Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Small Coins.

Like the shiniest coins in your money box as a child they may have little real value or significance, but sometimes the small incidents, the small memories, are the best and you’re afraid to touch them or revisit them too much in case they become dull.

This evening. I’m walking through the grass-lined war memorial outside the bus station that will provide me with transport home. It’s late, I’ve been kept back at my office two hours longer than need be and I’m exhausted. I didn’t sleep well the previous evening and am generally in a foul mood.

The memorial, at this time of night, is home to every cider-head, smack-rat, emo, goth, chav, homeless, skater-kid and radge-packet in the city. Basically they are representative of all the various tribes of humanity I despise and I just want to negotiate it in one piece without losing my temper and getting into a situation I will doubtless not come out the better of. I really don’t have the build for it.

I’m near the pillared-entrance to the small shopping centre at the back of the memorial that leads to my bus station when I notice an elderly man in ragged clothes and a bobble hat taking a circuitous route around the pillars, staring intently at the ground.

I come to the conclusion that he is either a) mental or b) homeless and is searching for money or viable cigarette-ends or c) most likely both. I alter my path to avoid contact with him. I can’t help him, it’s late and – do you know what – he’s not my problem.

Almost simultaneously a small group of radgies clock him as well. They’re the very worst sort. With an average age of fourteen years by the look of them, they are clad head-to-toe in either Bench or Kangol, dripping in Elizabeth Duke and have obviously been wagging-off school all day and stink of Lambert & Butlers.

And they’re girls. Which is so much worse. Empowered by the effect of their new-found hips, tits and arses they know they have a terrible influence over men that they do not yet fully understand, but still they know it’s there. And they also know that no man will strike either a child or a woman on the street. Being a strange mixture of both, they are fucking untouchable and they know it. They’re terrifying.

One of their number detaches herself from the radge-hive and starts heading toward the elderly mental homeless guy. Her shoulders are squared, her stride argumentative and she is reeking of fake tan, hormones, aggression and whatever they use to fix hair-extensions with.

Radge-Packet:
[At Elderly Homeless Mental] You! Aye. You. What ye dein’ like?

I slow my pace and turn around. It’s none of my business. And I may not have been prepared to do anything for the man, but I’m not going to stand by and watch him be tormented by an ASBO kid. Christ. All I wanted was to get home.

R.P: [Shouting] Aye. Yeah. Ye, like. Ah’m talkin’ to yuh.

It never happens often, but in situations like this I never know WHAT I’m going to do. I just know I’ll do something.

R.P: [Now squaring-up to Elderly Homeless Mental in the most confrontational manner possible] Looking for pennies are yu? Eh? I said- are you looking for coins?

My jaw is clenched. I start to walk over.

Elderly Homeless Mental:
[Confused, frightened] Oh, er, yes ….

R.P:
Reet. Well have this. [Proffers a small coin] It’s only ten pence but it’s all I’ve got. [With undiminished aggression] One of my stupid mates hoyed five pence ower there [gestures] so yu can probly find that too an’ aaal. Reet?

E.H.M:
Oh bless you. You’re an angel.

R.P:
Aye well.

She heads back to her cohorts and I trail behind as she’s on the way to where I need to be.

One of her companions asks her what the guy said. She replies with the same borderline-furious tone I now realise she has used all her life, and that her mother and father have probably used all their lives before her.

R.P:
Aye he said I was an angel, like.

Companion:
Aw.

I look at my watch. I’ve still time for not only my bus, but also a brief re-evaluation of humanity. I shall try and remember this. But not too often.

42 Comments:

OpenID queenwilly said...

Good story. And good on you for walking over, not knowing what would happen.

Gives you hope, doesn't it.

11:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah, you made me tear up... not especially hard to do, but still...
Suze

12:12 am  
Blogger Cristina said...

this story made my day!

12:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salt of the earth, innit.

Have a good day.

Ann Anon

9:01 am  
Anonymous Gwen said...

I second Cristina-made my day too. And made me openly shed a tear at my desk. Saaad.

Love this blog btw. Long time reader, first time comment-er etc etc...

3:53 pm  
Blogger Flora Fauna Dinner said...

Delurking to confess moistness of eye, cynicism duly fucked with.

7:05 pm  
Blogger Sewmouse said...

They do stay with us.

The week my Mum was dying, I finally got a flight down to Florida and a rental car. On the way to the hospital I got lost and stopped at a Mini-Market for some directions.

Frantic to get to the hospital before they threw out everyone, I asked the man behind the counter for directions, but got nowhere.

The 5 young black men in baggy pants and cut-up t-shirts behind me were making me very nervous. Even more when one of them asked if I was going to (town). I replied yes, I had to get to the hospital, my mother is dying....

And he gave me the most clear and concise directions I've ever gotten from ANYONE, and a blessing and told me to drive safe.

4 years ago - I can still see his face.

7:07 pm  
Anonymous Dr Rick said...

Thanks. You've really lifted a day that needed it.

9:08 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Evening. Thanks for your comments all. I have replied to each and then Blogger spazzed-out and lost them all and I've been living in my office and haven't the energy to do it all again but I do appreciate your feedback and I will get around to replying properly (again)in a few days. Busy. The post was very nearly deleted before I published it, if anyone's interested.

10:24 pm  
Anonymous Em said...

Ohhh, that was, well, kind of wonderful. And good on you for making sure the old man was alright.

1:28 am  
Anonymous looby said...

Brilliant - thought that was going to end up badly all round so great to hear that outcome.

11:29 am  
Blogger Miss Underscore said...

Loved this. Utterly fantastic writing.

8:19 pm  
Blogger Z said...

Oh for goodness sake. If you get sweet and lovely on us, we might as well all sod off.

11:24 pm  
Blogger TwistedScottishBastard said...

"God you're even making me maudlin.
Go away. You're contageous."


I warned you

1:18 am  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Queen: I did nothing other than purposefully walk for a second or two. But thanks, and yes it did. For a second.

Suze: ? Don't know if that's good or bad, but thanks for your comment.

Cristina: That comment made mine.

Ann: You too.

Gwen: Glad you've come out of the woodwork. Thanks.

Flora: You too. And there's nothing wrong with some healthy cynicism. But it doesn't hurt to see the tiny good things sometimes. I suppose.

Sew: Right. This is the second time you've been more interesting than me on my own blog. Please stop now. Thanks.

Dr. Rick: Welcome. And thanks to yourself for saying hello.

Em: Thanks. Like I said, I did nothing. And I'm pleased I didn't have to. Because it would have been something like this:

Me: Hey. Lay off will you.

R.P: [rips my eyes out with her fake nails whilst her friends kick my twitching body] Who are ya! You're 'owned', that's who ya are!

looby: I know. It was an odd moment that you would normally forget about.

Miss U: High praise coming from you so thanks.

Z: Oh fear not. I'm not going all Charlie Brooker. Unpleasantness to come.

TSB: See above.

2:22 am  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:23 am  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Oh. And nice to see so many lurkers come out of the closet. Much appreciated. Do stay.

2:24 am  
Blogger Plummy Mummy said...

Just goes to show innit. I always think the runts that hang around the playgrounds in dundee are going to kick off at me and my little one - but then they go and be all polite and open the gate and get off the swings for us. I wish they wouldn't mess with my worldview but am pretty glad as like you, I'm not built for fighting.

10:11 am  
Anonymous Johnners said...

What am I supposed to do with all my righteous indignation at the state of the world now?

2:01 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Plummy: Yeah it can be confusing can't it?

Johnners: I'd keep it in place if I were you. Like I said, it was just a small moment. I'm back to absolutely despising anyone who can talk.

1:04 am  
Blogger Ellie said...

Next story needs to be about a nun doing something dastardly!

6:24 am  
OpenID neuroticnotes said...

Late to the party as ever, but was directed here by Miss Underscore and others.

I echo what others have said - I really enjoyed reading this post.

Am going to have to read through some old stuff now!

3:27 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Ellie: What, for symmetry or to get rid of the horrible mawkish tone permeating this terrible blog at the minute? Both, I think.

neurotic: Oh hello. You're going to be terribly disappointed by the older stuff I'm afraid.

9:47 pm  
Anonymous Dr Rick said...

Been reading this for years, think I may even have posted once before (about Warburton's and toasters, perhaps?), but I rarely have much to say except the sort of general congratulatory stuff that I get the feeling makes you feel slightly uncomfortable, so I mostly don't...

While I am at it: I value this blog a good deal. You manage to be funny, serious and moving all fairly consistently, which is a bloody good trick that not many people can do. Some of your posts have made me laugh hard, some have broken my reserve enough that I'm glad I wasn't in a public place when I read them, and a few have done both.

Hope that wasn't too embarrassing.

11:38 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Dr. Rick: Alright. I'm going to clear my throat and suggest we drink some beer and talk about 'the football'

12:12 am  
Anonymous Ann said...

When about to tackle 50 steep steps from train platform to street level, sleeping tiny baby snoozing away peacefully, I sighed internally, imaganing the screams that were soon to erupt from sleeping tiny one. A similarly attired girl was shouting into her mobile, 1 metre away. To my surprise she shouted, "Well, nah, I've got to like go, cos some lady needs help wiv 'er pushchair", and helped me down. She was an angel, and I was so cross with myself for having been so judgmental.

11:57 am  
Blogger Debster said...

And indeed some of the worst bastards I have encountered have been suited city gents ...

7:06 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Ann: I think the broad judgements are largely correct put it's good to be surprised now and then.

Debs: Although that much is ALWAYS true.

8:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This cheered me right up. Lovely read. Ineke

10:05 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Ineke, whoever you are - thanks.

11:13 pm  
Blogger Cristina said...

pls write a book

12:21 am  
Blogger Alison Cross said...

I absolutely loved this. What a great writer you are. I have got big fat tears spilling down my face for all sorts of reasons - the fact that you did something that we hope we would all have the balls to do, even when you just wanted to get home; to sympathy for the poor old guy; for the girl who is experiencing her young life in a way I was blessed never to have to endure - and she was still being kind; to the recognition that we judge (and misjudge) people ALL the time.

Thank you. My mascara is everywhere.

Ali x

3:54 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Cristina: I've barely got the time to write this.

Ali: Thanks. Now go and sort your face out.

I want to make clear this is not a 'Tired Dad is a Big Man' thing. Because I'm not. I was fully prepared to step-in, have done in similar situations in the past and probably will again buti t's not about that. I'd have probably been all "Hey, do you want to calm it down a bit" and got a face-full of acrylic fingernails for my trouble.

11:47 pm  
Anonymous Tessa said...

I love it when our preconceptions blow up in our faces. Books, covers, judgements and all that. But then, half the time, all it takes is one feral little bollix to give a whole generation a bad name.

12:07 am  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

Tessa: Hello. It's pleasant but it doesn't happen often. I suspect most of them actually are thorough little cunts.

4:59 pm  
Blogger Mother Lover Breadwinner said...

This tale made me smile. I want to say something about adolescents getting a bad press, but in my experience a lot of them are little shits, so I won't.

8:47 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

MLB: Oh hello. Welcome. And I agree, as it happens.

9:19 pm  
Anonymous Kaija said...

Aw...that made my day. So glad to hear that humanity may not in fact be going completely to the dogs.

I'll add my own 2 bits: I was waiting for a train (that was late) in a not-so-nice part of a rundown town in the US and trying to shut out the din of a group of very street-looking youths rapping along with their headphones and bantering amongst themselves using mostly profanity and nasty slang words. A lone boy of their own age walked up to them quietly and asked politely if they would watch their language in front of his grammie and kid brother. I fully expected them to give him a viscous verbal beatdown at best and a physical twacking at worst, but instead, the whole group apologized to the boy and shuffled on over to the other side of the waiting area, where they resumed their banter, albeit cleaned up and at a lower volume.

I give the lone boy much credit for having the stones to approach a group with a request and also to the group for considered the request with equanimity and graciously assessing themselves as in need of attitude adjustment. Quite a lot of maturity and graciousness and thinking of others displayed there, much more so than in groups of allegedly more advantaged and polished "adults" that I've encountered.

5:23 pm  
Blogger Her said...

The whole time I was reading this I thought that old guy was going to go completely nuts and attack her. Brilliant peice of writing TD.

Since everyone seems to be doing it I will too!

Fortunately for me I suppose, that I live in an area full of kids that look like they're ready to knock your head of with a brick at any given moment, but most of them are actually quite nice... help with shopping, hail taxis, lend lighters and in one particular case (when I was so drunk they really could have just robbed me and been done), helped me all the way down my road to my front door and literally nearly kicked the shit out of the guy that had been trying to manhandle me when they came round the corner looking like a whole lot of trouble. I probabaly owe those kids my life and I have no idea who they are except that they live in the council estate behind my building and I've seen them occasionally since (once to sincerely thank them and give them about £20 worth of harribo not knowing what else to give them) Nice lot that bunch.

10:46 pm  
Blogger Tired Dad said...

K and H: Glad to hear these are not isolated incidents. There may be hope.

10:18 pm  
Blogger Frances said...

This is the second and last time I am commenting - you are far too popular and it takes me far too long to get to the bottom of the comments. But I like this... a lot and am often compelled to tell good writers how bloody fantastic they are. It's an inferiority thing. Oh by the way, I probably will comment again - I'm a bit weird like that, I'll just have to comment on new posts; beat the fan base. Just enjoying The Archives!

7:07 pm  
Anonymous Tommy Cooper's Death Rattle said...

Gosh

9:27 pm  

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