Liam O'Brien: 'At night, the cold and the bells make sleep impossible'

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The area around St Paul's is cleaner than you might expect given the 250 tents pitched outside. But when Starbucks closes, people turn to two portable toilets that would shame even the grubbiest festival conveniences. Keen to debunk the "great unwashed" stereotype, most demonstrators head home at least once every two days to shower.

Bearing anti-capitalist placards, Chris and Felicity Whittaker, 85 and 83, walk their small black mongrel Posey around the camp. They aren't staying, but donated £40. The money will go to printing leaflets and the kitchen, which supplies people with three meals a day – and snacks on top.

By around 1am yesterday, most campers, including me, have gone to bed, and almost all the tents are occupied. It's cold and there's constant coughing. The concrete floor and the chimes from the cathedral bells every 15 minutes make sleep impossible, while puddles on the ground produce the effect of lying on the least luxurious of waterbeds.

But, despite the discomfort and one girl's dismay at "all the tramps and homeless people", those without a roof over their heads are surprised by the kindness at the camp. Antonio Maniscalco, 43, says that despite suffering from lung cancer, he had been juggled by various authorities to the point where Occupy London was his best option. "The protest is helping the homeless," he says. "Here you don't need to turn to alcohol to keep warm."

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