I’m an out-of -towner in London, a moonlighter to a certain extent. I was attracted to live there - like many - by the bright lights and the glam and gloss associated with the high life. It is fast paced and exciting to an outsider, colourful, bawdy and brash.
Actually the truth is I just got on the wrong train one day and have been lost ever since.
(That works on a number of levels by the way).
London is a vortex, a melting pot where nothing quite works properly, where sense and reason walk around disguised in Groucho Marx glasses with fake moustaches and “manners” is a dirty word.
I was confused in the early days, the place seemed huge and I was swallowed up more everyday.
I’ll give you an example. The London Underground.
I have no idea who named the stations but they were seriously misguided. I went to Oxford Circus and you know what? Not one fucking clown! No jugglers or tigers. Nothing.
The mayor at that time was trying to outlaw traffic in the city centre so he created the “congestion charge”. This is a zonal scheme slap bang in the centre of town where you have to pay to enter in any non-public transport vehicle. It has in fairness been pretty effective and I’ll no doubt share my views on carbon emissions in another post, but for now, back to the plot.
After the disappointment of seeing no human cannon balls at Oxford Circus I descend the stairs and spot a warning sign which reads, "Be vigilant, thieves operating in this area."
Now I know the NHS is in trouble but thieves? Come on...
A news billboard catches my eye. It says, “Man murdered on tube platform”.
I’m thinking to myself, “this is definitely the way to encourage more people to abandon their cars.”
Hundreds of feet below the ground electric trains whizz through tight fitting tubes carrying thousands of passengers an hour. Cramped and musty they hurtle into the blackness, bumping and jostling through twisty, uneven bore holes like giant earthworms born from some nightmarish futuristic nuclear holocaust.
I’m awaiting my train when a homeless guy comes up begging for change. He’s carrying a used coffee cup, extra large size because he’s feeling plucky that day and shaking it like a hellish tambourine.
I’m thinking, “how the fuck did he get down here?”
Must have taken him ages to scrape the change together to buy a ticket. Surely that kinda defeats the object a little...
I don't know, maybe he’s one of those “speculate to accumulate” kinda guys.
The homeless situation is big in London but again, the mayor is on the case.
I grabbed a bus back to my abode (because I couldn’t afford the congestion charge and I’m too young to die of murder on a tube platform) when I spotted a poster saying “YOUR CHANGE KILLS”.
Apparently the loose change we freely give to random homeless people is killing them. Apparently they buy drugs with it.
I know, I’m shocked too.
They may be homeless and poor but most of them can READ. Nice one mayor. How to make friends and influence people...
“Don’t give them money” is the surface message. The truth behind it is a little different. The mayor is being sly here.
“Don’t give them money (and they’ll bugger off somewhere else in search of it)”, is what he’s really saying.
He knows that if the homeless are pushed out of the city they become someone else’s problem. He gets a medal and it looks good in the news.
“Mayor cleans up homeless problem”.
My fucking hero.
Here’s the flip side.
I’m in Camden one night outside the tube station (I can’t get inside the station because the concourse is full of homeless guys trying to scrape enough change together to buy a ticket so they can go and beg on the platform) and I overhear an Irish woman ranting.
“I’m sick of being given fookin coppers?”, she complains, “Why does nobody give us fookin pounds?”
With that she scatters a handful of change to the four winds.
Who says beggars can’t be choosers?
I notice so many Irish transients which is weird because in the Republic of Ireland there aren’t actually enough people to fulfill the job quota and they don’t have a notable homeless problem.
Two thoughts spring to mind.
Firstly, what is the Irish government getting right that we’re not?
And secondly, why don’t the Irish just go home and attempt to build a life? There are prospects there.
A few hours on the tube platform and they’re sorted for the ferry ticket.
I saw a tramp once carrying a sign that said, “I NEED MONEY FOR FAGS, BOOZE AND HOOKERS.”
Maybe he should be mayor!
Closer to the source
- Barcelona, Spain
- July 12
- always good
- A scholar, a poet, a ranter, an observer, a back street philosopher and a lantern of hope.
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