I just did.
I saw him sitting under the courtyard roof of a luxurious block of new build flats in West London. I went up to him to see if he wanted anything to eat. He had an unlit roll-up cigarette in his hands but he wasn’t moving. I thought he’s probably asleep. I walked away and for a split second I thought I should have checked if he was actually sleeping or god-forbid worse.
I turned back and I saw him taking a drag of his cigarette, eyes closed, as if he wasn’t even there. As if he didn’t even exist,
“Excuse me” I said “are you ok?” He opened his eyes and looked at me. “I’m so cold” he said. He held out his hands to try and warm them with mine.
“I’m sorry”, I said.
“It’s not your fault,” he said.
“Would you like something to eat?” I asked.
And Julian burst in to tears. I sat on the floor with him as he talked. Sometimes we just need to be seen and heard. Sometimes, unfortunately, all we can do is see and listen.
He talked and cried for almost an hour.
Julian is 52 years old, originally from Liverpool. 4 years ago he broke up with his long-term partner, and struggled to make ends meet on his own. After he lost his job he became homeless two years ago. Since then he hasn’t managed to get back on his feet. He loves playing the guitar (you can just about see it popping out from behind him) and usually plays it for change in the day. His hands are always cold, but he doesn’t like wearing his gloves because he can’t play his guitar. He has his guitar, one sleeping bag, and his gloves. His sleeping bag is very warm so he didn’t need the blanket that I repeatedly offered to bring him. He said that he feels lost and invisible and that I was the first person to stop and talk to him today. He doesn’t know where to go, not only geographically but in life. He thinks there has to be more than this. Recently he doesn’t have the energy to play his guitar. Not physical energy but he feels he is loosing his heart. Julian fought in the Faklands war. He went to war when he didn’t like war. He has seen war and he hates that now in America there is a new president that wants to take this world to war. He said he went to war for this country but this country doesn’t care about him anymore. Whilst he was talking and shedding tears, a girl in a wheelchair was being pushed passed us, he looked at her and cried harder. He said “Im not ungrateful, me and you we’ve had a good hand in life, look at that poor girl”. He talked about that some more, and I felt humbled and embarrassed. He didn’t know that Theresa May had called a new election. He said that, here, a few individuals tell the majority what to think and then the majority elect an individual and say it is the majority. But an individual like him, cant be an individual, he has to be invisible. He said he wished things would change. He said he wants to get to the coast, he wants to get to Brighton because he thinks the sea will lift his spirits.
I told him, I’m sorry I cannot do more, but I have 18,000 people on my Facebook page and I promise to tell them your story and could I have a photo to share?
He said yes.
I said, “but only if you give me a smile”
And so we smiled. And we took this photo, and we talked some more and this is me honouring my promise to him.