Monday, June 04, 2007

Adrift in London

I leave the British Museum to buy something near Goodge Street. Any excuse to walk through Bedford Square; the most well preserved and elegant Georgian square in London. Memories float upwards: of strawberries and champagne in copious quantities at Architecture Association summer shows, and of the AA itself - the bright young international things I taught there, the Escherian labyrinth of rooms, and the Falstaffian figure of Marc Cousins at the centre of all things theoretikal, always drinking, consuming, thinking, provoking...

All this floods back as I walk across the square, until a man on a bench calls out.

-Excuse me. I'm not being funny, but could you tell me what day of the week it is?
He wears a dark cherry-cum-purple coloured shirt, with only two buttons done up. He has shoulder length hair, balding at the top. He looks about 45. I look into his eyes. In patches, floating on his irises lie small, quiet pools of confusion and vulnerability.
- What day do you think it is?
- Its either Friday or Saturday, but I don't know which.
- Its Saturday. How come you don't know what day it is?
- Well, I was attacked last night near Warren St. See my stitches here...
He bends forward. I cannot see anything. Perhaps there is a suture underneath the hair. Perhaps not.
- I had to go to hospital didn't I?

He then tells me a little of his life: how he liked to sit on benches around London, how he had been attacked before, how he had been taken to a pyschiatric unit for a couple of years. How he now has a little flat nearby..

London, like all the big cities of the West, produces characters like this in abundance. Cast adrift, confused into the world, clutching at meanings no longer available for their grasp, or idiot savants with visions of the apocalypse dripping into their beer cans. One can quickly become a saint, walking round, focusing one's attention on all those who have lost themselves.

The last time I was here, I tried to talk to a bag lady near Tottenham Court Road late into the night. She was large, slightly hump-backed, swaddled in dirty rags, with the usual shopping trolley of artefacts nearby. I asked if she needed anything. She flew into a salivous rage, spitting expletives at me with a Teutonic twang. I had to leave quickly.

The confused man did not want to walk with me back to the hospital. I told him if he had a head injury, he must go back for a check-up: concussion may well be the reason why he had forgotten the date. He promised me he would go later. I left him, only to bump into a reedy man with a labrador on one shoulder and an old guitar on another.

- Excuse me mate. You can't spare some change can you? I'm starving and need to feed my wife and dog...

I give him the rest of my change, riding the wave of my saintly mood, as I leave Bedford Square behind for the scramble of Tottenham Court Road.


The Pseudo-Independent 10:02 am  

You are a very kind person despite the fact that beggars are frowned upon by some members of society as lazy, I still do give even when its the last I have. I do not think all beggars are lazy. Society may have contributed to their problems. Wtf: I dont even know what am on about. But I can see you have a nice heart - a very kind person.

Anonymous,  12:08 pm  

pseudo, you are right. I also thinks jeremy is a very kind hearted person. My encounter with him as been entirely virtual and his generosity of spirit, and willingness to share his contacts to somebody he has never met and will probably never meet has been very humbling. So reading this post made me realise what a good person he must be. I often don't agree with many of his views, but I am surprised that he hasn't allowed that to stop him helping me.

I must admit that admire his fearlessness.

answer this: do you do any work?
To Pseudo - same question to you too. You are always leaving insightful comments on other people's blog.

Name Withheld.

Anonymous,  2:06 pm  

I do feel that some people in the street need help and money but to be honest majority are alcoholics and drug addicts, the British system is built to have social saftey nets, it has free housing for the poor, money, etc etc, so why should i coming form a country without a single safety net go and give away foreign curency which would be of more use at home.

Not to be cruel or sound uncaring , but i feel a lot of them are simply crac heads who should be taken to rehab, washed up and motivated to work!!

I would rather take all the 2p,5p,10p and other change i have save it all convert it and when i am in Nigeria use it to provide for people who need it!

But since everyone if being soo nice..I will join the crowd and say "oh how nice, what a nice thing to do" NoT!!!!

The still anonymous, OLU

Christian Writer 2:24 pm  

Dear anonymous

Please don't start bigging up Jeremy, otherwise some of us will never hear the end of it.

Agaracha,  2:49 pm  

All in a days stroll :)

The Pseudo-Independent 4:24 pm  

@My dear anonymous name withheld

Despite his relationship with a fellow Nigerian the poor guy is sometimes misunderstood. I think he has a beautiful mind.
However, on the subject of work, did you mean to ask whether I graduated from the UK with a 2(i) in B.Sc. Software Engineering?
Or whether I subsequently did study for an MA in Economics at Durham?
Or did you mean whether I have worked with IBM in Paris?
Let me see...ok...did you mean to ask whether I have worked for Cable & Wireless UK? Ok, I get it; you mean to ask about my most recent work as a consultant with BT in merging the data and voice networks of certain UK financial institutions? The work with BT is so demanding and involves a lot of country wide travel, sometimes on plane, other times by train (when I can find the time to browse the internet and blog – leave comments - via my cell phone/laptop) and others when I can be bothered to drive.
Is this the work you are asking about? A Job where you are never in the same place for more than a week! Manchester the other week, Newcastle the next, Reading, Northern Ireland etc and so it goes until you may have gone round all the branches, is this what you meant to ask about? Lol :)
Well I can tell you all about it if you are interested as I’ll be in Nigeria later on this week. You can get in touch with me by email, if you wish?
btw: i love your perkiness

Anonymous,  7:04 pm  

from anon 1. Ok Pseudo I get it. I just often wonder how people have the time to do all they do and still have time for these blogs. all I do is read them. I look at you and the likes of Jeremys of this world I wonder how they do it. Then I console myself and say they must have some trust funds they live on. But you're right you don't need to be a trustafarian to have passion and be active. Maybe one day when I grow up I will be able to organise my life more productively.

I didn't mean to big up Jeremy at all. It is just that...

Akin 11:23 pm  

You really have been in the heart of Yorubaland - only agbe could have had you in the middle of those animist grottos and suddenly adrift in London.

Are we seeing the advent of Rèmí of Ìrágbìji?

Who would have thought - Agbe gbé mi délé - was about returning to London.

Agbe is the "Beam me up Scotty" of Yoruba animism.

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