Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 22 February 2014
Steep decline to the deep West
Like many other people, I don't very often stop to talk with vagrants, but this man had something different about him - a sort of dignity which was not obscured by his long hair and ragged beard, or blurred by any obvious alcohol or substance abuse.
His clothes had obviously once been expensive, and his shoes - though coming apart at the seams - looked as though they came from the finest Northampton makers. His voice was cultured and had not taken on the rasping harshness of most men of the road.
He did not ask for money, but accepted my offer of a hot drink and something to eat in the late night cafe close by. When we were in there, he refused alcohol and politely sipped tea as I drank beer.
As he began to warm up a little, he told me that he had walked from London, and was on his way to the farthest tip of Cornwall where he knew of an isolated and semi-derelict farmhouse belonging to a distant relative, where he could spend the rest of his days in seclusion living from whatever small pittance the State would allow him, after many years of service.
I asked what this service had entailed, and he - almost reluctantly - started to tell me his life story, and how he had found himself in the sorry state he is today.
He had begun a career in the British Diplomatic Service, working in an office from straight out of school. He had - it seemed - been a gifted and talented lad, and quickly rose through the ranks as he took on more and more responsibility and making decisions which would inform the policies adopted by governments the world over.
He had, he said, been so dedicated to his work and had been so ambitious in pursuit of it that he had never married. Having no brothers, sisters or children, there was nobody to whom he could turn in times as desperate as they were at that point. He was completely on his own and shunned by polite society.
Only a matter of months ago, he had been rubbing shoulders with Heads of State and was thought so highly of that the question of his elevation to Knighthood had come to the attention of the Queen herself.
There came the fateful day when he found himself in an ante-room of Buckingham Palace where he had been summoned to receive the honour from Her Majesty, and his entrance into the chamber was announced by a bewigged footman at the golden door.
As he approached the Queen, a servant handed her the ceremonial sword from a velvet cushion, and he he made a low bow, letting out an enormous and raucous fart as he bent down before her.
The Queen replaced the sword on the cushion and turned her back on him.
As protocol demands, he shuffled backwards out of the room, and as the doors closed in front of him, he turned around and walked forward down the long corridor. He has been walking ever since.
It just seems so unfair in modern England that a man's entire life can be ruined by one, brief loss of control over his own sphincter - that the court of Elizabeth the Second has hardly changed since the time of Elizabeth the First.
After he had finished his tale, I watched him head West again, seemingly oblivious to the wind and rain as he trudged down the dark, inhospitable road that leads out of Bath and deeper into Somerset.
I do hope you will sign the petition I have set up for him at Change.org.