In the town where I reside the main shopping area is a fairly large sprawl. For all you Americans, yes, I know, it’s barely a block – but for England, it’s a large sprawl. We are a tiny island. If I spread my legs I’m in danger of trespassing on my neighbour’s land – although this is due to my exceptionally large
Included in this sprawl is a small subway area, with a couple of over-passes, some circles of benches and a few grassy knolls. This is a favourite haunt for the street beggar.
Offering begging advice on-line may seem futile, what beggar is going to have the internet (you’d be surprised)? But in these times of Sherbet Dib-Dab – sorry, Double-Dip recession, we could any one of us find ourselves set low by misfortunes indiscriminate doings.
In England certain measures were introduced a few years ago into employment law. If you had been working for twenty years as a cleaner, you suddenly found yourself asked to prove you could perform to NVQ Level 2 in English and Maths. The fact that you had been doing your job fine for two decades without them was irrelevant. No NVQ’s, no job.
This has led to a lot of capable people being ‘professionalised’ out of work. It has also led to people good with their hands having to sit on them because their not good at exams.
Once you are out of work, getting a job is a nightmare. Gaps in your work history are seen as signs of bad character, as if the only possible thing you could have been doing while not working is sacrificing babies and smoking crack. Or perhaps smoking babies and selling your crack.
Once you are on benefits you are subject to proving you are really looking for work. This includes being sent on courses to take your NVQ’s (Not Very Qualified). If you fail these you will eventually be considered to be not trying hard enough and will have your benefits removed. At this point you have a last resort of busking.
Except you don’t. Because even here you have been ‘professionalised’ out of the market.
You cannot busk in this city without a licence. This is all part of the democratic process of ensuring that if you are f*ed, you stay f*ed. People with warm homes and jobs decided they didn’t want to hear bad music for a few seconds each day on the way to and from their comfortable destinations. So a law was passed which forbade busking unless you passed an audition.
Now ‘buskers’ in our town all have amplifiers, posh guitars and CD’s for sale. It makes for a nicer listen (sometimes) but actually removes the whole ‘cultural backdrop’ of what busking used to be.
Like most people, I have spent the odd weekend in town harpooning penny-whistle players. They are Satan’s pipers and killing them is generally acceptable to everyone – even the penny-whistlers. Yet I would rather someone was at least making some effort to earn their can of ‘Liver-Killer’, as opposed to having to suffer the out-and-out beggar.
The beggar believes everyone in the world is a twat. They must believe this, because they so often ask for ‘bus fare’ for many days in a row on the same street, clearly going nowhere on any f*ing bus. They ask for money for a ‘cup-of-tea’, as if we are to believe they want a cup-of-tea.
Look. I will respect your honesty, as I imagine many would. “Have you got 50p for a cup-of-tea?” NO, I bloody haven’t. Look at you! You hate tea – you clearly never drink tea, just as you never catch busses, just as you don’t catch trains or need to use a pay phone. Ask for beer money. Tell me you want beer money, and hell, I’ll give you beer money just for your F*ing honesty.
To help you out, here’s some other lines that will not be entirely convincing.
“Scuse me, have you got 50p for my trans-gender surgery?”
“Alright mate. You couldn’t spare 50p to support my nuclear decommissioning enterprise?”
“Hey buddy, this is an emergency. My name’s Bond and I have to get to Istanbul.”
However, I am more likely to give money to these requests, as I’d at least admire their originality.
Now, I will doubtless have upset the worthy cardigan worriers among us by being all down on scrounging bastards. Let me clarify.
I have worked for years helping the unfortunate, and I know what is available to the genuinely homeless and hungry. Giving money is just hastening death through lager.
I did go through a phase of buying food and giving them that, but I got filthy looks or abuse once too often.
So. If there are any beggars out there who happen to own a computer and be reading this blog (yeah, I know), or you one day find yourself there on the street, here’s my sage advice.
For f* sake smile sometimes. Bring a little light into people’s lives. The whole miserable face crap is so old and a total mistake. You will seriously increase your income if you spread happiness. People don’t feel sympathy for your saggy, baggy faced look of about-to-be-shot dog – they just feel uncomfortable and want to get away.
You have no money, no goods, no possessions, but you have an infinite supply of potential love. Stop just taking and make it a mutually beneficial transaction. Share a joke, pay a compliment or give a smile – and ask for f*ing beer money.