Friday 6 November 2015

Down and out poet

Yesterday St Martin-in-the-Fields, the church at the edge of Trafalgar Square, held its annual service to commemorate the homeless and destitute people who had died in London in the past year.  The number this year was a record 194.

Apparently the organisers try to find some personal detail to attach to each name, just to remind us that these are people, and not just a statistic.

Here is a poem written by one of them, David Rose:

After a boom there's always a bust;
Ask who's to balm and they'll tell you it's us.
It's not greedy bankers or embezzling elites;
It's somehow the fault of those with the least;.
The old, the disabled and us on the streets

Perhaps one of the exam boards could include it in GCSE English Literature:  explain the context and evaluate.

I was at college in London in the late 1950s and can't remember seeing any beggars on the streets or people sleeping rough.  Nor can I remember seeing any in Leeds, the nearest big city to my home.  There was the occasional tramp or vagrant but they, perhaps wrongly, were seen as rather romantic figures.  They were said to have a secret sign language and we learned it in the Scouts.

Mass homelessness and destitution there was not. And we are as a society some three to four times richer now than we were then.  We should be ashamed of tolerating the present situation.

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