“Dying for Heat”: a 24 Hour Vigil, by Dan Ashman
Dying for Heat 24 Hour Vigil, by Dan Ashman. Occupy London and Leicester.
Some lovely people who sleep rough join the Dying for Heat 24 Hour Vigil, a short report. At 8 am we donned our bermuda shorts and walking sticks outside Leicester Town Hall.
Big Society my Arse. The Big Betrayal more like.
The action was inspired last monday. At the community centre I work at a lady let it be known that her boiler had broken a month ago. There turned out to be hundreds on the waiting list of the boiler replacement scheme run by the council and no charities to help her out because she owned her house but her pension does not cover big payments, just day to day living. I had already had dealings with the council in an attempt to sort out some customisation and insulation for another lady who rents council property. Despite assurances of the the Assistant Mayor who is charge of the Councils rented property little progress had been made in a number of months and the lady had been living in the place for a year or so. She had swapped houses because of the bedroom tax and found that the place took ages to warm up & because of mobility issues she needed a walk in shower.
Both these ladies are proud and loving, they have worked all their life and dont like asking for things, like alot of people they dont want to be a burden. Jesus they think of themselves as burdens. How wrong we can be about ourselves.
I had previously read that in a London School of Economics report that they estimate 500000 elders in this country do not receive the assitance and care they need. On top of that last week I found out that the UK has one of the lowest percentage expenditure of GDP for the elderly throughout Europe. Ranking 17th out of 20 countries in pension payments. For shame. Why did I not know that before?
It was bitter cold for the first hour or so. Then it got a degree or two warmer. We had no idea how long we could keep it up. The amount of unexpected stories we heard from passers by who had been effected was a constant source of fuel. Old & young. A young lad told of his 50 year old father not being able to afford to turn on his electric heater. A lady spoke about her 90 year old father who has to wait till March to get his broken boiler replaced through a funding program, another month after waiting months without hot water and heating. A gentleman who rough sleeps told me of two friends that died of exposure.
We had had constant offers of coffees & hot chocolate throughout the day. A few councillors had come out to chat.
Strangers, friends & family had expressed their concern and gratitude.
By 4pm my fellow campaigner had had to move his moped so he briefly put his coat on. His kidneys were causing grief, and that change in heat made him realise his body had had enough and he needed to don some clothes less he end up in A&E.
It began to get dark and the wind had picked up. I had taken to constantly keep moving slowly and surely using the circle brick pattern as my guide to follow as I pushed the zimmer frame around the circuit.
At 7pmish some of my family & friends descended with two hot water bottles. A local shop keeper who came to see how we were getting on got us some string to tie the two bottles together and we slung it over my shoulder. He also offered hot water and free heated pasties.
Just after ten the Bruce Lee Quote “The mind is like water…become the glass” stopped working and I began to think of blankets for the first time. We did one more live stream broadcast and got into a sleeping bag. 14 hours I found was an acceptable milestone though I didn’t reach the milestone of the full 24 hours with no clothes but shorts.
Upon deciding to seek warmth fellow campaigners like a racing car mechanic team ensured that blankets were placed with engineering precision to contain the heat. By that time we were joined by some wonderful people who were rough sleeping. There was no room at the inn in the hostels. Some that are due to be closed by April.
We continued the vigil through to eight o’clock in the morning. Another section of the community that wished to support in full knowledge that they are people and know people who have been injured by the winter conditions.
Sometimes people asked for solutions. I enjoyed answering this question. Because often the simplest answers are the best. For the interim see if on your street arrange a community meeting to get an idea of the lay of the land. Who on your street is struggling with paying for/accessing heat. Arrange movie nights or evening tea times, showers ect. Get to know each other. After all how can we create and ensure justice is done if we dont know or meet each other? There is a community spirit out there amongst the advert images and bullshit addictions that we cant let be pacified.We have normalised systemic violence, see it as part of the scenery. The situation created is through human choice. It is constructed and executed by human beings. Our elders & children need us to come through for them. We can do better than this. Fight for each other.
Interview with DownNotOut: Lee
Interview with DownNotOut: Dan
At 0835 hours.
Update from Lee at 1400hours
Update 1715 hours.
Update 2159 hours.
Livestream by LeeWeston: http://bambuser.com/channel/leeweston
Bare-chested protesters in Leicester Town Hall cold weather protest