The squat

original en castellano abajo

Paula made friends with the boys of the kitchen immediately, even hough they were Polish and could speak English even less than herself. They did not have too many opportunities to speak, but Paula was going down to the kitchen whenever she could because, apart from needing things of it that nobody was going to bring upstairs for her, apart from the kitchen porter boys, and she believed that they were already exploited enough without any need of her ‘help’, there, in the kitchen, not only did she not have the obligation to smile, but she could relax in such a way all the way to make jokes and laugh at the jokes about her. Every time she went down to the kitchen, she climbed back into the bar with a smile, but a true smile.

Two Polish boys were the first friends she took to the hostel-for-women that now she was considering to be her house. They became so good friends that in more than one occasion they spoke to him in Polish:
“Sorry, I have not realized. The fact is that I cannot believe it, that we should be so close friends without you speaking in Polish. But But what’s wrong? ”
” I am worried. A friend is visiting, approximately for six months, and does not know very much English. I want to look for a place to live with him and I do not know where to begin.
It was so difficult for me. And nevertheless I realized that it is much more difficult for a boy. ”
” Why do not you say to him to come to our house? ”
” Do you have room? ”
” Yes, in abundance. We are three in a house of four or five rooms, but only we use one. ”
” And that? ”
” You will see, come. ”
” You are not saying everything to her. It is a squat ”
” Good. I will go one day to see it and then I decide. ”
” Why you do not come today! ”
Paula had not arranged to meet with anybody that night. It was not the free day of anyone of her friends, and she would end at about midnight anyway. With a little luck, it would take about half an hour to reach the house of the Polish and another half hour to get back to hers.

They took Paula on streets along which she had never walked before and she realized that, to return to her house, she would have to go through the bar first because they were going just in the opposite direction. She withdrew this thought off her head even though she would have to go to her office work at nine in the morning, then return to the bar at three o’clock in the afternoon, again to leave at midnight.

They needed to cross a main street and Paula simply looked to both sides and began to cross. One of the Polish guys stopped her:
“I may only do a thing

“Perhaps there is only one thing that I can do legally in this country and I’m going to do it: cross the street by the zebra crossing.”

Paula saw that the crossing was to several meters and then they would have to return, but if it made them especially happy use it even though it would mean that to do a detour, she did not feel with authority to take that away from them.

When they arrived at the house, she wanted to read a small but clear piece of paper that was stuck to the door. “ Section 6 ″, it had for a title.
Paula only could go so far as to read that and the last line, which was something like a justification for that piece of paper was not signed and a warning that it had the same legal value although it was not signed. this Alone scared Paula , gave her a bit of fear but she was with this pair of boys that she was already considering to be her friends and she felt safe.

The house was smelling a little of damp and seemed old, very old. As all the English houses Paula had seen, had carpeting throughout it,, including the stairs. In the end they came to a room that had a light on and Paula was a witness of a scene who till then had imagined only thanks to unpleasant novels: three mattresses on the floor, together with magazines generally untidy things, clothes included, although most of it was in another three luggage bags distributed randomly around the room, and, on the mattresses, blankets and pillows also apparently placed there by chance. One of the mattresses had a brunette girl that was nothing like these so fair-haired Poles. They introduced them and they all sat down on the floor- there were no chairs or any kind of furniture, on the on the other hand. The light was coming from a table lamp that also looked like it had been left there on the floor by chance.
They introduced the girls and explained to Paula the history of the of the squat to Paula. It had been found by the chef, who was English and knew how these things were. This house had been offered to the kitchen boys on the condition that they would find someone else and between all of them, they would make sure that someone would always stay at home, at any time and all times, 24 hours a day. Between the two boys, they could cover the hours of the night, when the bar was not open, and the girl was covering the hours of the day, because she was working during the night. The three of them had come to London just to work during the summer, so at least it was not the whole of their lives that would be their life in the squat, then the chef would have it for his family, and meanwhile they were saving a weekly rent and could take more to their country to be able to continue their studies without having to work during the course. In return they only had to keep the house the twenty-four hours of the day 24 and clean the rooms that they were occupying; that’s why they were managing with just one – and because it was feeling more safe – and the bathroom only.

Paula felt more and more laziness to go back home so late at night and less and less fear of the condition of the house, so when he urged her so stay overnight she did not make them repeat it. In fact she stayed for the two weeks remaining before her friend would come and she did not bother to look for a house for him.

When Paula’s friend arrived, it seemed only natural that he would set up home in that same room with every one else. He could barely babble in English, but with Paula there, and every one’s good will, that seemed enough.
He became a good support for the Polish girl as she guarded the squat during the day time, while Paula and the boys were working. One day a drunken homeless came round demanding entry to the squat.
“But it is our home!”
“I will come back!”
They had got into alert mode immediately and the whole little episode became the epic tale of the following week. The girl had been immensely grateful for C.’s presence there. But most of the time he just sat there, listening, smoking. There were few moments when most of them were all together, but there were some. In those occasions, he would just retreat himself from the whole scene and look to his rolling cigarettes.
“Maybe he should have learnt English before coming here”, said one of the Poles.
“Look who’s talking!”, said Paula smiling. They all laughed.

The trouble was when the chef found out that were actually five people living in the house and not three as had been previously arranged t live in the house which he considered to be “his” squat. As soon as he found out about the new circumstances he spoke with Paula and demanded that they clean a room that had not been cleaned already or find another place to stay.


Paula se hizo amiga de los chicos de la cocina en seguida, aunque fueran polacos y hablaran menos inglés que ella. No tenían muchas oportunidades de hablar, pero Paula bajaba siempre que podía a la cocina porque, aparte de necesitar cosas de ella que nadie tenía por qué proporcionarle, aparte de los pinches de cocina, y ella creía que ya estaban bastante explotados sin necesidad de su ‘ayuda’, allí no solo no tenía la obligación de sonreír, sino que podía relajarse de tal forma hasta hacer bromas y reírse de las que le gastaran. Cada vez que bajaba a la cocina, subía de nuevo al bar con una sonrisa, pero de las de verdad.
Los dos chicos polacos fueron los primeros amigos a los que llevó a la residencia que ahora consideraba su casa. Se hicieron tan amigos que en más de una ocasión le hablaron en polaco:
“Perdona, no me he dado cuenta. Es que no puedo creérmelo, que seamos amigos sin que hables polaco. Pero que te pasa?”
“Ando preocupada. Viene un amigo de visita, de visita unos seis meses, y no sabe mucho inglés. Me siento obligada a buscarle un sitio donde vivir y no se ni por donde empezar. Fue tan difícil para mi. Y aún así me di cuenta de que es mucho más difícil para un chico.”
“Por qué no le dices que venga a nuestra casa?”
“Tenéis sitio?”
“Sí, de sobra. Estamos tres en una casa de cuatro o cinco habitaciones, pero solo usamos una.”
“Y eso?”
“Ya la veras.”
“No le estás diciendo todo. Es una okupa.”
“Bueno. Voy un día a verla y luego decido.”
“Por qué no vienes hoy!”
Paula no había quedado con nadie. No era el día libre de nadie, y ella terminaría a eso de media noche de todas formas. Con un poco de suerte, tardaría media hora en llegar a la casa de los polacos y otra media hora en volverse a la suya.

Llevaron a Paula por calles por las que nunca había caminado y se dio cuenta de que, para volver a su casa, tendría que pasar por el bar primero porque iban justo en dirección contraria. Retiró ese pensamiento de su cabeza porque al menos al día siguiente no trabajaba de nuevo hasta las tres de la tarde, de nuevo para salir a media noche.

Necesitaron cruzar una calle medio principal y Paula simplemente miró a ambos lados y comenzó a cruzar. Uno de los chicos polacos la detuvo:
“Quizás solo haya una cosa que puedo hacer legal en este país y la voy a hacer: cruzar la calle por el paso de cebra.”
Paula se dio cuenta de que el paso estaba a varios metros y luego tendrían que volver, pero si les hacia ilusión usarlo aunque eso significara dar un rodeo, no se sintió ella con autoridad para quitársela.

Cuando llegaron a la casa, ella quiso leer un papel pequeño pero claro que había pegado en la puerta. “Section 6”, tenía por título. Paula solo pudo llegar a leer eso y la última línea, que era algo así como una justificación de que el papel no estuviera firmado y una advertencia de que tenía el mismo valor judicial aunque no estuviera firmado. A Paula esto solo le dio un poco de miedo pero estaba con este par de chicos a los que ya consideraba sus amigos y se sintió segura.

La casa olía algo a humedad y parecía vieja, muy vieja. Como todas las casas inglesas, tenía moqueta por toda ella, incluídas las escaleras. Al final llegaron a una habitación que tenía la luz encendida y Paula fue testigo de una escena que hasta entonces solo se había imaginado gracias a películas desagradables: tres colchones en el suelo, junto con revistas y cosas generalmente desordenadas, ropa incluída, aunque la mayoría estaba en otras tres maletas distribuidas aleatoriamente por la habitación, y, sobre los colchones, mantas y almohadas también aparentemente puestas ahí de forma aleatoria. En uno de los colchones había una chica morena que no se parecía en nada a estos polacos tan rubios. Las presentaron y se sentaron todos en el suelo – no había sillas ni ninguna clase de muebles, por otra parte. La luz la daba una lampara de mesa que estaba también aleatoriamente en el suelo.
Les presentaron a las chicas y le explicaron a Paula la historia de la okupa. La había encontrado el jefe de cocina, que era inglés y sabía como iban estas cosas. Les había ofrecido esta casa a los pinches con la condición de que encontraran a alguien más y entre todos, se quedara siempre alguien en la casa, en todo momento, las veinticuatro horas del día. Entre ellos dos podían cubrir las horas de la noche, cuando no estaba abierto el bar, y la chica cubría las horas del día porque trabajaba durante la noche. Los tres habían llegado a Londres solo para trabajar durante el verano, con lo que no se les iba la vida en la okupa, luego el jefe de cocina la tendría para su familia, y mientras tanto ellos se ahorraban una renta y podían llevar más a su país para poder seguir con sus estudios sin tener que trabajar durante el curso. A cambio solo tenían que guardar la casa las veinticuatro horas del día y limpiar las habitaciones que ocuparan; por eso se arreglaban con una – y por que se sentía más seguro – y el baño solamente.
Paula sintió cada vez más pereza de volver a su casa tan de noche como era y menos miedo por las condiciones de la casa, así que cuando le insistieron quedamente para que se quedara a dormir no se lo hizo repetir. De hecho se quedó durante las dos semanas que quedaban para que llegara su amigo y no se molestó en buscarle una casa.
Lo malo fue cuando se enteró el jefe de cocina de que efectivamente estaban viviendo cinco personas y no tres en la que consideraba “su” okupa. En cuanto se enteró de las nuevas circunstancias habló con Paula y le exigió que limpiara una habitación de las que quedaban por limpiar o le buscara otro sitio a su amigo.

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