Sunday, 18 December 2011

Keeping London warm

For all its inclement weather, expense and overcrowded shops, December is my favourite month of the year.

It's not just a Christmas thing, although as I encountered a half-eaten banana in the fridge yesterday morning, the thought of spending a week at my perpetually toasty, spotlessly clean family house (with fully stocked cupboards) is a massively appealing one. 

I think it's all the excess; the chilly cold followed by central heating, the big pub lunches behind steamed-up windows; party plans and obligatory hangovers.

When it comes down to it, December is all about comfort. 

But London is full of pertinent reminders that for some, December is probably the most uncomfortable part of the year. 

The reminders sit on the pavement on the main road or outside shops, rubbing their hands together and asking for change, or curled up in a doorway in sleeping bags. They're in your disrupted journeys home; the increasingly frequent announcements of "...has severe delays due to a person under a train at...", and in the dirty paper cups full of pennies at tube stations. 

As I walked along Euston Road last night on my way to an aforementioned warm pub and a huge table packed with this year's new friends, I passed an old man sitting on the pavement. Away from the shops of Tottenham Court Road, he would have cut a lonely figure had it not been for the woman leaning over him, talking to him, checking he was ok and - the gesture that warmed me the most as the breath blew white from my mouth - pulling his woolly hat right down around his ears. 

When I left the pub later that night with a half eaten box of Celebrations under my arm, I looked for the man, but he was gone. I shared my chocolates with the night bus driver instead, emptying a load under the glass barrier like change. "Thank you!" he said.

It was today on my way again from one warm place to another, that I saw a second reminder, sitting on the ground outside Sainsburys. 

The bus stopped, I glanced down from the top deck and saw a man leaving the supermarket with two bags of shopping. The homeless man asked the usual I expect, "spare any change?" and in response the man handed him one of his shopping bags, full of food, and walked away; the homeless man gazing after him in amazement. 

The bus pulled away and I headed home: gloves, scarf, and feeling like London and December have something big in common; both can be cold in every sense of the word, but tiny little gestures like these make this big anonymous city that little bit warmer. 


Anonymous said...

Wow, Jo. Such a disturbing and touching post.

Blonde said...

A heartbreaking and timely reminder that Christmas isn't all warmth and love for everyone. If more of us make just a few small gestures, this December could be a better place for strangers not as well off as we're lucky to be.

London-Lass said...

Wow - that chap's gesture kinda puts mine in the shade but I very recently also gave a little handout to a homeless chappy I see more often than not huddled outside the M&S Pantheon Store in Oxford Street with his doggy. After arguing the toss over £3 that M&S owed me in store, I then went outside and gave the chappy the money (+ a bit more) and petted his dog for a bit.

Harsh times indeed, Jo, and I'm glad (even now) that I gave someone (and their doggy) a teeny tiny piece of comfort.

Paper-Rock-Scissors said...

Really poignant and beautiful reminder that life right now is not all tinsel and sparkle. Thank you.

Fenstar de Luxe said...

I work for a not for profit company and we have some amazing donations for our clients at this time of the year. Today I helped collect and distribute hampers to the mentally ill. It really touched my heart to see what goodness people/companies had donated for us to hand on.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

unpacking - A double edged sword, this one.

Blonde - It certainly inspired me to give out some spare woolly hats.

London lass - I don't think it puts yours in the shade. Everything counts. Even giving £3 to a doggle.

Paper rock - No problemo. Go henceforth and share the wealth!

Fenstar - It's nice to hear of little gestures. I think the more you see them, the more you realise how easy it is to do them and want to do it yourself.

Helen said...

Just catching up on my blog reading and this made me shed a little tear. I love being reminded of the good in humanity x


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