I could see him out of the corner of my eye as I munched on my over priced, over filled and over heated Cornish pasty. Trying at every opportunity not to scald the inside of my mouth with every bite, he was making his way towards me… I looked up at the board which read “Delayed 7mins”. I could move, I thought. But something kept me rooted to the floor of Victoria station, directly in front of platform Nine and Three quarters. There’s no such thing, I know, but I was standing a little off centre between platforms 9 and 10, so screw you…
The man shuffled up to me and, with half his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, asked ‘Can you spare some change so I can get something to eat?’ I reached into my left pocket and decided to give him all the change that was in there…£5.10. I handed it to him, looked him in the eye and said, ‘Here, I hope it helps.’ The man shuffled off and, as I looked over my shoulder I could see him counting it. I turned back to my pasty, which was still hotter than the centre of the sun, and attempted another bite. I looked at the board. With the added 7 minutes delay I still had a good 15 minutes before departure. I could have a beer in the pub; might reduce the third degree burns I seem to be suffering at the hands of this fucking pasty. No. Something kept me there, nailed to floor. I pondered the gentleman to whom I’d just handed over the last of my money.
There was a pang in my stomach, a weight, an overwhelming urge to burst into tears. He’s someones son, I said to myself. Someone handed him to his mother and said ‘Congratulations, it’s a little baby boy’. He went to school, had friends, played football even. He had a life. Or maybe he was unwanted, was left in an orphanage, where he spent his whole childhood and at the tender age of 18 was “released” and has lived on the streets ever since. I don’t know which of these scenarios upsets me the most, probably the former.
Either way I was looking at a man who has been let down by a system that’s designed to help him. I couldn’t help but wonder what his story was. How he came to live on the streets, sleeping rough, begging for change and eating food that people throw away. As I stood there I noticed that he was back. The 21.17 had just left so there was now a new group of people in the waiting area. Clever little bugger I thought. He was heading my way again and this time I genuinely didn’t have any change. If he asks me then I’ll give him the rest of this pasty, I decided to myself. But I didn’t need to as he went to the couple behind me… And that’s when it happened:
‘No you can’t have any money, I know what you’ll use it for, so go away’
A young orange woman was addressing the man and as I turned I saw him head off towards a younger blonde woman. The orange woman then accosted a station employee and totally grassed him up.
‘Excuse me, there is a man over there begging. It’s illegal, you know. You need to phone the police.’
‘If he comes back over to us, I’m going to punch him in the face,’ The orange woman’s boyfriend said.
‘Ok, where is he?’ asked the attendant
‘He’s over there, in the black coat,’ said the orange woman ‘It’s illegal you know.’
‘I’m telling you now, if he comes back over I’m going to punch him in the face. Just so you know.’
The weight in my heart turned from sadness to utter rage. Here was a man, that for whatever reason, has to resort to begging in order to stay alive and your solution is to not only have him arrested but to punch him in the face. My knee jerk reaction was to knee the jerk right in the bollocks then slam my red hot pasty in his smug face and watch the skin melt down his twatish barbour jacket and drip onto his shiny, light tanned shoes. As his orange faced lady friend attempts to intervene I’d elbow her in the face, hopefully removing some of that cheaply applied fake tan, and watch her drop to floor.
5 days we lasted. 5 days after the death of Nelson Mandela. A man, who after nearly 3 decades in solitary confinement, still showed compassion towards his captors. A man who’s message was, essentially, LOVE. After reading all the messages people were saying about him, what an inspiration he was and if we all acted a little more like Mr Mandela the world would be a better place. But after 5 day it seems we revert back to our default setting of Arsehole.
The utter lack of compassion that some people have astounds me. Some people’s view of others is that of total contempt. I thought of my two daughters and thought, what if that was them. What if after my wife and I are gone something goes awry and they’re forced to live on the streets, being threatened just for trying to survive. That pang of sadness was back with a vengence. The thought of people threatening to punch MY children in the face when all they are doing is what needs to be done in order to see another day brought a tear to my eye. To me, change can be a nuisance and if there’s too much of my pockets it gets heavy and it pisses me off. But to someone sleeping rough it’s a cup of tea or soup. Maybe even a hot meal, that in these winter months could save their life.
I have three monthly subscriptions that aren’t getting the use they ought, so, I have cancelled them.
-Netflix @ £5.99 p/m
-Audible @ £5 p/k
-Free enquiry @ £7 p/m
So I decided to instead put that money to better use and set up 3 standing orders to:
-Down’s syndrome association
For £5 each, every month. It’s not much, but I hope it can make a difference.
‘They can be a great people Kal-El they wish to be, they only lack the light to show the way. For reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son’ – Superman, 1978