Wednesday, 21 September 2011
SlackLondon: A peek into the SlackLife
It was one of those mornings that started with sweaty sex.
The kind that burns calories. Fellas know that if you want to start your day jacked and natural, relieving the morning glory is a good way to go.
And if that wasn’t enough, what is it about walking round someone else’s apartment, naked, air-guitaring to Jimi Hendrix that is so invigorating?
With more energy than expected from my packet of chocolate buttons and a fromage-frais breakfast, I decided to set myself a mission.
Not two days ago had I bought a cool earring, and I’d taken even less time to lose it.
My mission - to find it.
Needle in a haystack.
Earring in London.
You get the idea.
But I felt lucky.
Sat on the tube, I ran a montage. There, before my feet was the silver ring, glinting, as if the sun had found the sacred spot. I felt like Indiana, mounting that medallion onto his staff.
The tube took a sharp turn, and then another ten. Jerked from my daydreams, I rationalise the ridiculous probability of finding my earring. I smile to myself, taking a deep breath in as 8 civilians cram themselves into a 3-man spot, along the train’s aisle and along my face.
I was off to Victoria Park. Not only the sacred burial ground for my earring, but the location for the 2011 SlackLondon festival, which I was rumoured to have been organising.
In true balls out fashion, I had set Victoria Park as the location disclosed to the public, yet not cleared our slacking permission with the park’s ranger service. And, the previous day on my first visit ever, I had managed to lose something. Things were looking bright.
Friday, during a British September, doesn’t conjure up images of perspiring brows or uncomfortably aligned underwear. Yet that’s what half of the city of London was experiencing. With an extra third of my body weight in rucksacks, I waddled into the park’s grounds, mentally grinning at the weekend ahead of me. What would it hold? Who would I meet? Who else’s shower would I operatically dismantle before clocking awkward eyes with the neighbour? Universe, give me a sign!
Bags down, roughly the same number of paces from the trees as you sat yesterday. Look for bottle cap dug into floor, and snapped twig the width of a chippolata sausage.
Looking. Found the cap. Still Looking. Found the twig. 15 minutes later, but still no earring. Sweating. Hopeless. I quit.
I bent down to pick up my bags, letting the frustration of losing something wash over me. Just then, as my hand reached for the backpack strap, the most glorious glint pierced my gaze like a heavenly gift.
That was it.
That was the omen.
From here on in, everything would fall into place, and I, into a deep sleep.
Blanket down under a shady canopy, Tom Sawyer position. I lit a pipe and drifted slowly in to my central city siesta.
The slacking wouldn’t begin for another hour or two. Perfect.
I awoke to a vibrating lump of plastic, hovering over my chest. Nothing to worry about. Friends were calling to say they had arrived. A dump of internal chemical excitement hit my veins. I was wired to go!
The first thing Aborigines do when they arrive at a new location is to set and burn a fire. With nomadic slackers, they rig lines.
The three of us put up what lines we had. Not just to slack with, but to show presence. SlackLondon was born. And it felt incredible.
Tunes, sunshine, slacklines and an open invitation the whole of the country. Things were looking peachy indeed.
Britain was in a good mood, and that was reflected in its sky. So good in fact, that Jake was able to set up his solar powered sound system. It wasn’t long before the public were captivated. City workers stopped their stomps momentarily, squinting their eyes to see if we really were levitating. A couple even joined in and tried the lines out. From 3 we grew to about 30 plus. Not bad for a facebook event’s page and a paper plate sign I ductaped to one of the park’s infinite gate entrances.
A few hours in and the rangers had pulled up.
‘Sorry mate, but we don’t allow slacklining in this park.’
Heart drops to my arse. It was an inevitable situation, but still, the imaginary version didn’t have the same, gut-wrenching quality to it. Think fast. Faster.
‘Well, in fact, I cleared it with Jivesh just the other day brother. He said it was all cool,’ I recited, in an on-the-spot manner of Event Organiser superiority.
The dialogue continued.
I name dropped as best I could.
I mentioned how Saturday was going to be the big one, how people from all over the country were coming to jam with us.
Still the head honcho wasn’t going to budge. His authoritative position meant too much to him in front of his colleague.
So I tried a different black-belt method of diversion.
‘All the kids coming tomorrow are so excited. If you take us out now, they’ll be so upset. Hey, in fact, why don’t you have a go, man. Here, I’ll help you walk the line.’
Laughs all round.
Suddenly the conversation turned from competition, to cooperation.
They declined the offer of trying the slackline.
‘Wouldn’t look too good doing it in uniform now, would it?’ they said, grinning.
Suddenly they didn’t seem so bothered about winning the battle of shutting us down.
I held my ground, for the good of us all and for the sake of SlackLondon. It paid off.
‘Well, I can’t stop you guys from doing it, I s’pose.’
And that’s all I needed to hear.
I beamed a smile of smugness to all the slackliners as I confirmed to them all, and to myself, that SlackLondon was going ahead. Result.
The sunset Friday night was just beyond majesty. I faced west, tilting my eyes to the sky, wishing I could somehow kiss it. Slacklines bordered my peripheral, gentle tunes accompaning my personal postcard. What could have been better? This is heaven, I thought. This is SlackLife.
With hardly any light but the effervescent, tangerine glow of the city, we de-rigged and de-littered our spot. A pint was in order, sadly not to be shared with other slackers, but that didn’t matter. They would return tomorrow.
Ben, Jake and I took ourselves to the nearest watering hole we could find. We re-rigged the sound system as we sat outside – the first time being our own DJs at someone else’s pub.
It was fantastic – the public’s mood shifted into a bubbly sense of euphoria the moment Jake’s funk collection hit their ears. Our excitement for Saturday couldn’t be contained. Even the barmaid was slung information on how to find us the following day.
Back in Jake’s palatial van and Ben wasn’t feeling too good. We’d scored a wicked park up spot, right along side the park’s western section. What better way for us to leave our mark than for Ben to projectile vomit over a whole section of fencing? Lads on tour indeed, even after only 2 pints.
Something for the squirrels I suppose.
Together we smoked ourselves out, listening to some fine Dub and lounging in the twilight of a small lamp. Kids passing by obviously heard, and thought it would be funny to shake, rattle and roll the palace from the outside. It definitely got our attention, and nearly caught my temper. A swift shout and flinging open of the door found no one in sight. All part and parcel of a travelling SlackLife.
The three of us drifted into our mellow slumber, smiles all round.
The radiating heat of the morning sun was filling the van, prying us from our reclined status. The pangs hit us simultaneously. And so did the headaches. We needed to find a greasy spoon, soon. Neither of us had drunk enough water the day before. Topping that off with a couple of pints and some pre-sleep-rum-swigging meant that we were all missing the back section of our skulls. A fry-up and some caffeine required. Together, we trotted with light feet on a blurry-eyed grub-mission.
On the horizon read ‘BREAKFAST – 10 ITEMS FOR £5’. Done.
‘Had a rough night then lads?’ said our waitress.
Did we look that bad? We’d had 30 hours sleep between us!
Must have been a dirty fingernail giveaway.
Out came a plate the size of my torso, filled with meat and chips. We must have devoured a pig’s worth. Hangover cured and fuelled for a day of slacking, for less than a tenner. It’s deals like that that gets us pumped.
Excitedly, we blurted to our waitress where she could find us, and together we witnessed her realise that we were travelling slackers, not homeless drunks. Relief!
A leisurely lunchtime approach seemed the perfect time to rock up at the park. But not before visiting one of Jake’s contacts for the use of a shower.
Feeling new, we were ready to get on to day 2 of the weekend. We wheeled a whole trailer full of gear back to our spot. As soon as the first couple of lines went up and the sound system started pumping, it was show time. The public’s attention had been captivated with ease.
Gradually numbers of people began to accumulate on our lawn. Local indoor rock climbers came to check out the day, bringing with them everything they needed for a good sesh – from bags of fruit and nut, to lines of nylon tubular.
At the peak of the day, I recorded a whopping 13 lines that were rigged for everyone to try. Most were trick lines, but it wasn’t long before the 30+ meter lines came out. And then, the 56m ‘Widow Maker’.
The tension was the issue. Out of the ten plus people who tried, only three people sent it. And that was after we had to de-rig and re-tension. Before that, no man could tame the beast.
It was a personal battle for myself. The longest line I had tried to date. I didn’t feel pressure from surrounding slackers, as such. But I knew what it meant to me and what it would take to send it. That created a pressure of its own.
Somehow, I locked in and found the pocket. I had sent the beast and felt stoked as could be.
Unfortunately, I returned and found Jake had bailed and given himself mild-concussion. He couldn’t remember shit, so I figured dowsing him with beta on the Widow Maker wouldn’t sit well with his state of confusion.
The twilight of the day was drawing in, my favourite time. The skies opened up their chambers of super nature for us all to gawp upon in awe. Sunset lines and barbeques. I was in sending-celebration mode, and went to stock up on feast material. Sat round together, we chomped and chatted away, reminiscing on highlights of the weekend. Getting to know everyone there was a real pleasure. Some real diamonds had come out to play.
As darkness fell, we played out the SlackLife in full, packing and de-rigging with next to no visibility. Out came the head torches. We marched the trailer and all our gear across the park, only to find that we had been locked in! Again! Between four of us, we hauled the beast over the fence, tunes still pumping, much to the surprise of the locals drinking in the park’s border-lining pub. Trawling the streets with tunes would be our final chapter. We missioned to the nearest kebaby, all in the name of chips. Jake and Ben managed to confuse our cashier so well that he forgot to ask them for any money. As the four of us sat on the curb, barely able to keep our deep fried delights within our palettes, from laughing so hard, it dawned on me that I really was in the pocket. This really was heaven.
A lazy Sunday morning came around in a haze. SlackLondon had played out its scene.
We awoke, all in level positions. Falling out of the palace, one by one, we realised we’d been done. The front right tire had been slashed. Along with about 50 other cars down the street and in the immediate local area. Mindless, infuriating vandalism, and yet, we couldn’t be happier. We juggled for the neighbours, admired the yuppie dressing gown talent, and even scored a free cuppa each. Locals lent us tools, and together we got on the case and changed the truck’s tire in street circus style. I’d like to think our grins were contagious. Thanks to the hot middle-eastern chicks for the tea!
Most of the slackers had retired to their abodes to rest. However, a few of us remained that were keen for some final day action. Dan brought his line to rig, and in between rain spells, we eventually rocked up to the park at 6pm.
A 64m was on cue, myself and Jake’s longest challenge yet. Internally and mentally, I was still in the pocket from sending the 56m the day before. Keeping that presence, I sent the line first try and back again, and so did Jake. It was a taste of bliss, I’m sure. I was so relaxed and so aware. I felt like a nylon Buddha.
Our final mission was one of style. All that was left was to say our goodbyes and figure out how to leave the sprawl that is central London.
Right by the station, the final three musketeers, Jake, Ben and myself, called in at the most badass Indian restaurant I have ever eaten at. This place had tree houses in it, man! We all double took as we walked past the window. Realising this would be the greatest novelty mastication had ever seen, we piled through the door and waved a ‘three’, pointing to the tree house cabin. We scored our own unit – 4 or 5 steps up a ladder, looking out over the whole restaurant. The waiters climb the ladder to serve you, and yes, clearing the table was both nerve wracking and hilarious. Yet they didn’t drop anything. God forbid. A stray item of cutlery from our cabin’s altitude would have resulted in a lawsuit. Or even another concussion.
We ran through the flavours of East laid before us. We laughed at all the discrepancies and raucousness of SlackLondon and how incredibly well it all came together. One conversation in a sub-urban park of Swindon a month previously, had manifested itself into a waking dream; 3 days of living in the pocket with friends and a whole selection of new people to add to that title. Incredible.
So excited and late for my train home, I legged it with 25 keys of gear strapped to my torso, up one massive, broken escalator. My legs gave out, I slipped on my sweaty flip-flop and sliced my foot clean open on the side of the metal step. And I missed my train.
Back to the palace for a smoke with the boys then?
Photos: Hazardous Davis
Lubos Horvat - www.luboshorvat.com