I used to be very trusting before all this, you know. Fairly happy-go-lucky provided that I followed my instincts and not the dictats of modern life. And then, last summer, just before I ended up on the streets for the first time, I finished my first published book. It was my pride and joy. Maybe pride came before a fall. I dunno.
These things seem to happen to me. The day before I got made homeless for the second time, I had performed stand-up comedy down in Vauxhall for the first time. Like most things in my life, it happened by accident. I’d gone into a coffee shop where they were selling my book, to ask if they’d sold any that week. They hadn’t. Drat. But there was a nice man in there called Tim who was looking for someone to be the centrepiece of their improvisational comedy night. How could I say no? It was serendipity.
And I did well, even though I do say so myself. It was a buzz and I sold loads of copies, mostly to Americans who I think were glad to come across someone who told them how Europe was just as f*cked up as their own country. I felt proud of my book and proud of myself for doing something which was so far out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t an ego pride. I’d tapped into something universal which seemed to be giving me the words I needed. I felt honoured to be conferred with the duty of passing on an important message. As I do now. Four nights later I was in casualty on a drip. Five nights later I was kipping on the floor of Stratford shopping centre. Never a dull moment, hey?
And it’s hard writing this blog. For three reasons. One; because I’m sitting in Ilford library shouting at people as kids run and scream around me. A man shouts loudly down his phone which rings every two minutes and they seem to have adopted a ‘no silence’ policy. It’s ridiculous and I’m losing my temper. It’s never very far from being lost and, y’know, at least it seems to motivate me to do stuff. But this rude and disrespectful society which we seem to have landed in, seems to be crushing my spirit. I’ve taken enough for a lifetime. There is no peace.
Secondly, in writing this, I am reliving things which are probably best off forgotten. They say, get it all out on paper (or computer). Well, it would be a waste of an experience not to. Especially when it might help another human being. But sometimes it knocks me for six just to recall what I’ve lived through.
Thirdly, this is called ‘Diary of a Rough Sleeper’ but it’s actually about so much more than that or politics, but take from it what you will. There is stuff I want to say, which I will probably get around to, but it will lose a lot of people, I know. Because I talk about the spiritual side of life, about the things we cannot know and are not able to understand. Over the last year I have witnessed divinity and the opposite of divinity. Like I say, never a dull moment. It doesn’t happen to everybody, clearly. But it happened to me and it was somehow connected to me writing that book where I spoke about Nazis, the Vatican, dark destructive forces among us. My book wasn’t meant to be about that, it was meant to be about how to get cheap flights, but when I travelled to Europe I saw the lessons of history thrown up in the thirties and forties and felt compelled like never before to write about it. I realised how, in British schools, we are taught a lie about our past. If you’re not honest about what has gone before you are doomed to repeat it. Little did I know, upon my return, that those forces came roaring back in Europe and North America.
Again, I shouldn’t really speak about Brexit because it is not the remit of this blog, But remit-Schmemit. I don’t have all the answers but I do know I flew back to a changed city after Brexit where people felt able to say what had been unsayable (because it was plain wrong) or ‘political correctness’ as the Daily Mail would have you believe.
As a homeless man, I guess, logically I should be pro-Brexit, right? Errrm, well no. Firstly, because I don’t differentiate between people according to where they are born. I am that citizen of the world who Theresa May cursed and said was a ‘citizen of nowhere’ at the Tory Party conference. Maybe she was correct about the latter. I certainly struggle to identify with this country now, after it left me for dead.
But logically, I should be pro-Brexit. Less foreigners mean more homes, right? Well, no actually. First of all, ‘benefits tourism’ is a lie. My homeless friends from Eastern Europe don’t GET benefits. That’s why they are out there dying. Secondly, people are homeless because we have no homes. So what do we need? Money to build affordable homes AND (wait for it…!) builders! Chucking out ‘low skilled’ east European labourers is NOT going to solve the biggest post-war problem this country has ever faced. The housing crisis. We need them.
Thirdly, this whole problem was caused by Tory greed. Contrary to popular belief, the influx of East Europeans and others, skilled or otherwise, was potentially good for this country. They were predominantly young, they DIDN’T sit on their arses collecting benefits, and they paid taxes.
So the economy got a shot in the arm. These enthusiastic young workers helped pay the pensions we could never have afforded, through their contributions to the state. And there was even money left over. But when you add several million people to your population, what you need is to invest the takings in infrastructure. There should have been tens of thousands more homes built, transport improved, schools, spending on health services. This all could have been done. But did they? Did they heck. They used the windfall to lob 5per cent off the top rate of income tax. And now the very people who came here and paid for the tax cuts for the very rich are being blamed for the problem. It’s never the rich to blame, is it?
Maybe they should go back, I don’t know. I certainly would if I had another passport. The working class of this country, of whatever background, has been screwed over and I wish I had somewhere else to go. But blaming them is a red herring. They were sold a lie and now their kids get abused in school and told to ‘go home’ by racist parents, many of home are from immigrant backgrounds themselves. And you know, one fifth of fighters against the Nazis in the Second World War Battle of Britain were from Poland, so a little more respect and historical awareness wouldn’t go amiss.
Next time I’ll tell you more about how I wrote a book and became homeless. It’s a strange old story and not for the faint hearted. I still don’t understand all of it, but I attempt to interpret it as best I can. There are some dark forces out there and during the process of finishing my book, I awoke to them. And I believe, them to me. To say it was a bit of a shock is like saying Boris Johnson is a bit of a liar. More soon…