, there's Scarlet Johannson, kicking off big time with what looks to be some kind of experimental mime. "Careful love," some wag yells out (It's only later I recognise him as Ryan Reynolds, he's wearing a stormtrooper helmet at this point), "I've read somewhere that miming agression is actually aggression - and that means-"
The spectre of a lonely, clattering wheelchair rolls through the lines. Could this be the bomb the papers are talking about?
Ryan pauses, distracted. Banksy, dressed as John Lennon, is spraypainting the back of his stormtrooper suit with a bare arse stencil.
"I thought you were supposed to be on...um...our side?"
But by then Banksy is off, scuttling between the crowds, chuckling and signing cheques for the masses. Out the corner of my eye, the red dwarf from Don't Look Now disappears into the surge.
Scarlett mimes "Nuclear attack." The Police line, their 'James' Corden as people are insisting, visibly flinch.
'This is sooooul damage!' someone behind me yells. I turn and see several past winners of the X Factor, apparently corralled into appearing by Simon Cowell(who turns up predictably late, on an elephant)
"Where the fuck is My Bloody Valentine?" yells a police-officer, laughing.
"Where's Moose?" another yells.
"Where's Slowdive?" a third joins. This is becoming intimidating. The kettle is firm but you can feel something is in the air. If they're prepared to use shoegaze...
A silent wish: don't let it be Galaxy 500.
Behind the floating Penrose Triangle that now revolves in place of the NEW SCOTLAND YARD, it's just possible to see Derren Brown, staring impassively towards the Police lines, trying to go unnoticed. I think for a second of going to speak to him but I'm told by a steward that I shouldn't interrupt: "I can't remember why, but I think it's something like the same reason they say don't wake up somnabulists," she says. "Besides, look..."
Just behind the police lines, lying in a crumpled heap in the doorway, is David Blaine.
I wipe this memory like a spruce of pizza fuzz and instead push sideways, moving beyond the chained together members of Westlife in their identical Dennis The Menance jumpers (nice touch, guys!) and towards the twin-towers (whisper it!) of Flo-Rida and Jeff Goldblum, who are doing some kind of rap tribute to Badiou (pronounced in this instance Badass).
"Jeff, what the fuck?" I say, but he's immersed in some human beatboxing.
Inside the Kettle, the police have set up a soundsystem. Despite good-natured calls from the students for The Laughing Policeman, they've gone for Crass and a barbershop quartet (only there are six of them) is having a crack at an impromptu sing-a-long of 'Securicor', joined by some joshing punks, hair-dye newly dripping down their faces.
It's a beautiful moment, a bit like the Paul McCartney video for 'Pipes Of Peace'.
Meanwhile, someones driven a burger van through the kettle and right up to the door of Scotland Yard. The doors spring open and out spills several tiny children, maybe 4and 5 year olds, all dressed as elves. The mood darkens. Could they be using child soldiers?
"Oh, fuck; human shields!" yells Scarlett Johansson, now dressed as Joan Of Arc (this is her third costume change of the afternoon).
I'm still laughing (albeit tinged with horror) at this when I notice who I'm standing next to. "You're...you're.."
"Such shitty architecture," said Prince Charles, shaking his head and indicating the building. "No wonder we're trying to keep them out..."
"We're keeping them in," I protest, but he's already speaking to a girl dressed as a flower, who's trying to push herself inside a water-cannon.
I look more closely, recognising the girl's eyebrows. "Kylie?"
"You ain't seen me, right?" Kylie hissed, moving away in a crab-like motion that I'm pretty sure was a commentary on the lack of forward progression in the HE Sector.
Over on the other side, at the part of the kettle organised by Stewart Lee and Richard Madeley, there's a bit of a do when someone thinks they've just spotted Nigella Lawson, apparently cooking butter-based dishes for the students. I look closely - it is Nigella and her butter curry is giving off some serious evil/good vibes. I move forward to take a picture to show the kids but get bundled out of it by various members of the Socialists Workers Party, who are all clambering for autographs.
"This is like meeting Mandela," one of them says.
"It's like meeting a less Imperialist Jesus."
I decide to make my way behind the lines instead, artfully dodging some Press wags who are attempting to interview Jedward, who've apparently swapped identities in a (not particularly well-judged, yet heartfelt) commentary on Clegg's shifting social policies. You can tell just by looking at him that Chico is dying to join in but he looks uncharacteristically restrained and resorts to gazing wistfully at his watch, his cutely turned ankle suspended in the air, like a frozen moment.
"The winter of disco-tents!" a guy tells me, "And you know the cast of Mama Mia are due at three... They couldn't get out of the matinee performance but they promised a shout-out during Money Money Money..."
I nod, it's been a problem. The celebrities are thin on the ground, despite many promises. "Pah, some of the fuckers have buggered off for the pissing Golden Globe nominations," Lenny Henry snorts before wading into the police lines after some crafty copper who was handing out Travelodge vouchers.
"Lenny! for God's sake, show some restraint!" booms a voice from behind me. I turn around and Tom Jones, cunningly disguised as himself circa 1978, puts a ham-sized hand across his mouth, giggling.
"Gave yourself away there, Tom" I say and we exchange a sly look of regret.
A guy with CAT SHIT written on his forehead steams up, looking for trouble. I let him pass, seeing that he's heading for the police lines but not wanting any trouble.
"I think that's supposed to say EAT SHIT," Tom explains.
"Well, Literacy isn't going to be helped with these kind of fees," I reply, giving my sagest nod.
CAT SHIT attempts to attack some of the police while they cook thier hotdogs, apparently claiming they don't possess an up to date food licence. He's batted backwards by the students, many of whom have now changed into St Trinian's costumes, a pre-emptive move that has already send several commentators spinning into affective apoplexy.
"We're our own self-fulfilling prophecy!" they chant, sending CAT SHIT scarpering.
"Apparently, JG Ballard is coming," one of the girls tells me. "He'll love this! Well, if there was more tennis..."
I explain why Ballard's not coming and there follows a brief altercation (not batonable)summarised as:
"William Burroughs? Shit? How about Sartre? What? Really? Fer fuck's sake. Camus?C'mon, don't tell me he's dead as well?"
The cops, crafty as ever, have turned up the music. Technohead's I Wanna Be A Hippy is blaring out, with some accompanying amateur jackboot tapdancing. It reminds me vaguely of Test Dept, doing Gododdin. People are getting delirious. For a brief moment, the lines blur; both sides are swaying now, in time to a restless heartbeat of logic that is slowly overwhelming them.
"This is the End Of History all over again!" shrieks one of the police officers, to general looks of disdain.
This Event Is Sponsored by Vodaphone, says one poster.
I Left My God In Sainsbury's Tax Returns, says another.
Everyone's dancing, some of them in time. This is turning into some minor bachanale. Mulled wine is passed around, as if it were nothing. The police seem in good spirits, barely protesting at all. I think maybe they've reverted back to the 60s. Those episodes of Heartbeat suddenly taking their toll.
"Heartbeat is their kryptonite!" I yell, trying to get a chant going but no one is really listening because behind us David Tennant, Matt Smith and Christopher Eccleston, all in their Doctor Who garb, have arrived. The police switch to The Timelords Doctorin' The Tardis and everyone turns in a kind of mass psychogenic rubbernecking.
"We've arrived," says Tennant. "This must be the 80s..."
A cheer rises, more dancing. People are going crazy. I'm swept up, ecstatic. The sway of bodies is lurching the crowed from right to left, hair is flicking in slow motion, the worst Silvikrin advert you've seen. Someone's gonna get whiplash.
I think I see Sean Connery, climb on top of the watercannon. People are trying to convince him to come down, but he's not in the mood to be swayed. I see Tony Cottee, I think and Charlie Nicholas. I see Konnie Huq sneaking a kiss from Charlie Brooker. I see the police start an impromptu breakdance burn, using their riot shields for extra spin. Humanity seems to be breaking through, the lines blurring, inside and outside the kettle is a concept that's near breaking, becoming strained, time and space ("Not strictly divisible," I'm reminded) are getting thin; this is dimensional change, right here, right now. The Penrose Triangle might be glowing. There's a rumour selling like hotcakes that David Cameron is about to resign, that everyone is about to resign, that everything is being re-routed backwards to a gentler time, when animals could still speak and cakes didn't kill you.
There's energry here, glowforms and waveforms, we're swimming in it. It's a collective baby panda sigh, a moment of brilliant...
I'm not sure where I'm going-
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