Thursday, 7 August 2014

Action And Contemplation

It's difficult to say which of the two is harder sometimes. The double strand of the rope of faith, or in the words of the song my mother used to sing, in respect of marriage ( And what an outdated old-fashioned notion THIS is.... .) "You can't have one without the other!"

Love and marriage 
Love and marriage
They go together like a horse and carriage
And you can't have one
No you can't have one 
The other

Frank Sinatra or Perry Como: so very long ago, and just a snatch. Have I ever told you how incredibly happy my childhood was? Mum, singing all sorts of schmaltzy  songs. Dad playing 'In a Persian Market' or 'Panis Angelicus' on his newly-acquired record player. Or the  Inkspots, now I come to think of it. Funny thing about reminiscence, one fragment of memory trawls up another ... 

Digression. A useful ploy when you don't want to get to where you're going because you think if you don't write it, it may not have happened, and this is nonsense. 

I wonder, often, if I do what I do on the streets of Gloucester, for no other reason than to feel good about myself, and the best thing to do with that thought is to agree with it, and get on with the doing of it, because it gets me out of the house and puts me in the way of some stories that may become a poem or a blog, or, one day, the Great Work, that right here and now, and for sure, I know I'll never get round to writing. 

Eliza's in a bad way. Years of injecting herself with heroin, with fewer and fewer places left to pump in the stuff , have landed her twice in hospital, with embolisms, and have left her with an infection in her  pelvis that is resistant to antibiotics, and this is bad news. She's forty-two, and at the end of the line. I hold on to Eliza in something that I would once have called prayer, but right now I'm going through a disillisioned patch, so don't.  

Billy Jones. The old tramp who sat for a year after it closed,  despairing , outside what used to be the Night Shelter, in noisy and drunken protest. I would feed him sympathy and pie and chocolate and he would bellow out his disgust at the 'powers that be' that had stopped funding the place that was as much of a home as Billy, 'I'm the last real tramp in Gloucester!' wanted.  He used to make me laugh.

He no longer tramped, as far as I know, he just sat in the sun and drank himself into oblivion. A few weeks ago, he amused me, and  everyone to whom I've told the story,  by eyeing me up and down and saying,"You're not bad-looking for your age!" 

I'm writing as if  he's dead, aren't I? He's not. He's out on the streets somewhere on police bail  having thrown a punch in a drunken brawl that left a man dead. Suddenly Billy's story, always a dark farce, has turned to tragedy.

Terry and Sheila are being evicted because they are up to their eyeballs in debt, and which, for some reason Terry's not to sure about, Sheila won't pay back. Terry takes no responsibility for this, but I know him: he's not very intelligent and can't. He's anxious and sad and I remember how bright and smiley he can be, and I'm sad too. 

Maxine's  broke because she told The Council she had two homeless people staying with her in her flat, and The Council said they were a fire risk and had to get out, and, 'Oh, by the way you owe us £300 in rent for the period they stayed with you.'   "Never do anyone a good turn, " Maxine says. "What we need is a Revolution," I say, and just at that moment, I probably meant it. "In the meantime, don't tell The Council when you have someone staying with you. Let them find out - the outcome is the same." 

Maxine's friend, Jesus, (Yes, really, 'Jesus-Mary' in fact.) leers in her direction. You can tell I've taken a dislike to him, can't you? He's a trim little man with piercing blue eyes, eager to impart his particular take on parenting:

"I have seventy-five children in thirty-five countries." He smiles, proudly, having given more thought and energy to the "Go forth and multiply" bit of the book of Genesis than I think wise. My face  freezes in a rictus of disbelief. I'm not here to condemn the world, but to save it, and anyway, I'm speechless. 

Eddy, whom I like enormously, and is here becaus he's too sick to work, had a hypo. A chocolate bar magically restores him, and I am reminded of my father, who was also a diabetic, and whose eighty-fifth birthday it would have been yesterday. My father was bright and kind just like Eddy, who's  being robbed blind by his stepsons, and doesn't care, and whose life revolves around his wife, who's living with Huntingdon's disease in a specialist care home in Ledbury. Eddy's easy to like, and suddenly I realise how grateful I am to him for this. 

Well, today, I don't feel so good about myself. I am sad and disillusioned and wondering if it wouldn't be better to just stick to gardening. 

Thing is, I know it will pass. Next Monday I'll put on the Salvation Army tabard and set to peeling spuds and serving tea, not because I make any difference to the lives of the men and women I meet there, but because, somewhere deep, where I can still pray, I know they make a difference to me. 

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