Dead Man Walking…

Bloody Marks and Spencer. I detest them now and I want justice for what they do to homeless men and women, I may need your help with this one…

They’re not completely to blame for Josef’s death. NOT completely. Probably not even mostly. There are a lot of culprits who should be named and shamed. LIke Murder on the Orient Express, when it turns out they ALL dunnit. That’s pretty much true of all the folk on my shit list. But as I walked past their pristine, respectable food court in Ilford today, I spat on the ground.

Josef isn’t dead yet, by the way. But as my mate Alan correctly observed…he’s a dead man walking.

I first met him on my first night behind Marks and Spencer, where they play the constant ‘beep, beep, beeping’ all night to mentally disturb the people sleeping there. They stop it around 3am, a particular twist of the knife, and you exhale, hoping desperately that you might finally get some rest. It starts again 20 minutes later and and you hear your mates from Romania. Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Portugal and elsewhere collectively moan. Apart from the ones who have had so many substances they are comatose. One night I had had enough and it was the anger at the injustice and the cruelty as much as the beeping which kept me from sleeping. I dragged my sleeping bag down to behind the police station and got my head down there for a few hours. It was a dangerous move. Behind M&S, under the bridge, no matter how horrible that sound is, you know you have your mates around you as back-up. I was alone behind the police station but I’d picked up a brick on the way to defend myself and I was well hidden by the bushes should anyone intrude.

Josef was one of the sensible ones. The others were often more disturbed, less mature, more flammable. But he just seemed to get on with it. A cool head on broad shoulders. I felt safer knowing he was there and the fact that he was a good guy shone out of his piercing grey-green eyes. I would always see him on his bike, off looking for work, he didn’t drink much, if anything at all, and he would show me his artwork. He was a very talented man.

I didn’t see him for a couple of months until I was walking through Ilford a few weeks back and i saw an ambulance stretchering a man off the streets. It was him. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He appeared flat-out drunk. His street friends gathered to try and get him to come-to and eventually he was driven away to hosital. I prayed the rest might do him good. At least he had a bed and shelter and he would be away from that infernal beeping.

I saw him today. I really have to avoid going through Ilford because when I see my street friends I inevitably give away more of my time, money and food than I really can afford at this moment. But it’s impossible to walk by. I love these people and I could so easily be him.

His face was all puffed up and his shoulders sunken, a shadow of the man I used to sit and chat about his art with, just a few weeks ago. I made him a sandwich out of the reduced-price sausage and bacon and bread I had packed in my bag for lunch. And then a second one because he hadn’t eaten for two days. He was incoherent and crying. I said ‘This isn’t like you Josef!’ He said,’ it isn’t me. it’s my twin brother.’ I told him I don’t recognise him and to please see a doctor urgently. I told him I’d take him to a hospital but he had other plans.

He told me he is seeing visions. He sees flashes before his eyes. Later I found out that him and many of his friends from Eastern Europe have started drinking Ethanol for £1 a litre. They will be blind, then dead, within weeks.

So why did my sensible friend suddenly lose the plot and decide to self-destruct? Why did a thoroughly calm and intelligent man break and decide to give up on everything? Why was he mentally disturbed in the first place?

Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing and I’m pointing the finger at you Marks and Spencer. Sure, you didn’t actually come along and bludgeon him to death with a spade. But you may as well have done. If you still feel like enjoying M&S’s frou-frou food court delights, feel free. But frankly today put me off their prawn cocktail butties forever.

If people who ignored safety rules are responsible for the manslaughter of those who died in Grenfell Tower, then dear old Marks are responsible for the mental deterioration of my good friend and now his inevitable, eventual death, they are responsible for the rapes of girls who leave the safety of the commune behind their store and get attacked in the park, the people like myself who may have got stabbed because they took themselves off to somewhere unsafe to save their sanity from that horrible, horrible din.

I know it’s not just Ilford where they are doing this. If you care about this, I want you to help me organise a boycott of Marks and Spencer until this human crime against people who are doing no harm, and always tidy up after themselves. I contacted them and they flat-out refused to apologise and stop.

It’s funny, but the guy who set up Marks and Sparks in Leeds, all those years ago was an immigrant, just like the people they mentally torture outside their stores.

I’m tired of hand-wringing. Please HELP me get justice for my friends. Help me get this stopped.


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