How right Gandhi was-Part 2

Most days of the week we did manage to cook for each other. And that meant a meal for 7 (plus the inevitable guests) which was vegetarian, dairy and wheat free, no easy ask! We would use up all the food Nic and Katie had found in bins and at the market where they chucked fruit and veg out twice a day on their way home from work at the Stupid office. One day Katie even found 20 packets of  organic smoked salmon and 5 trays of pheasant eggs! Add to the veg some spices, lentils/split peas/chickpeas [delete as appropriate] and rice and you have yourself a filling and healthy meal, even if a bit rabbit-food like. Our evening meals where we all squashed round the kitchen table where were we caught up on each others news, found out about the latest environmental and political campaigns and house meetings got called. In the first weeks supper always migrated to the living room where we could play Cranium and sip wine from tea cups and laugh til gone 1 in the morning; little tip-always say yes to moving in with a comedy genius.

We wanted to cook communally not only because we’re friends and it seemed appropriate, but also because the more people you cook for in one go, the less energy is used in cooking the food, and ultimately, the less washing up! Other measures to save waste and energy were the usual recycling and composting (although this is taking a break right now due to a fruit fly infestation…..) growing our own veg, switching ALL the radiators and heating off, only taking showers rather than baths-sometimes sharing showers (for the partnered) and we did not buy anything new for the house. All our kitchen utensils, everything that the house needed kitting out with either we already had, we bought from charity shops, or I sourced from Freecycle (and I spent a long time getting lost in London doing this!). Even the floor mop wasn’t bought new, Kirsty made one from the horrible fleece and diamante tracksuit that used to belong to an ex-girlfriend of Dans! He certainly had fun rubbing the floor and muddying the fleece……

These good times came to a slow but grinding halt when normal schedules uninterrupted by film premieres and fashion shows took over. Work committments came before working at living communally and having time for each other. The gloss of Camelot marred by the lack of foundations we needed to setup to support communal living for 7. What followed were painful and lengthy house meetings full of dreary but nessecary details, not least a 10 minute conversation about which was more sustainable and value for money-dried or tinned chickpeas?! At that point I nearly screamed. So the moral of our sorry communal tale is not to run before you can jump, while it’s tempting to just go out and buy stuff for all of you, setup the appropriate structure for buying and paying first-invest time at the beginning so you dont have to backtrack.

Although the vibes and motivations within the house did change as people came and went, it taught me an extremely valuable lesson. Over the months I was there various friends and family came to stay. I took them to Camden, we saw the sights, often went to gigs, But always the thing that interested them most was life at Camelot. Whether it was our living arrangements, parties, guests or house politics, it intrigued them. Particularly effective in emphasising our views was the communal cooking and eating. The fact that Camelot embodied our beliefs; it was our home, our lifestyle, our ethics and ideals all in one place, meant our environmental messages got across to the visitor in a totally unaccusing, non confrontational manner, which they could take in as and when they chose to, and they found it a positive and inspiring example of something to aspire too. Gandhi’s saying “Be the change you want to see in the world” really was proven before my very eyes when I got a text from a close friend who came to visit, asking if he could come and stay again, but for a week this time, because he wanted to be back in the heart of the environmental movement and helping out in any way I could suggest, even if it was just handing out leaflets. Camelot inspired him to act. Nothing I have spouted in the 6 years I’ve known him has fired him up like this did.

To me Camelot became living proof that the things I’ve been saying from the comfort of my parents house, really do have meaning and a place in the world, of course I knew they were valid things to be saying, many others have proved my points before me, but now having been there and done that I know for sure I’m on the right track.


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