Monday, February 02, 2015

Charity Begins - Monday

Hurrying across the park I spot the aggressive begging group. I need a quick detour, even though I haven’t go time for the “cup of tea” they expect me to believe they’ll be buying with any cash extorted from passers by.

I’ve done the charity bike rides and the sponsored walks - even estate agents need some good publicity - but I’m starting to tire of the excessive demands for my hard-earned  income. It won’t be long before one of these be-whiskered drunks - probably the one that popular opinion has it is a woman - starts to quiz me for my bank details and expects me to sign a direct debit form.

‘Oi can see you city boy.’ Yells one of the group, gesticulating lewdly in my direction. I’m rather pleased with the boy moniker. It’s one only appended nowadays by pensioners and the chronically myopic, but the universally accepted tosser motion I can do without.

‘Yeh. How about helping the homeless you capitalist bastard!’ Screams a high-pitched voice. That’ll be the woman then, unless the cold nights sleeping in our office doorway have affected the collective testosterone. 

I continue my circuitous route around the group, offering another universally recognised sign. A wide-armed, hand wobbling gesture to convey a shortage of money. It’s not that convincing, but probably wiser then the single digit riposte I nearly deployed. The nights are dark and I still need to get to the car park every evening.

‘We knows where you work.’ Hollers a third drunk throatily. And I know where you sleep, I think sourly. I’ve swept enough human detritus into the gutter over they years - and I’m not just talking  metaphorically.

‘You alright?’ Asks negotiator S with a look of concern, as I scurry through the door.
‘Yes, just being hassled by the unlicensed bandits.’ I tell her briskly.
‘The new lettings agency?’ 
No. That’s a whole other story. I enlighten her.

‘Oh it’s not their fault.’ Says S.
 It probably is.
‘They’ve just had a few bad breaks.’ She continues, as I shrug off my coat. Try having three sales fall-through on a Friday morning, I think uncharitably. Then daytime drinking is understandable.
‘They are all scumbags.’ Insists fat mortgage man M, waddling towards his office. ‘I’m damned if I’m feeding them.’ I know, but open goals are never as satisfying.

‘Look, if I thought they’d spend it on food or even the dogs they all seem to have, I’d give them some money.’ I tell S, her look of disapproval unsettling me. M’s disdainful dismissal of the rough sleepers even made me bridle. It’s not easy fluctuating between left of centre, right of centre and completely off centre.

‘You shouldn’t help them out it just makes things worse.’ States B from her lettings desk. ‘Anyway,’ continues B. ‘You may have repossessed some of their homes, so you’ve probably done enough already.’
I don’t actually repossess them. It’s the lender with the power of the courts and a pretty scary bailiff behind them, but I’m there along with the locksmith.
‘They should get a job.’ Suggests assistant manager T, joining the conversation. ‘And maybe try living off commission if they really want something to drown their sorrows over.’ S looks at me with a frown. 

What? It’s not as if I decided to flog off all the social housing at a discount, make the planning process so labyrinthian it takes years and not build enough homes for a burgeoning population.
And I haven’t personally been responsible for impregnating females and fathering the best part of the 750,000 births per year, statisticians say the UK has. In fact, the beggar offering the wanker gesture was closer to the truth.

‘Well I won’t be renting anything to those types.’ States B firmly.
‘They need somewhere to live.’ Says S passionately.
‘Other than our office doorway.’ I add, wishing immediately I hadn’t.
S scowls at me and I shrug and walk towards the message book, change jangling in my suit pocket in a copper, zinc and nickel chiming admonishment. 

‘Can you help me with a pound for my bus fare home?’ Asks a scruffy girl as I cross the park later.

Well, what would you have done…?


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