It's been two years since the founder of WikiLeaks committed himself to an indefinite sentence inside the Ecuadorian embassy. And he shows no sign of giving himself parole. The statue of limitations on the sexual offences case in Sweden, from Assange is a fugitive, expires in August 2020, so he may yet have another six years at least to serve there. But how does the Australian campaigner keep from going stir-crazy?
Julian Assange in his small office space in the Embassy
Assange workd 17-hour days and has always been a night owl, keeping "hackers' hours" of late night nights and sleeping in. He is a light sleeper, and the location of the embassy in the heart of Kensington has been a problem for him. Harrods is close by 3 Hans Crescent and the early morning deliveries played havoc with his sleep.
"I couldn’t sleep because of the Harrods loading bay and the cops always doing shift changes outside," Assange told the Australian magazine Who.
"And the quietest room is the women’s bathroom, the only room that’s easy to sleep in. So I thought I’d try and somehow get hold of it and renovate it. Eventually, somewhat reluctantly, the staff relented. They ripped out the toilet. They’ve been very generous."
THE DAY'S PROJECTS
Assange's converted bathroom-office has modest living quarters, with a bed, a small kitchenette, a computer with internet connections and a shower. On the wall is reportedly a picture of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, mocked up to look like Shephard Fairey’s Barack Obama “Hope” poster.
Author Andrew O'Hagan, Assange's ex-ghost writer, wrote in his marathon essay for the London Review of Books that Assange is not a tidy house guest, but the debris around his workspace is often mainly the litany of gifts sent by supporters. "When I first went to see him he was in a corner room at the back of the embassy, surrounded by hampers from Harrods across the way – well-wishers’ presents to the incarcerated – and sitting at a grubby desk covered in snacks and papers," O'Hagan wrote. He was later moved to a new, bigger room "but standard-issue, messy, depressing, smelling of laborious boring hours".
Assange has multiple mobile phones and laptops, and a continuously whirring shredder that destroys "anything that might leave a paper trail", the Mail reported after visiting the campaigner.
Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
Assange works a 17-hour day, seven days a week, running the WikiLeaks operations and its Twitter account, according to multiple reports. At 4 o'clock every afternoon a small group of supporters hold a vigil for Assange outside the embassy. “They try and keep my spirits up,” he told the Mail. “And they do.”
He watches political thrillers and box sets to relax, the Mail cites a box set of the West Wing, the Ryan Gosling film The Ides Of March, with George Clooney as a corrupt presidential candidate.
He also enjoys the Australian television series Rake, about a rogue Sydney barrister, and watched There Will Be Blood, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, according to the Telegraph.
Assange said on the eve of his two-year-anniversary that he had been watching World Cup games - supporting Ecuador - but said the reception wasn't good.
"Perhaps that makes it difficult for the bugs to travel through the walls as well."
Assange misses Australian essentials, and he has been gifted Vegemite by fans down under, according to Frontline Club owner Vaughn Smith, who gave Assange a place to stay while he was under house arrest. This continues while Assange is in the embassy, and has expanded to "flannel shirts, Tim Tams, gum leaves”.
He is a foodie, who takes a scientific approach to cooking, his friend Sarah Saunders once told the Guardian, citing a time he made a "very good poached egg, which not everyone can achieve".
Inside the embassy, Assange orders take-out and eats occasionally with embassy staff for special occasions, with staff making the traditional South American dish ceviche, raw fish marinated in citrus juice.
The Standard says Assange has spent more than £10,000 on take-outs, including from Japanese fast-food joint Wasabi on Knightsbridge. Assange has asked journalists not to name his favourite sushi take-out place.
"They might track the place down," he said. "They might put something in there that won’t kill me, but make me very sick so I’ll have to go to hospital.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (left) talks with his legal adviser Balthasar Garcon (right) inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Assange maintains a strict exercise regime, and is trained by a SAS veteran who is a former military whistleblower, according to the Mail. The film director Ken Loach gave him a running machine and he pounds the treadmill for up to five miles a day, practices boxing and calisthenics. He trains "in the bathroom," according to the BBC. He takes charcoal capsules and Vitamin D pills, in addition to a UVB light to mimic sunlight.
It seems embassy staff have a love-hate relationship with their house guest. Assange told O'Hagan that he thought ex-ambassador Ana Alban was "mad and ‘stalked the corridor’."
"He said she thought she was fat and went on a ludicrous diet because she didn’t like the way she looked in the photographs taken by the Daily Mail," O'Hagan wrote.
But the staff generally get along well with the WikiLeaker. "We’ve gone through a lot together and we understand we are all in this together. Some staff have been here nearly 20 years. We have lunch together, celebrate people’s birthdays," Assange told the Telegraph. He declined to say whether he had learned to speak Spanish during his stay: “I found in investigative journalism it is always best, if you have any language skills, not to admit them.”