Wheatfields

The charity collection after the show has been going very well. We’ve raised over 2k for Centre Point now, which is amazing considering we only have 75 in the house at capacity. I’m thrilled we’ve done so well. But I say at the end of the show (because it’s true) that since I’ve started doing this I’ve definitely seen more people sleeping on the streets of London at this freezing time of year.

There are so many people in this city, so many stories, so much need. Last week I was doing my old game of trying to read people’s stories on the tube. It’s how I pass my time if my phone battery is low. 

A woman walked into my line of sight and my immediate recognition was “Shit, she’s a meth addict. That’s rare in London.” And then she spoke to all of us. “Hello ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to bother you…” “Looking for her next fix,” I think. Which I’m sure she was. But worth noting that that’s where I went first. But then “My sleeping bag was set on fire. I’m covered in burns.” I can see some of them. A grey haired man, clearly moneyed, responds loudly but as if he’s dealing with an aggressor: “Go to a cash point, they’re free.” We all think “What?” She says “What?” He says as if he said it the first time, same inflection “Go to a hospital, they’re free.” I don’t understand his slip, it’s strange. Which is why I’m recording it. She says “I’m going there now. I go there every day to change my dressings. It costs me money to go there and back.” We are at a station. The guy, who was stammering as he replied to her in his excellent RP, silently exits, without acknowledging her words. His whole body is tension.

I remember a guy about a year ago. It was summer and I really needed to blow my nose. We were on the Bakerloo at Maida Vale. A woman put a pack of Kleenex out, with a note. She wanted a pound for it. I took the Kleenex and gave her a pound and gratefully filled one with snot. The gray haired man opposite me, with defense in his weak eyes, blustered to me “You’re funding crime.” I was wearing a suit at the time. I responded, a little too quickly: “You’ve got a bank account haven’t you? So do I. We’re all funding crime.” Not the best, I know. But I didn’t have time for better. We both got off at Warwick Avenue, and awkwardly walked towards Little Venice, one of the richest parts of London, on opposite sides of the road.

Traveling back from Liverpool Street at this time of year I’m hearing more stories and seeing more pain than I’m used to. Of course some people are gaming it, but others aren’t. There are meth addicts using the NHS. And then there are people who think it’s legit to set fire to their sleeping bags. But if they didn’t do that, then there would be no need for their victims to use the NHS. How do we work at undermining the hate, finding the people that burn others and teaching them somehow not to hate – despite the fact that their victims are on the fringes of society and they’re being encouraged to blame the fringes for their own shortcomings.

Like bullies, the weak attack those who they perceive to be weaker than they are. Not only are they costing the taxpayer, but also they are selecting who they dehumanise. Clearly they’ve experienced damage themselves and need help. It’s fucking thorny. Even writing about it is weird.

Both of these grey haired men were nervous at speaking out, yet they both did so. Both were in roughly the same age bracket. Both appeared to be frightened by and hateful of a younger, vulnerable female outside of their frame of reference, who needed something. I doubt that those two terrified but outspoken men are setting fire to any sleeping bags. But their processed and legitimised fear and contempt witnessed is giving permission to the idiots that are.

We all need to be listened to and understood. It’s a trick of humanity that we can only truly empathise with what we’ve experienced. So we do not know what it is to be older than we are and we have to shift our understanding to get there. I want to know why it’s only elders of my gender that I’ve seen publicly attacking young female homeless, because it makes no sense to me. Elders are supposed to be compassionate and wise. We are in such a mess – surely it’s time for some wisdom. Where are the statesmen? Where are the people with depth and life? In our country we have a scared little grammar school girl. In America we have a backwards child who has always been told he’s special. These are our leaders. No wonder people get so angry and strange. Is it possible to have statesmen when we have a media that excoriates anyone who shows proof of fallible humanity? No wonder we end up with these idiots.

It’s another tricky one. True life experience comes with thorns, and thorns are treated like they’re a bad thing by the media. So our leaders are either beige or sociopaths. But who are they to lead us? Those with little that is interesting, or those who have followed a track prepared by their parents obediently – almost slavishly – buoyed up by their own self-myth of superiority. “You’re my special and independent little darlingy poopoo. Be utterly obedient to what we want you to do and you’ll be the best.”

Anyway. I’m ranting. Three people came through my tube train on the way home and told a story. I gave nothing to any of them. Here’s a photo of the last guy’s back. I gave to none of them. That’s how inured I am. I hear his story, use his image, and don’t pay him. Well, that’s my chance at politics fucked. I’ve told the truth about my behaviour. Should’ve stuck with spurious bullshit about running through wheatfields.

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Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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