I headed home early today as I had a headache so bad it felt like my brain was trying to climb out of my skull to escape it. As I was unlocking my bike I heard a friendly, if slightly slurred voice ask if I was all right. Turning, I saw one of Vauxhall’s local drunk guys looking at me with toothless concern. ‘Cheer up gel,’ he said, and then added, ‘I love you but there’s nothing anyone can do about it.’ ‘Mmm,’ I said, ‘thanks…’ and got on my bike and pedalled away in bemusement.
But that wasn’t the end of it. I had to wait for the lights at Vauxhall Cross and so did he, so we had further conversation – or he did, and I confined myself to nodding and smiling and hammering repeatedly on the pedestrian crossing button in the hope that it might change quicker that way. ‘You mind how you go gel, wait for that green man,’ he advised me when a gap appeared. And then when gridlock had finally brought the cars to a stop he relented. ‘when it’s blocked, it’s blocked. You might as well cross, gel. And mind how you go…’ and we went our separate ways.
Is this just me? Or does everyone have tramps, drunks and assorted dossers appointing themselves their guardian angel from time to time? They tell me how to cross the road, they warn me about my bike, one even once stood up in Port Authority bus station in New York and told two people who were starting a fight in front of me that there was a lady present and they should mind their language. That was almost exactly half my lifetime ago, and yet I still don’t seem to have lost whatever it is about me that marks me out for attention. I don’t exactly mind. I just want to know what it is about me that makes them feel sorry for me, when really it should be the other way round.