A true story: the homeless girl

After a yoga session where I finally connected with my practice, I cycled home in high spirits singing at the top of my lungs. I chained my bike up at the supermarket to get some dinner. The homeless girl was sitting opposite the entrance. Unlike other homeless people, she never asks for money. She just quietly sits. Probably because there’s light and it’s safer and it’s a bit warmer.

I dread the homeless people when they’re there. They make me feel helpless. I never know what to do. I always think I should at least ask if they had something to eat. I never do. Give them money? Lord knows what they’ll spend it on? I have resolved to at least acknowledge them. Usually it’s a helpless smile and a murmured ‘Sorry, mate.’ The response is usually ‘Have a nice evening. God bless you.’ I’m never quite sure whether that’s genuine or ironic.

So I went into the market, profusely ignoring her staring at my phone, select some items for dinner. Suddenly, someone taps me on my shoulder, ‘Excuse me, have you got a bike chained up outside?’ 

‘Yes, I do.’

‘A group of guys tried to steal your bike. The homeless girl called us. You might want to bring it in.’

Outside I go to get my bike. I say Thanks to the girl. She says ‘You are welcome’ very quietly. I get my bike, go back inside. Finish my shop. All the while, I’m thinking, what the hell do I do now? 

I’ve toyed with the idea before to ask whichever homeless person sits there to watch my bike and in return, I’d get them food. You know, like, work like the rest of us. But the girl just did it. I never asked her and she didn’t have to. But she did. So what do I do?

I resolve to check if she had something to eat and get her something if she’s starving. She politely declines. Someone else is getting her something. But he’s been gone ages and the police have turned up telling her to get lost. Begging is illegal. She doesn’t beg. She just sits quietly. Never asks. And now she’s a bit panicky, because she waits for food but if the police return and she’s still here, they’ll arrest her. 

She quietly admits that she just needs to see that she can get somewhere inside. It’s cold. A guy walks past, tosses her some coins. Pennies. I ask her if she’s got somewhere to go. There’s a shelter, but it’s  £12. That’s a lot of money per night for someone who has nothing. How much are you short? She counts in her head. She’s got £4. I’m unsure just how she would make up for the rest. A guy walks out of the market, gives her a sandwich. 

In my head it clicks. It’s something that in my mind I have done a thousand times, but never in reality. She’s made sure my bike doesn’t get nicked, I’ll make sure she gets to a safe and warm place. I don’t hesitate to give her the money for the shelter. All of it, so that tomorrow she’ll have a £4 headstart. I briefly wonder whether she will squander it, but something in her voice and her eyes says she won’t.  I tell her to go and get to the shelter. She gathers her stuff. I say ‘Well, I’ll probably see you round.’ She replies ‘Yes, probably right here.’ 

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In many ways, this was an odd exercise, but extremely useful. How do I want people to see me? What do I want people to remember about me? What exactly is my style? All questions I’ve been struggling with for some time. I know that the answers are only temporary and my journey will continue. 

Excuses, excuses

Thank you for the incredible honour. I am sure the sheep’s tongue is a great delicacy and I am immensely humbled. However, in my culture, it is forbidden to consume parts of creatures that contribute to their sensory experience or allow them to express themselves. I hope you will understand that I must respectfully decline.
– This plays on so many stereotypes, it’s hardly believable. Almost like making excuses for being vegetarian or vegan, when your parents have no notion of your choices, but you don’t want to insult them. 

Nobody is not creative

Nobody is not creative. 

Let that roll off your tongue. Nobody is NOT creative, or in other words: everyone IS creative. 

Now this may strike you as odd because you may think: creative? Me? I can’t even draw a straight line. And precisely therein lies the problem. 

The problem is people’s perception  of what ‘being creative’ means. Most commonly people associate it with being able to draw and paint, to be able to sing and dance, to act, create fashion or beautifully composed photographs (on purpose, not just that lucky snap). I had a long discussion about just this at a conference on Cultural Entrepreneurship with the director of employability of a well-known arts university. He effectively deplored the limited understanding of ‘being creative’ because it made a lot of people miss out on partaking in creative processes and even worse culture more widely.

Just to make it very clear that a lot of everyday life is a creative process, you just would not call it that. Take an everyday problem:  choosing the clothes you wear. You may pick your favourite shirt, then pick a matching skirt or trousers, matching shoes. Sometimes you don’t feel like matching and you just grab whatever is clean. Or you create a play list (I was about to say mix-tape,   does anyone still do mix tapes?) for someone who is close to you, you carefully pick songs that reflect the person’s character or your own feelings. While it is not your own music, you are engaging with an art form and creating something new. 

Those are all creative processes. How you tackle problems, find solutions. Still don’t agree that no one is not creative? Go on then, let me know what you think ‘being creative’ means.

How to hoot like an owl

Hooting like an owl is dead simple. You know that secret signal from the Westerns (are there owls in the wild west? I’m confused). All you need is your hands. Theoretically. All you need to do is this: 

  • Align your thumbs so your knuckles are parallel
  • Clasp your hands so they form a nice round hollow, like the body of an owl. One hand over the top the other round the back. Kind of like a pair of wings, almost.
  • Now slightly peak the knuckles of your thumbs so you kind of have an owl’s beak.

So far. So good. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is to make your hand owl hoot. Now if you can blow over an open bottle, it’s similar to that, but not really. I’m saying not really, because in reality you are blowing over your knuckles but into your owl body. The trick is not to suffocate your owl by pressing your lips too hard onto your knuckles. It’s kind of like a half-arsed attempt at rescucitating someone. You know, you want to give them air but they kind of smell of cigarettes or garlic, and you’d rather hold your nose with one hand than to give them the kiss of life. 

If you give your hand owl a half-arsed kiss of life, you are actually giving it life which in itself is sort of philosophical. I mean, can you give life to something that doesn’t exist but make it real by making it hoot for everyone to hear?

Anyhow, if you do it right your hand owl sounds like a very small steam train. Complete with the huffing and puffing from when you’re gasping for air from making it hoot. It’s totally easy peasy. You should give it a go.

PS: I made my owl hoot once. Once! It sounded like a strangled duck on a bender. Nothing like that beautiful secret signal the Indians give each other in the Westerns. If they let me hoot any cowboy would know that somethings up, or die laughing.  

Kisses

My first kiss was odd. Yearned for for ages, imagined so often, practised clandestinely before falling asleep with my imaginary famous teenage crush. And then, when it happened it was almost unwanted, sprung on me as a bit of a surprise, tentative, but with that typical teenage impatience and the realisation that we were not meant to be together. 

My most recent kiss was much the same. Unsure if I wanted to kiss, it happened in the middle of a busy station. It was tentative, uncertain, lacked passion and in a bizarre way was disconnected. Modern people tend to rush into kisses. Second date, kiss time. The yearning for that first intimacy was lacking. We were not meant to be together.

My next kiss will be totally different.  Perfect. With that tentative touch but enough passion to know that I am desired. Not on the second date, not on the third, maybe on the first. We will know when the time is right because it is not convention that is dictating proceedings but a shared desire to allow each other into that personal space. We will know, because we are meant to be together.

Exile

Where would I want to be exiled?

Does anyone actually want to be exiled? Suppose not. Although, looking at life and how the world currently pans out, exile does not sound like such a bad thing. I would miss my family for sure and there is nothing in the world that would fix that. 

Where would I want to be though if I had to… somewhere, where the sea and the mountains are equi-distant from my house, where the sunrise takes your breath away every morning and the sunset makes you appreciate how beautiful the world really is. Somewhere, where the night sky tells a million stories and makes you feel insignificant. Somewhere, where you have four seasons in a day, and definitely four seasons in a year, but spring would last the longest. Somewhere, where nature provides and that is all that you need.

Essential items

Most people would say, their mobile phone. But I am not one of them. I am more practically inclined and would probably relish the opportunity to unplug and return to simplicity. In fact, I have been dreaming of that kind of life for a long while. So here’s what I would take:

  • Matches to make a fire that would keep me warm during the four seasons and where I could cook some food, boil water to safely drink and whose flames would gayly dance into the sky at the night to entertain me endlessly.
  • A Swiss Army Knife so that I could benefit of the provisions from nature, fix things where necessary, prepare and cut my food, and do other useful things, like carving.
  • My bicycle. No explanation needed.