The weather is perfect for October 31st today, with a thick blanket of mist on the hills, thinner in the streets. One November 5th had the same conditions, and the municipal firework display was made a completely different experience - not actually worse, just different.
The rockets and mortars shot up and soon the trails disappeared in the fog, a second later followed momentarily by the bursts, which were blurred beyond shape-recognition like sheet lightning.
Last night I gave another £20 to the drug-addicted girl who sells Big Issues outside Waitrose, and - as always - wondered if it was the right thing to do, especially since I am constantly on the verge of insolvency right now, and I would rather spend it on beer. If it ever it comes to a choice between beer and the girl, she will go without.
I asked her how she was as I left the supermarket carrying the night's shopping - almost £30 pounds-worth, of which nothing would be left by the following day - and she answered that she was actually homeless now and not just technically as most Big Issue sellers are, having been chucked out of her flat to sleep on the street.
The last time she said this - a couple of years ago - it was a wet Summer, and she was in tears as she told me that her junkie boyfriend had also thrown away all the clothes she owned except the ones she was wearing at the time.
I gave her £20 for her to get an alternative outfit, never expecting that she would. The next day, she came up to me wearing a completely different set of clothes.
"I got these in charity shops," pointing to a top and jeans, "These boots also, and a new set of underwear from Primark - and I still had a couple of quid change!" I felt vindicated.
With a different lifestyle she could be very pretty, but years of drug abuse has brought a haunted look to her penetrating, pale blue eyes and a somewhat scorched complexion from being outside for so long. She is VERY thin and her left arm is missing from the elbow, and I suspect this has something to do with infections and needles. Her voice has also taken on the rasping quality that all junkies seem to acquire at some point, and I don't know if this is ever curable. Either they die before they are cured, or you don't hear them on the streets after they begin to lead more normal lives. I don't know.
She began to lead just such a normal life a few years ago after she had a baby, and I would see her racing around town with a push-chair, but the child was taken away from her by Social Services for its own sake, and this is another reason why I have come to feel for her, and another contributing factor to the haunted look in her eyes.
I have a rule which does not allow me to refuse food to whoever asks for it, no matter what I may think of them. She said she needed food and needed the money to buy some.
I said that I would give her some, but I suspected she would spend it on drugs.
"No I won't," she assured me, "I have been clean for three months."
"But you are clearly stoned out of your head." I was pointing out the obvious and a little miffed that she thought I would not spot it.
"I am. I took twice the dose of Temazapan that I have been prescribed by my doctor." I couldn't argue with that.
So I gave her the money and told her that I would be looking out for her on Monday (today) to ask her how she got on at the meeting with Social Services to find her somewhere to live.
It is going to get very cold soon, and I don't want to find out I have contributed to her death by giving her money for smack to take as she freezes in the street.
Wish her luck.
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