On my way back to where I’d parked my car, after another enjoyable night at Zebrano in Greek St with the cracking band I turned from Dean St on Oxford Street, which at 23.00 hours was still buzzy with cars, buses and people. As I walked along I noticed a lady walking slowly in front of me. She was, let’s say ‘large’, and walked with a cane. She carried a plastic bag and small rucksack on her back and as she walked slowly I noticed that her feet were bare. I drew up to her and heard that she was wheezing, and struggling to walk and I thought her bare feet must be hurting. I wondered if she had any shoes. As I passed her I turned and looked at her.
Many years ago I made a decision that if I saw someone who looked like they were in trouble I would offer help. I wouldn’t think twice. To my eternal shame and regret I haven’t always kept to that decision, and when I have it’s got me into some hot water but with Mark Dyer’s post from yesterday on my mind I thought if she hasn’t got any shoes I’ll just give her 20 fudging quid to get some shoes. I stopped and looked back at her.
“You all right ma’am?” I’ve started calling women ma’am.
“Yes thanks” she said, “I’m ok.”
“Ok, I just asked because I noticed that you don’t have any shoes.”
She started laughing.
“I’m not some mental case trudging the streets of London barefoot. I’m just flippin’ knackered from walking trying to get to a bus stop and my shoes were hurting so I took them off!”
She waved her plastic bag at me. I could see shoes in it.
“I’ve just been out to a party and because of the tube strike I have to find a bus to get me home.
I was walking with her now.
It was 11pm and even if I got home at 11.45 I’d have to be up ay 6am.
“Where do you live?’ I asked, realising that even if she said frikkin’ Ilford I’d have to drive her home.
“I live in Ealing” she said. I smiled faintly.
“OK,” I said “I’ll drive you home. I live in Ealing too.”
We walked the short distance to where my car was parked and on the way home she told me what she’d been doing in Soho tonight.
She had been to a gathering to commemorate the 15 anniversary of the bombing of The Admiral Duncan pub in Old Compton St in 1999 by the racist homophobe David Copeland. 3 people died in the blast. Copeland also planted bombs in Brick Lane and in Brixton. I believe no one was injured in those incidents. The lady to whom I was giving a lift was also very good friends with the bar manager at the time of the bombing. She talked about him with great love, describing his humour and kindness to people. If he saw that someone needed a hand he’d take people in, give them somewhere to live above the pub and some food and get them to the point where they could at least begin to get their lives on track. He was a kind and compassionate man, full of love for people. She described being with him was ‘like having a Reiki session’. His effect on the people around him was enormous and he was much loved.
His name was David Morley, and he was murdered in 2005 by a gang of youths in what was called a ‘happy slapping’ incident in Central London. Over 1,000 people attended his memorial.
I dropped her off at her house in a very nice part of Ealing and I drove the short way home. As I drove in deep silence I pondered on how, just as I’m at my lowest,feeling tired and despondent and fantasising about just how easy it would be for me to turn my back on the world and run away, someone, somehow always gets a message to me.