"Drinking fiery poison in a den." Sounds quite fun to me. The line gives the indoor intellectual a frisson of pleasure. But of course when you have actual urban dereliction actually on your doorstep it is not fun. This very evening I am reminded of the real thing. My son returns from his New Year's eve night out. He has been robbed with a knife at his throat. He and his friends have had money and their club tickets stolen. Undeterred, and with very little money between them they go, nonetheless, to an illegal party in a King's Cross warehouse. (I like that Baden-Powell spirit.) He has written this for me:
"The party was in a derelict office building I don't know how many rooms there were but you could go anywhere. The people ranged in age from 15 to 40 and the whole spectrum of drugs was available ("Has anyone seen the mushroom man?" shouts a foreign crusty.) There is a bar with a makeshift sign torn from a cardboard box which reads WHISKY WATER KETAMINE Ketamine is a horse anaesthetic which seems popular with the older crowd. They snort it and hallucinate. The anaesthetic properties mean they fall over and smash their face on the rubble, yet they feel no pain. At eight in the morningwe try to leave but can't find the way we came in just a maze of tunnels. Eventually we find a room with a broken window in the front wall. We jump out, one by one, into the path of a family on an early morning stroll. The party could go on another 24 hours. That's what £5 can buy you in 1999.
Strange but now encapsulated in words even this episode is beginning to acquire some fascination for me, a certain glamour.
Poison again in the City of Dreadful Night:
The City's atmosphere is dark and dense,
Although not many exiles wander there,
With many a potent evil influence,
Each adding poison to the poisoned air;
Infections of unutterable sadness,
Infections of incalculable madness,
Infections of incurable despair."