This is a photo of the back garden of our squat – Havana House, on Grove Green Road, Leytonstone (I forget what number we were – around 230 or 240, I think).
The time I spent here, from 1993 to 94, was probably the happiest of my life.
The garden was knocked together with the one next door – the next door house was "the party house", gutted inside, painted black with flourescent designs. Every other weekend, we would hold a massive party – hundreds of people would fill the party house and the garden. These parties were legendary, and passed into East London history.
At the back of the garden, you can see a rubbish tip. All sorts of stuff was buried in here, and it was quite fun to dig around in on an otherwise dull weekend. I once found an old car in there.
We had some sort of electricity feed, though I don’t think we ever paid for it. The party house had gas nicked from the mains – to have a bath, you had to go out through the garden, into the party house, light the pilot light (and hope that the wind didn’t blow it out), then climb up a ladder to the bathroom and start running your bath. You had to keep checking that the water coming out was hot, because that pilot light was forever blowing out. Sometimes you would have to go up and down that ladder several times while waiting for your bath to fill up.
Our only heating was a portable gas heater. Every few weeks you would have to trek over the road to the shop with your empty cannister, then somehow struggle back the couple-of-hundred yards with a full one.
The window panes were cracked and surrounded by gaps. Huge lorries thundered down the street all night and made the glass rattle. Throughout the winter, a cold breeze blew through the panes. Our room was above the garage/lockup, so it was even colder than the rest of the house. Luchie and Michelle were in the other front room, Marie and Laura in the two back rooms, and Brian lived in the darkened chaos of the downstairs room. The slightly feral Ben camped next door in the semi-derelict party house, where he made some sort of a living fixing old TVs.
One morning, I woke up with my bed shaking. The house directly on the other side of my bedroom wall was being pulled down. By the time I got dressed and went outside, all you could see on the other side of our bedroom wall was a bare wallpapered spot hanging out over empty space.
Havana House was knocked down late in 1994 to make way for the M11 link road.