I’m here most days. It’s my regular spot. The others seem to accept that, although sometimes someone new has drifted in and throws down his (or, nowadays, her) cardboard, fishes out the dog’s water bowl from his backpack, and settles down, and I have to suggest he finds another pitch, maybe next to the war memorial or just beyond the chippy near the cash machine, and usually they move on possibly hoping that they’ve made a friend in me, not that there’s much chance of that; in this community you learn very fast not to trust. Homeless on homeless – that’s the new danger.
The manager of the shop isn’t at all fussed about me being here. Sometimes he pops out, asks me what I’m writing about, maybe reads a little. He may even slip me the odd sheet of paper. He probably believes that having a writer as his homeless mascot will up the image of his discount store; adds a little je ne sais quoi. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. I think I’ve become a fixture here as far as the local citizenry is concerned and they’d kick up a fuss if he tries to move me on. Even the local constabulary turn a blind eye.
I generally do quite well, nearly all coins, mostly small stuff, but some heavier pieces every now and then; occasionally a bank note. Once in a while a punter will ask to buy a story and we’ll discuss why and if I think it’s because they’re simply being charitable I’ll say no and try and negotiate a straight donation; mostly they’re happy with that. When I do get a serious buyer, we’ll talk literature and poetry and about their likes and dislikes and then I’ll show them some scribbles and if there’s something they fancy, we’ll talk money, paper money of course.
The high street is a gold mine, the place to be if you’re going to write about people, humanity. You see them all here (we all need to shop); the rich, the poor, the good, the bad, the happy, the sad. Sometimes you just want to shout with joy, other times you struggle to hold back the tears. I wouldn’t give up this patch for all the tea in China; well, maybe – it all depends on market prices.
Usually around five o’clock, when the stores are all closed and the shoppers are queuing for buses or trains, making their way to their homes in the suburbs, I pack up my gear, give the street a grateful goodbye and make my way up the car park stairs to where Rusty is waiting for me in the Jag – the old Mark 2, not the XE – far too conspicuous. I will slide into the back seat, sip at the freshly made gin and tonic (one of Rusty’s specialities), lie back in the expensive leather upholstery, and think of the hot bath and three course meal that awaits.
Margaret will have all my work typed up by morning ready for my agent to view.