This isn’t a funny blog. Its something that I have thought about lots lately which is what I’m going to try and use my blog to write about from now on. Apologies if you think its a ‘touch sanctimonious’* but its not at all intended to be.
I live in a ‘nice area’. That sounds like a boast but it should be immediately counteracted with the knowledge that my flat is an anomaly in that area, i.e not very nice and quite cheap due to a substantial damp problem. I just very much lucked out with where it is, and I’m constantly smug about it. The little village type area at the top of my road has all you need in it and tons of overly expensive women’s clothing shops and designer furniture outlets that I will never need. There are possibly almost more fancy cafes than nearby residents and far, far too many buggies, all year round, making the high street like a low thrills bumper car track during every visit. There are some nice smiley well to do people in the area. There also some celebrities in the area. I think the combination of these two things causes the rest of the population to usually be quite rude, eager to barge you out of the way in order to get hummus. I’m not too bothered by this. I’ve taken to shouting quite loudly ‘how fucking rude’ amongst other loud swearing comments and it seems to make them look sad. These are the same rude people who block my car in so I can’t move it when I need to get to work, or drive all the 4x4s down the narrow double parked streets that struggle to fit two bicycles at any one time. The self importance is sometimes overwhelming. But its also expected in such a ‘nice area’. So overall, aside from that, it’s still what you might call a ‘nice area’.
In the last four or five months I’ve noticed a real increase in homeless people around here. I’m not by any means saying it has got less nice or any worse because of it. Nothing of the kind. Its more simply that its very noticeable. To be fair I’ve found it very noticeable all over London recently. Central London appears to have more people sleeping on the streets, and more people begging for money than I’ve seen in quite a long time. Walking through various parts of the city on my way to gigs my eye keeps catching sleeping bags in doorways, and I’m almost certain that while this has always been the case, its currently as bad as I remember it being when I was a child in the 80’s. I still remember seeing Cardboard City (something that’s been conveniently missed from the news of late) when I was quite young and not really understanding how anyone could ever be forced to live like that. That’s from someone who at the time regularly made space ships and forts out of card for fun, but I was still able to distinguish that those residents weren’t just playing ‘knights’. It feels like times are becoming like that again now. Austerity is clearly and quite obviously causing homelessness to rapidly increase.
I’ve lived in my area for nearly 3 years now, and in that time there’s always been a very friendly man who sells the Big Issue by the nearest tube station. Then there was also the younger man who was either by the Sainsbury’s or the Marks and Spencer’s depending on the need for shelter from the rain. But now, since last October, there’s also the man with his dog by our bus stop, another man outside M&S, another woman outside Sainsbury’s, one man by the 24 hour shop and one or two others who are sometimes in various places near the roundabout. I must admit I’m not a saint when it comes to helping them. I often don’t give the homeless people any money but that’s honestly because as a self employed person, I rarely have such a thing as ‘spare change’ but if I do, then they can have it. If I don’t, they can at least have an acknowledgment that they aren’t invisible and that I am genuinely sorry I can’t help.
I often watch while waiting for a bus, or buying food, the countless people in nice clothes, with big buggies and no doubt 4x4s as they just charge past. No eye contact, no excuses, no acknowledgement that the homeless are people at all, or anything less than invisible. I often wonder if the ‘nice people’ can see them at all. Or maybe they can, and maybe it scares them because the little bubble they live in, in this ‘nice area’, is being affected by things they are usually completely apathetic about or assume won’t ever affect them. Maybe there’s a whole world of confusion and misplaced disgust, and a fear that it could happen to them one day. So as a result, they can’t cope with even letting them know they’re there. I hope this is the case. I hope they are all realising how bad things are getting under this government, and how a lack of caring for humanity and support for those that need it is causing those people to have to live on the streets. Or maybe they aren’t. Maybe now its sunny again the ‘nice people’ don’t think it’s too bad that some people have nowhere to live. And this ‘nice area’ does look oh so very lovely when its sunny.
Here is a very good piece on homelessness by Alex Andreou.
* Three Weeks review of my Edinburgh show 2010. No, I’ll never live that down.