One early morning at King’s Cross, on a cold but sunny day, I was pacing outside the station in a never-ending wait. A cup of hot coffee in one hand and a smoke in the other – Ed was goddamn late and I was freezing my ass out there.
There were not many people around except for me, few commuters, some guys who were setting up stands to serve food, and obviously a few bums begging for spare change. I didn’t really count how many of them were roaming about but I’m sure I must have engaged with them all.
They started approaching me one after the other and it took me a good few mins each to understand any of the words they were trying to speak – a drunk bum’s English mumbling is not the easiest to get.
I’m sorry, I wish I had a pound.
I always feel sorry for these people – abandoned to their fates and constrained to a stunted life. They, who bravely live and survive winters in a daily search for food and, potentially, some sweet booze to warm them up and maybe help them forget some sad past story.
I remember I used to know one in my area: he was Italian, in his late 30s. He had moved to London in the mid-90s and had found his fortune working in the IT field. Unfortunately, he was too young to keep control over the unlimited resources London had given him and squandered his fortunes to his very last pound. According to his story, the government had also turned their backs on him, and his family, well, probably he didn’t even have one.
So every time I see one of them, I always recall that guy – I search my pockets for a pound and feel so guilty if I can’t find any.
I’m sorry, I wish I had a …
Hang on a moment.
When I first came over, I didn’t even have the shadow of a pound. I lacked the language proficiency, the skills, the being comfortable in a new and different country, in a so big and alienating city. I, and so many other people just like me, had to find my way in: I started out washing dishes in a Moroccan restaurant at 2 quid an hour. No help, no support, nobody to speak with. I really didn’t have a pound.
Yet I made it. I worked my ass hard to a wealthy(ish) life. It cost a lot of effort and sacrifice, pain and sadness, desperation and, often, fear.
Other than me, these people were born here, they speak the language, they live in their own country. They were born with a least a pound, if not their own, one or two from the passers-by.
So I am sorry: every time I search my pockets, I myself wish I had had a pound.