Down and Out in Paris and Kinning Park (pt 2)

down and out

by The Eric Arthur Blair Witch Project

Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry. When you have 45,000,000 Euros in the world you are liable to the most craven panics. When you have only 3 Euros you are quite indifferent; for 3 Euros will feed you until tomorrow and you cannot think further than that. You are bored, but you are not afraid. You think vaguely, ‘I Shall be starving in a day or two – shocking, isn’t it?’ And then the mind wanders to other topics. A bread and margarine diet does, to some extent, provide its own anodyne.

And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.

The days after the L’Aministration were strange days indeed. The Stade du Ibrox had been raised to the ground to make way for a hypermarket. It was almost as if over one hundred and forty years of history had never happened.

The loyal subjects of this slum were still to be found if one were to look hard enough. With the right kind of eyes and ears one could still observe and listen to these curious characters.

Monsieur Blanco still cut a most intriguing figure – ‘We shan’t starve, don’t you fear. This is only the fortune of war – I’ve been in a worse hole scores of times. It’s only a question of persisting. Remember Foch’s maxim: “Attaquez! Attaquez! Attaquez! “

He continued. ‘Appearance is everything, mon ami. Give me a new suit and I will borrow 16,000,000 Euros by dinner-time. What a pity I did not buy a collar when we had money. I turned my collar inside out this morning; but what is the use, one side is as dirty as the other. Do you think I look hungry, mon ami?’

That evening we started looking for Blanco’s friend, who was called Smudger, and was a screever – that is, a pavement artist. We found him on the Rue du Edminston kneeling on the pavement with a box of chalks, copying a sketch of King William of Orange from a penny notebook. The likeness was not at all bad.

Smudger talked further in the same strain, and I listened with attention. ‘Another thing to remember is to keep your money covered up, except perhaps a penny in the hat. People won’t give you anything if they see you got a bob or two already.’

Then he fell silent for a minute or two, and to my surprise I saw that he was looking at the stars.

He touched my arm and pointed to the sky with a stick. ‘Say, will you look at Aldebaran! Look at the colour – like a – great big orange – its colours so dignified and fine!’

He continued. ‘Look at Blanco – only fit to scrounge fag-ends. That’s the way most of them go. I despise them. But you don’t need to get like that. If you’ve got any education, it don’t matter to you if you’re on the Queen’s highway for the rest of your life.’

There was no stopping him. On he went. ‘You don’t want to have any pity on these here tramps – scum, they are. You don’t want to judge them by the same standards as men like you and me. They’re scum, just scum.’

My story ends here. It is a fairly trivial story, and I can only hope that it has been interesting in the same way as a travel diary is interesting.

I can at least say, Here is the world that awaits you if you are ever penniless. Some days I want to explore that world thoroughly. I should like to know people like Blanco and Smudger not from casual encounters, but intimately. At present I do not feel that I have seen more than the fringe of poverty,

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