Saturday, 16 May 2009

Down and out in Noho

There is a recognisable fraternity of street people in the neighbourhood, a core of about 7 with newbies coming and going, one of the new guys on the street has a collection of trolleys. He started off with one, very US of A that to have a trolley, anyway, now he’s up to 6. They are braced together like cattle and he moves them two at a time from position to position. They are stuffed with bags, big blue Ikea bags, a small new looking green rucksack, 2 black computer bags, amongst various others, all strapped in with bicycle bungees. In the front of one sits a bottle of vodka and an apple juice. Hanging from the sides there are numerous different branded recycled cloth bags, and an umbrella. He’s a big man, around six foot, tanned with a trim beard and cropped grey hair, he wears blue jeans, timberlands and a bright orange T-shirt over a beige jumper, giving him the whiff of a Canadian lumberjack. He drinks vodka, neat, self medicating in small shots throughout the day. He has numerous files and paperwork, that he flicks through every now again studiously. He went into CEX yesterday and came out with cash. He seems harmless enough and wanders around in his own world, checking his belongings, whether they are found or kleptomaniaced I wouldn’t like to say. Most gentleman of the street don’t look well and they are small, shrunken by abuse of one sort or another, darting from one place to the next. This man is conspicuous in his nonchalance and bear-like robustness. Another who we call ‘the suspicious character’ looks like an Inca and has shiny black shoulder length hair. He is always smoking and has taken to hanging out in the big pub, now that it has a new landlord, which is off putting, we think he may be a gambler. The man who sits outside Tesco on Goodge street with his dog, is friendly, occasionally has the Big Issue to sell, and can be caught texting on his mobile, he moves over to the Tesco outside Russell Square station at the more lucrative commuter times. They can ask you for change for years and still not recognise you, we say hello to the hat man who wanders up and down Charlotte Street, he knows us cos we have a baby now, not so common in town. He’s pleasant enough, he’s just swapped from his winter woollen hat for a baseball cap he’s looking older and pale in the sunshine. We passed him the other day and he pointed out Dom off the telly to us, how does he know what he looks like!! The rest are young, weasely, lost souls desperate for the next fix to escape from reality. I saw one actually in a queue at the post office once, he’d cleaned up his act and got a job in an office post room and probably somewhere to live, that lasted about a month, I mean really, for him, what’s gonna be more fun, doing drugs with your friends or getting up early and being a dogsbody for a bunch of strangers everyday. There used to be a girl too, came around every night and hassled the pub punters for change, but they gave her an ASBO. Then there was Alex, who used to get a bit shouty after a fix, he should probably have been on serious medication, we would hear him bellowing from the corner, arguing with the voices in his head. You see them turn up to London, city of hope, and you see them crumble, fall in with the wrong people, get into a destructive cycle. They were all babies once, probably unloved and abused, and now their self belief is so low as to be non existent. I met a beautiful girl called Colette once who used to sleep outside the Dominion, she’s long gone now. She told me she took too much acid and one day the mirror broke and she couldn’t put the pieces back together again. Of course she came from a broken home, daddy thought she was too pretty in those little shorts, and then there was a violent marriage with a biker. Her most treasured possession was a metal tin of rolling tobacco.

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‘They tuck you up your mum and dad...’
Anon - after Larkin

“Philately will get you everywhere”

“It’s not the despair, I can handle the despair. 
It’s the hope I can’t deal with”

“Each new friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
Anais Nin

‘Come on Dover move your bloomin’ arse’.
Eliza Doolittle