Friday, 12 April 2013

Something new every day

Yesterday lunchtime I walked out of my gate, just a few yards down Kingsland Road, and saw a guy trying to climb onto the wide handrail of the bridge over the canal, struggling a bit, his carrier bag dropped on the pavement and an NHS crutch lying beside it.

Plenty of people around, cars and buses going up and down the road, a typical London afternoon.  I did have a second when I thought ‘ok, where’s the camera and crew’ – it’s very common round here (remember Jude Law filming right here some months back). 

So what do you do next?  I just started chatting and suggested he’d better hang on tight or he’d fall. He said that’s what he wanted to do (he meant into the water).  ‘But it’s only about 4 ft deep, you’ll only hurt yourself and then we’ll have to fish you out’  

‘No, I’ll hold myself under and finish it off’

Phoning the police didn’t seem like a smart idea:  sirens and stuff, probably a bit alarming, might exacerbate things.  We chatted some more.

He was mid-40’s, called Barry, his sister had died very recently. He’d been sleeping in her flat, nearby, but now she was gone the council had taken the flat back, so he was forced to doss anywhere.  Lonely.

Once he’d got down we chatted more, usual stuff, life, family, suicide, Hackney, his name, my name.  He was lonely.  He has another sister, older than him although his nickname for her is ‘baby’.

I thought that one of my neighbours would pass soon, and I could draw them into the conversation and stand back to think.  Nobody came, but we seemed to be getting along ok anyway.

Time passed, Barry seemed pretty relaxed now, and reasonable.  I had a 2pm appointment so I told him that and he apologised for delaying me.  I felt his crisis had passed – for today at least. 
More chat.  We shook hands a couple of times, said cheerio.  As I walked away, he called me back: I gave him my change, £3.

Was it all a con, just to raise money?  I don’t know, possibly, but he could certainly have gone off the bridge. 

It will be interesting to see if I spot him around on the streets.  I’ll watch and see if he tapps other people for money.  Either way, I’ll have a conversation.  Funny, the whole thing lasted less than twenty minutes.

Something new every day.

Regent's Canal with Kingsland Road bridge (and rail bridge beyond)