As I struggled with an afternoon without heating as the good man Goran came round for a bit of boiler handy work, I noticed a poor chap struggling to keep warm outside in the SW8 Indian Summer.
Seeing sunbathers sitting on the public land in my little patch of South London is not unknown. But out for the count and only five days away from November?
The poor sod was sleeping on the communal patch of land for most of the afternoon, and from what I could tell, not with the help of any substances either. In a five-minute period, I clocked eighteen people walk on by. My home office overlooks the spot, and so keeping a tally was a brief break away from the world of work.
With my man Goran (‘I have a licence to drill‘) doing his thing with the radiators, I was wearing three layers indoors. Time for a hot drink, time to share and share alike.
I took out a cup of hot chocolate to the Sleeping Man of SW8. I was unsure at first – would he want to be woken up? Would he view my act as an insult? Or was he sky high on some substance, and prone to respond to the Good Samaritan act with a polite punch in the face?
I needn’t have worried; sure, conversation was short, but the healing power of a hot cup of chocolate was the common communication that got a smile from his rake thin facial features as soon I approached.
He seemed slightly embarrassed to have been caught napping during the day. We didn’t exchange many details, although I did find out that he has been sleeping rough in Lambeth since the early summer.
The onset of autumn has made it difficult to keep a low profile. Sleeping during the daytime in the summer months can be passed off as sunbathing. Not so once the clocks have gone back and you’re using a pile of autumn leaves as your pillow.
The Sleeping Man of SW8 tries to live a nocturnal lifestyle around this time of the year. Sleeping rough at night can be highly dangerous, running the risk of random acts of violence from people who have the comfort of a roof over their head. His early hour routine is spent walking the streets of Lambeth, staying alert and trying to avoid trouble.
The main threat though comes from the Police Dispersal Zone (PDZ) recently introduced to the area. Police officers now have the power to disperse people who are causing a nuisance around Stockwell. The Sleeping Man of SW8 doesn’t add extra value to my property price, but being that he’s asleep for most of the day, he’s hardly a nuisance either.
The PDZ seems the wrong response from various agencies. Move along, Sir, but where to? You’re pushing the ‘problem’ around the borough, and not giving the opportunity for an individual to improve their life.
A cup of hot chocolate is hardly going to wake up the Sleeping Man of SW8 from his lifestyle of slumber. At least I didn’t ask him to move on.