Monday, 31 October 2016

The geese are getting fat

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.


  1. A very sad story.
    Never feel guilty to do what your heart tells you what to do - you are a very kind person, Tom.
    Greetings Maria x

  2. She is a sad story of which there are many around here too. I give and I leave it to them what they spend it on but at the same time kidding myself that they go to the KFC for a meal. I dont think they do.

  3. What a difficult position you are in. You're damned if you give, and damned if you don't. I wouldn't know what to do either, but I'm sure you will follow your heart. It's the only thing any of us can do under such sad and perplexing circumstances. She's lucky to have at least one person in this world who cares whether she lives or dies. Blessings

  4. I don't believe in worrying about where the money gets spent when I give to the needy. A gift is a gift; how they choose to spend it isn't my business. Who am I to judge? Under the right circumstances we could all be in her position.

  5. Sometimes there is a dilemma in how we donate. I used to work in place where addicts of all types would arrive looking for a cash handout. Because business was tight I offered them food instead but only a few accepted my offer.

    1. Heron, what even the most well meaning forget that cash is not only needed for either food or to feed your addiction (if indeed there is addiction in the first place). Down and outers, the homeless, the desperate, they too need new socks, a toothbrush, sanitary ware, a roll of toilet paper, tissues to wipe their nose or weep into, painkillers when one of your teeth flares up, etc. etc. etc. Maybe even a hot water bottle. Or, heaven forbid, the luxury of a haircut. All those bits and bobs we take for granted. There are only so many sandwiches any of us can eat a day.

      A bit of thinking outside the box goes some way.


    2. I'm so glad you reminded us of this. Too often ordinary everyday items are forgotten. I do knit hats and scarves and mittens that are distributed to the homeless in Norwich. (I would knit then gloves, but the fingers are a bit beyond my knitting skills. My son has never let me forget a pair I did for him (no, he wasn't homeless at the time) I also do balaclavas which seem to be popular. I just wish there was more we could do. A neighbour of mine gets together shoeboxes which she fills with all the things you mention, and they are shipped to places like Syria, but I can't help thinking that we should look to the homeless in our towns and cities first. This may not be a popular view, but the thought that less than 10 miles from my comfortable, warm home, people are living in the open, with very little official help, breaks my heart, so I address the need that I can see. We can't home and clothe the world, much as we would like to.

    3. Listen up B on B !
      I don't need a lecture from you on their needs - I have walked their path and copped on before it was too late. A free meal and a chat can do a lot of good, that I do know from experience. My UK home in the past was often shared with people in need.

    4. I am not getting involved. All I wanted was a prayer or two - specifically that I never run out of beer.

  6. There but for the grace of God go I so thank goodness for the kindness of others. I hope she is OK when you see her today Tom. XXXX

  7. Thanks for the comments, but remember what I said about the choice between no beer and the girl. I just posted this to get you to put out a bit of positive thinking, empathy or just prayer if you prefer. My next post will be back to lightness.

  8. Yesterday i lost my ID card,while i lloked for it in my car a man came and told me that he don't have money to get home, i gave him money (50 shekels),went home put a glass upside down ,found the ID card, wrote the post and deleted it after 5 minuts. You was the only one who read it.

  9. Yes, Tom, you are a good man. I wish there were more people like you - and fewer of those who just sneer at the unfortunate.

    One of the most attractive qualities (to me) in anyone is generousity - both of mind and putting your hand where so many are reluctant to put it - their pockets.

    As to the girl you mention. Of course, I wish her luck. Should that luck evade her, at least you'll know that she met with true kindness by meeting you. Nothing gives us more glimmers of hope than genuine kindness. Not just the kindness of giving what you can (short of your beer money) but also showing an interest in the actual person, taking time over them.


  10. Pat, you are a sweetheart as is Tom. I was just buying candy for the trick or treaters and thought about the quote of strangers being angels unawares. I always try and help when I can. It is so sad that some can climb out of the hole while others cannot.

  11. It would be inappropriate to me to reply to all your comments, so I won't. I stick by what I say - put out the good feelings.

  12. I'm not very consistent with my giving of money. Some will get a reasonable sum, and others nothing at all, it all depends on instinct. We used to have an elderly tramp near us who lived under a sheet of plastic. I used to buy him small bottles of Whiskey.