I don’t know if I told you, but before all of this happened with me, and my own homelessness, I had been in Tbilisi, Georgia, finishing my book. I decided to do it there, because I could no longer afford the rent on my flat which had gone up £180 a month. When I got there, I found a beautiful land apart. Strange, and filled with intense light and crow-black dark. On my first night I was taken to a nightclub by a Georgian rugby player I had just met. As we danced this girl came past, casually removed the pint of water from my hand (really it WAS water!) took a gulp, and strolled off. I looked at my mate in surprise. He smiled and shrugged. ‘This is Georgia,’ he grinned. We share. And that really was my experience. There was not much money but often I would go into restaurants and be saved by old ladies in pinnies who then refused to let me pay, because they liked me and I was respectful.
I learned the only way to get them to let you pay was to look at them sadly and say, ‘If you don’t let me pay, it will hurt my heart!’. They would look back in horror. ‘It will hurt your heart?’ ‘Yes!’ They would then scuttle frantically back to the kitchen to collect the bill.
On one of my earliest nights in Tbilisi, I remember being in the park, festooned with wild dogs. I was sitting on a park bench, while they clambered all over me. The security guards who worked there told me to brush them off. ‘They’re dirty,’ they told me. I didn’t find them dirty, I found them to be beautiful.
A few weeks later, I woke up, crack of dawn, as I did again today, to write this. I couldn’t sleep. I had so much energy. I didn’t know what to do with it. This lovely little ginger dog, which I had met, on one of my first nights, decided he was gonna be my companion. He jumped at my side, then he ran ahead of me, all the way to the top of the park. It was a long walk, he kept looking back. I was looking for a shop, somewhere open, that would sell chacha, the legendary Georgian marching liquor, for later. I didn’t want much, just enough to calm my nerves. But I walked with my chest out, and my shoulders back. I knew enough then, to never show fear, even if, inside, I was petrified. Never show fear. We got to the top of the park, to Rustavelli Avenue, Tbilisi’s Oxford Street, and I assumed, at this point, he’d go back to his dog mates in the park, but he didn’t. He kept running ahead of me. He knew which way I was directed towards. We got to the end of Rustavelli, to the place which normally sells flowers, but wasn’t open yet, and the little dog saw this man emerging from the shadows and went fucking mental, woofing his head off. This man was a dark spirit, and my little ginger mate was protecting me from him.
On one of my last days in Tbilisi, perhaps my last, I can’t remember. Before my friend warned me, with love, to get out of town, I walked back through the park. It was later in the morning and my nerves were jangling. I was scared and no longer able to hide it from the world. There was a bench, half way up the incline, and I stopped to take a breath. All of a sudden, the biggest wild dog I had seen in the park, came at me. It was like a small horse. Massive. ‘Woof, woof, woof!’ I knew instinctively what to do. To hide my fear, ‘F*ck off, f*ck off , f*ck off,’ I yelled, as I chased it away, full of bravado, but not real courage. It ran off. My nerves were shattered.
Some months later, I was back in London and facing homelessness for the first time, I met this girl, let’s call her Asha. Dogs smell fear.
I’m not infused with anger. This is incredibly hard to write. Because I don’t want to hate on anyone. And I don’t hate these people, I really don’t. To hate them, would be to give them even more of the energy they stole from me. But they form part of my story, so I have to tell it. And yes, when I can bothered, I’m coming after them. Not revenge. I just don’t want them putting another person through what I went through.
So there’s Asha. A bully. A bitch. When I met her, I was wounded, severely, from some traumatic experiences while I was away. I was drinking heavily to cope with the memories. I found her on Gumtree. She smelled my vulnerability, and she preyed on it. She’s a very bad woman. This is how she makes her living. She led me to a house. She let me believe I could live there. That was never a possibility. She knew that. I borrowed the money off my sister, to pay the deposit. I had to sign a contract, it’s probably legally binding, whatever that fucking means. Anyway, the beautiful room, in the house that I craved, turned out not to be available. Not to people like me, people on benefits. She knew this. But she conned me, you see. Out of a large amount of my sister’s money.
In the end, I had to settle to for a disgusting room at the back of an internet cafe in Leyton. It was uninhabitable. Rat droppings all over the floor. No fire escape, wires everywhere. Filthy. I took it because I was desperate. When my friend came with me and saw, he knew I had to get out of that shithole. She kept the money. What was left, I drank. was so very scared and not thinking straight. I’d been knocked over too many times at that point. I’m not apologising for what I did. I think if you’d walked in my shoes, you’d have done the same. I dunno. Maybe you wouldn’t. But I did it. That bitch can burn in hell for what she did to me and what she does to others. More particularly the latter. Make no mistake, she WILL burn in hell, and justice on her, is not my business. Someone else will take care of that.
I have to stop now, to take a break, cos it’s killing me just writing this. I’ll return to it later. For now I need to recover, and repair my shattered nerves. I do that by listening to Abba. Asha was an amateur compared to what I have faced elsewhere. But she was undoubtedly a dog. And she smelled my fear.