Some Small Souvenirs

Observations, reflections on chance encounters, notes about everyday incidents.

Promenade

8

There is no other life but this, that’s what he thinks, what he says, ‘It’s like you’ve got all this freedom, well not really freedom, but you can do what you want can’t you? I mean it’s like you’re invisible, they don’t want to see you.’ A woman passes. ‘Please miss, got any change miss? Sometimes they answer. Mostly, it’s like you’re a pane of glass.’
There’s no space in the shelter; carrier bags, quilts, a sleeping bag define territory. His corner is no different. He sits staring along the prom. ‘Couldn’t hack it. Like living in a square box. It was hard. Dunno, it’s like I’ve never been able to handle money, in one hand and out the other, when I’ve got it. Haven’t got a pot to piss in here, but it’s better.’

Imagine this; rough partitioning, cowboy plumbing, the kitchen more of an afterthought, a grudging necessity, space stolen from a cramped room. He takes a kettle off the stove, a cup from the draining board, scalds it. Greasy rivulets run into the sink. Dropping a teabag into the cup, he hands it to me and we return to where we were sitting in front of the open window.
The front door slams. Footsteps echo on the stairs. A door closes. ‘Any time now,’ he says. ‘There it goes,’ that steady, pounding bass rhythm; monotonous.
Closing the front door, he says, ‘Its like that all the time. Does my head in. He’s trouble, man.’

Time passes; days become weeks become months, and then this chance meeting.
‘Haven’t seen you in ages.’
‘Hello. Long time. Lost your number.’
‘It’s ok. How are you doing?’
‘Fine. Left that room. That head banger, he did my head in.’
‘That was a while ago. It was a bit loud, wasn’t it. And now?’
‘Back on the street. I tried, just couldn’t hack it. It’s ok it’s cool.’

The times we talked, times I listened to plans half made, thoughts of returning north, wanting to settle down. And it all comes down to this, his solution: walk away. His life: a series of temporary measures, immediate needs, blank days.

shelter_rough sleeping [3]

Promenade

7

Further rain is expected as a frontal system runs across the UK from the west…on the southern side of this system some very strong winds are expected and a separate warning for winds is likely to be issued.

At least the rain’s eased off. Not the wind. The prom’s all but deserted, those few that are walking struggle. They won’t stop to admire his sand sculpture; tonight it’s a dog at rest, I think. They’ll not stop, or drop coins into his collection box, but that won’t bother him; the attention can be a distraction. He’ll carry on patting, stroking, smoothing sand, repairing damage from the rain and wind. That he’s here at all is a wonder; he is, in his regular place. Leave him, he’ll work on into the night until he’s satisfied and then clear away sand, his few tools, mat; all secure in the small trolley he’ll push onto the shingle, hide in the shadow of the seawall. What traces remain on the prom will soon be dispersed by the wind.

The shelter’s quiet, and clean after the rain; no discarded cartons, or cans, and the bench isn’t too damp. Sitting this side of the partition, away from the broken pane, its reasonably sheltered too.

I’ve never been able to understand why people talk so loudly in public, especially in public. He’s no different, leaning against the railings opposite he bellows into his mobile phone.
‘I don’t need this shit right now. What? I’m on the prom. Yes, it’s ok she’s at home, but she’s just got her pyjamas. Look, when you drop her off you never bring any clothes. I know, but your Mam knew I was having her this weekend. Sorry, but what am I supposed to do, take her out in her pyjamas? I wanted to take her out for something to eat. What? I’ve said, in town, on the prom. No, I’ve already said, just me, thought I’d walk along the prom. Jesus the winds wild. What? I’m getting her some clothes and we’ve nothing for dinner. No. Of course I can get something but I wanted to take her out and now I can’t afford to. No. Not if I’m to buy clothes. I’m not blaming you but you don’t give her any clothes. You know they’re all with you. I know, but it was you sorted out all that out when we were together. Yes, she’s all right. Asleep now, I should get back before she wakes up. No. You’re Mam’s said she’s been crying for me most of the day but I had to go to work, can’t lose days before Christmas. Look I can’t do this can’t lose my work just before Christmas and then what’ll I do? You tell me. Yes, ok. Call you later.’

He stands a moment longer, ‘Shit. What a load of fucking shit.’ Shrugs.
‘Bit of a life, mate, bit of a fucking life. Better off by yourself.’
I nod.

evening shelter [1]



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