It’s funny but the hardest things to reveal here are my feelings about God. I know it will alienate many people. Maybe confuse the message of what I’m writing. If there is one. A message, I mean. Not a God. I KNOW there’s a God. But anyway, this is stream of consciousness writing and I don’t really care what anyone thinks. Stay with me though. If you’re sceptical. You might just need it one day.
The strangest thing is, the vast, vast majority of homeless people believe in a higher power, call him, or her what you like. I’m calling him God. It’s all the same anyway.
Why on earth would life’s most unfortunate people believe in God? I used to think, before it happened to me, that it must be desperation on behalf of these poor souls. Clutching at straws. But that’s not true. Down there in the gutter you really feel his presence. When you lose count of the near-death experiences, the wafer thin happenstances that saved your life, meeting exactly the right person at the right time. And finding just what you need when you need it, you just can’t deny his presence. I’ve never won the lottery. I don’t think that was my destiny. It probably would have been the most dangerous thing that could ever have happened to me. But I have lost count of the million to one coincidences which kept me going just another day. Sometimes I wish I had it easy but that just doesn’t seem to be my path. I don’t know, but I suspect I’m being educated. I think I needed to be educated. Just to be grateful for what I have. Still, I wouldn’t half love a week in Greece. This life is hard on the heart no matter how strong you become.
But him upstairs, he always looks after me. I could give you a million examples but it’s hard to grasp when it’s not your own experience. Like looking at someone else’s holiday slides. To an outsider they may seem coincidences. But you know when they’ve happened to you.
There was the day I dragged my arse from behind M&S to go sing at the station. I had absolutely no money, hadn’t slept a wink because of the beeping, and really wasn’t in the mood for ‘Dancing Queen’. But hey ho, I just knew I had to do it. I, however, as always kept my eyes peeled. Halfway to Ilford station there was a discarded Oyster Card. I waited for ten minutes to see if anyone returned for it, then I went to the station and found it was unregistered with £15 on it. I nearly jumped for joy but also felt guilty that someone had lost it. I went back and waited some more. When no one came back I cashed it in. Kerching. Gave a few quid away, bought some food and went to sleep in the park. I awoke several hours later, refreshed and ready to belt out Dancing Queen to the public of Newbury Park.
Then there was last Christmas, when I actually had somewhere to live. But no money. I was still smoking at the time, and gasping for a cigarette. I know its a horrible waste of money but I picked up a fag during one of my most desperate nights on the streets and it really gets into your psyche when you are stressed through poverty. That’s why tax on cigarettes and alcohol are taxes on the poor. Don’t punish them, make their lives easier and then they may give up. We can’t all afford acupuncture, aromatherapy and a week in Switzerland to give up our bad habits. Just give us a f*cking break. Anyway, the addictiveness of Britain’s poor all helps fund tax cuts for the rich. There is no real desire to tackle the underlying cause. Otherwise they’d use the taxes to fund rehabs and trauma counselling instead of knocking 5p off the top rate and hammering the poor all over again whilst pretending it’s all for ‘their own good’. They know very well that it isn’t but addiction does help keep people in their place. They know this.
I digress, as usual, anyway this last Christmas day I was gagging for a fag. God clearly judges me less than Theresa May does. I left my house to look for cigarette butts. I was going to turn right, to head to the station but I got a strong urge to turn left. This was counter intuitive because I knew everywhere would be closed in that direction. Anyway I ignored my head (as you always must) and followed my gut. Some five yards from my home there was a cigarette packet with four left in. I said a prayer of thanks. The next day I was leaving the supermarket and this guy ran across the car park and presented me with a big packet of tobacco. I thanked him and asked him who he was and he just winked and gave me an elusive smile, then ran off. I think he was an angel.
I was going through a bit of a purple patch at that point. It always happens when I’m most in need. ‘Something always comes up’ said my housemate at the time, Michelle. She was right, as always, but it can play havoc with your nerves, like walking a tightrope every day. I didn’t understand what it was that compelled me to give my money away when I could have kept it and spent it all on booze, fags and obscure chilli sauces. But something bigger than me that I didn’t quite know kept telling me to do it. So I did.
This one day, when I still had a home, before being made homeless for the second time, I was absolutely borassic (that’s northern for skint*). I’d met this girl who literally zoomed in on me, like a seagull on a chip. She had no money. Nothing. Just a tomato to her name. I fed her and bought her cigarettes because, well, I liked her. But I found myself absolutely exhausted and penniless. Mick, my housemate, pointed out the bleeding obvious. She was on the gear. I don’t know why I sometimes can spot something which everyone else has failed to see and then other times, miss what is right under my nose. Anyway, she squandered my money but more importantly my energy. I was gutted and trying to work out how on earth I was gonna make ends meet.
I went up to the station to pick up dog ends. On the way back, at the end of my street, where I often used to find exactly what I needed, was a brand new pair of larger ladies’ slacks from Marks and Spencer. They were pristine, with all the labels still attached. It had just started to drizzle and they clearly hadn’t been out there long. It was help from above, a little wink from the universe to tell me, I believe, that I was on the right lines.
The next day I took them to Stratford M&S and obtained a refund. £28.50. Woo hoo. I bought myself a nice supper, a bottle of wine, some cans and food for my homeless mate Benji who busks outside the station and some tobacco for Mick and Michelle.
These things happen to me so often now that I barely register surprise when they do. It’s just like, ‘Ah thanks God!’…still sometimes I do get it wrong.
A few weeks later I was walking past McDonalds when I saw a huge roll of paper towels in the street. I was particularly blissed out at that moment and thought ‘how wonderful, God has sent us some toilet roll.’ We had run out you see.
I bent down and prepared to pop them in my bag but jumped back when this man ran at me fists flailing. I magnificently dodged his punch. I’m surprisingly quick on my feet. ‘What you f*cking doing?’ He screamed. Oh eck. God hadn’t sent us toilet roll after all. It belonged to the window cleaner who was using it to polish up the outside of Maccy D’s. Oops! 😉 I considered trying to explain that I had simply got confused and thought God had sent me loo roll but considered it much simpler just to let him think I’m just a common or garden criminal. I swear though, somewhere up in the sky I could hear God chuckling! ‘You dizzy f*cker,’ he was saying…
* Apparently the term ‘Borassic’ was originally coined by cockneys, as rhyming slang, from Borassic Lint, whatever that is.Thanks to my cockney friend Greg for informing me of this. 😉 Anyway, it sounds better in Northern)…