walking safely in the street, beggars

Pepys’ Diary, click for full version

Thursday 30 June 1664

…Walked back from Woolwich to Greenwich all alone, save a man that had a cudgell in his hand, and, though he told me he laboured in the King’s yarde, and many other good arguments that he is an honest man, yet, God forgive me! I did doubt he might knock me on the head behind with his club. But I got safe home…

Whenever we go out we like to think that we can walk around safely without being attacked or accosted. I realise that things are different for men than for women, for young or for old but for everybody there is a certain degree of risk which I would like to briefly discuss.

First off, I think you were asking for trouble if you go along the street listening to your headset and obviously lost in music. These people are oblivious of their surroundings and are easy to sneak up on and grab something from.

Secondly there is a pretty good telepathic aspect of the mind that can see ahead. I always do this with my journeys, stepping out of space and time so to speak, which is an ability that we can all use if we choose to. If I feel uneasy about something in advance I always take notice of it and for all I know save myself a lot of trouble. I do this when deciding which route to take in a car journey.

When we are in the street or anywhere we are in the public realm and as it says in the Good Book “we are all members one of another”. My interpretation is that if we see someone in trouble or about to be in trouble we should not pass by on the other side but at least offer our help.

In specific terms when going out at night, I avoid groups of people especially when loud noises are coming from the direction because it means they are not fully in control of themselves although under normal circumstances they may be very nice people. Resorting to either defensive or aggressive violence either by you or by someone else can leave a stain that can last for weeks and months or years and they should be avoided at all costs. There is no point in confronting a drunk or drugged person and using rationality. It is a complete waste of time because that rational part of the brain is closed off.

There are more subtle assaults, people begging, as Pepys found. I wish it could be said that the money goes to good purposes but more likely it is for funding a drug habit. What really annoys me is that the beggars particularly in trains who say “sorry to disturb you”. If they were that sorry they wouldn’t have disturbed us in the first place.

The Big Issue is certainly one big step up from begging. Well done John Bird for starting this initiative. He is one of the few rough diamonds that I really like and I forgive any type of swearing because that’s who he is and he gets his point across. I remember a time when the Big Issue was £0.60 and now I think it’s something over two pounds.

Other people busk for a living and this has become partially institutionalised on the subways where people even get a little circle drawn out in paint where they ply their trade. I think the idea was obtained from America. These are the only groups of people that I will give money to and gladly so because they are giving something in return.

If you go to Trafalgar Square in London you will see apparent statues posing in impossible positions but yes they are human beings and a collection hat is conveniently situated in front of them. I regard this as performance art of some value and I will also give here.

I do not give money to people who say that they are homeless because I have read stories of people who are not homeless who come into the West End of London example to beg. I believe begging has been banned in Bristol. whilst in Bristol ,I saw someone lying on the street. It took only a few minutes for the CTV’s pick them up and two people came along telling them very politely to move along.

My overall policy of being in public places is to see everybody as a potential friend – or temporary companion we can say – and pass the time of day with them, make some inane comments about the weather, just to make the machinery of human interaction a little bit more human. I believe that if you are friendly to someone it is far less likely that you will suffer any sort of assault on your personal space.

We were robbed once in Barcelona. Francoise had her passport stolen by a real professional. Barcelona and Rome are two of the biggest pocketing capitals of the world. The culprits are normally Romanians. My advice in traveling in foreign cities is that you will stand out a mile even though you don’t think you will. You should carry the minimum that you need. It may be that your passport is safer off back at the hotel but if you need to carry it, do so in a zipped inner pocket. Also, looking at maps especially if they are upside down is a dead giveaway.

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