In Summary

A homeless, dirty chap, who always begs, almost stepped on the animal’s corpse.

I was rushing to work; saw a huge dead, bloodied rat, on the pavement. A homeless, dirty chap, who always begs, almost stepped on the animal’s corpse.

Swore, loudly.

There was a major crossing and cars had stopped waiting for Mr Green light to shine. The dirty, ragged chap started pleading.

“Help me! Please! ”

Some drivers shut their vehicle windows; others stared, sternly ahead. Two fidgeted in their purses and handed over coins. No matter where you are these days, in London, you are always pestered and reminded to give “some change” to someone begging, demanding, asking, requesting, imploring...

One night I was hunting for a place to eat.

Hungry and tired.

No time to go home and cook. Saw a nice place. However, there was a gentleman standing right by the entrance. This is not unusual in major cities, come 2017. We humans have become so self-centred. If it is not staring at our phones, could be a group of two – three in conversation, blocking doorways and pavements. Even when you shout “excuse me” seems as though you are applying to 16th century walls to crumble and let you through. Not funny.

It could be they are so engrossed in their talk or cannot quite hear because of the s-s-s-sish, s-s-swash sound of music in earphones. Enjoyment and awareness of natural sounds of birds, wind (even approaching cars) is past tense.

We are like the American TV series The Walking Dead. And no wonder, I had to shout at the bloke. But he was not deaf. No phone wires in his ears. He had already seen me. Strategic positioning, it is called.

“Pee- lease...,” he half-whispered.

Please is an excellent, special phrase.

Wary.

Yes, I was wary.

But only for two, three seconds. I knew what this was about.

“Some money pee- lease to eat...”

No matter what you do, where you go, there is ALWAYS someone asking for cash. Race, age, gender, location, does not matter. Some of the most common settings are close to bank cash dispensing machines. Strategy. Outside supermarkets. Never near to residential houses. Always business venues. Like restaurants.

“I don’t have any money.”

He was not convinced.

Same pleading theatrical expression. Plea. Appeasement.

“Pee- lease...”

I noticed he was my age. Maybe younger. Looks might deceive, though. Could be he had aged due to years of substance abuse.

But I was hungry and impatient. And to be honest, with limited funds.

“If I give you money you are going to spend it on drugs aren’t you?”

“No. I go eat.”

I was trying to figure out his accent. Yes, like me - a foreigner.

Another occasion, I was rushing to catch the train and a younger guy dashed towards me. I quickly put on a vigilant pose. Could be a pick pocket. Or worse. You cannot be certain in these years of crazy fanatics, mass killers, etc.

“No. Don’t say anything, mi-ght...” (This is “mate” in a typical Cockney accent; yes, he was London-born and bred).

“What do you mean?”

I was in a hurry and impatient. He was crafty and had it all planned out. Scripted.

“My dog, mi-ght. Just need ninety pence...to add and buy some dog food. Yaas. It is ...”

“Where is the dog?”

“Charlie is with the missus.”

“Liar.”

“Sorry, mi-ght. I am not lying. Left my pet with me missus...”

There is always someone asking for cash in London. Trouble is you are never sure if the money goes into what is being alleged. To sustain some sinister, drug habit or alcohol, or both. Authorities are always advising, not to give money. Offer food, tea, water. But it never works. And most of them have stories. My daughter is sick. I am hungry. My cat...needs food...Endless. True and untrue. How can we tell?

But compare these tales with the runners of a half marathon on Sunday, six days ago. Early Sunday. Most of us still asleep, about to head to church. Or simply, lazy. Sunday mornings are exceptional moments.

According to Royal Parks, the organisers, since 2008 over 128, 000 people have run and raised more than 35 million pounds for 750 charities and 157 companies. I watched amateur trotters of all shapes legging it, with zeal. Obese, bowlegged, slim shaped, male, female, young, old, panting, mouth open, chiselled, Asian, black, white, brown, fit and unfit...all trying their best. Sponsored by Heart Foundation, Epilepsy, Shelter Housing, a mixed array of educational organisations. Ordinary folks trotting early to boost campaigns that include African causes.

It was heart warming. Individuals with a conscience. Aware that our communities need sweat, love, sugar and muscles. People with morals trying to help where governments stagger...