One of those weird unexpected moments

They lay humped on the ground

Like war strewn bodies

But they were only sleeping 

In early morning sun in Euston Square.

I had twenty minutes before my connection

Ran into M&S to buy ten packets of custard creams.

I lay them on the grass, one for each slumbering man.

He stirred and stood quickly swearing at me.

He threw the packet at my head.

"Keep away from my patch you bloody bitch"

He stumbled forward and loomed over me.

A young family sitting on a bench watched.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry if I have trespassed"

"Get away from here". He moved closer, gesturing.

I was looking into his eyes. I couldn't help it.

He was just a man.

He was in pain.

It was an intimate moment

For me.

He stopped. Looking back into my eyes. Lowered his voice.

"You are not open."

He turned away.



◄ Comfort

Mothers Pride ►


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Hazel ettridge

Fri 29th Jun 2018 09:12

I have appreciated this discussion. It has furthered my understanding and given me food for thought.

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M.C. Newberry

Thu 28th Jun 2018 12:35

Optimism and realism will always make a good fellowship.
And so to other things.

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Wolfgar Miere

Wed 27th Jun 2018 09:48

MC, I have said many times that I don’t have the answers. What I am clearly saying here is that I am not prepared to give up.

Referencing the past on every comment made isn’t necessarily going to help. As you said nothing has 100% worked.

I obviously don’t talk a good talk because nothing I have said or imagined has made any difference whatsoever.

I was involved in every major campaign deployment in the British army between 1983 and 2005, since then I have worked all over from the DRC to Gaza, so you don’t need to tell me shit doesn’t work thanks. Giving up and endlessly telling the young that you know better when cleary we screwed it up isn’t convincing anyone least of all them.

Unless you are prepared yourself to help or join in the move forward then step aside and allow others to make their own mess of it, they might actually surprise us. I hope so.

No, I have no solution but I have tried and will keep doing so.

I suppose I should consider my own position, and whether considering my failure to date I should step aside and stop interfering. Who knows?

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Laura Taylor

Wed 27th Jun 2018 09:38

Yep, will add my voice to the 'well said Pat!' chorus, and no, it's not just you, or Stu, or David, that's sick of it. I actually took a small break from here after the Napowrimo month purely due to it. Such dense negativity and misogyny is suffocating. WOL's always been a warm and welcoming place for me, but lately, it's been anything but. And that's not only sad, it's deeply worrying.

Anyway Hazel - your poem has certainly stirred up debate eh? Thank you for sharing it, and in doing so, opening yourself up to potential word wars!

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Wed 27th Jun 2018 09:12

An excellent poem, Hazel, clearly written and perfect for WOL. Powerful experiences should be shared; it's a recognition of our innate humanism. You have scored a shot to the heart. And a scalpel to the brain.

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M.C. Newberry

Wed 27th Jun 2018 00:29

Right-o, Wolfgar - what do you suggest that hasn't been
tried, done or more often than not failed? We like to think
we are (and know) better than previous generations - but
how frequently that is found to be a fallacy in terms of human behaviour. You talk a good fight but to use your
own readiness to ask questions, how do you have people
get out of your way when they have no intention of taking
the slightest bit of notice for ANY number of reasons?
Virtue in thought does not equate with effect in action -
even less so these days when so many blather on about
"rights" - and that includes the right of the individual to
choose a life on the streets from what I can see, even to
the degree that saw a council criticised for using its street
cleaning wagons with less than due care and attention
when trying to clean local streets in the early hours, citing
complaints from local dossers. Like those horses led to
water, you can offer answers but you can't make 'em take the past or today. Like Greta Garbo, they
want to be (left) alone - unless it suits them otherwise.

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Wolfgar Miere

Tue 26th Jun 2018 23:14

Agreed Mark, but doing nothing and accepting the status quo and not speaking up is the opposite of virtuous, it's apathy and sloth.

I don't believe in much but I don't believe in doing nothing, how things were or might have been in the past is an irrelevance for those moving into the future, that is not to say we cannot learn from those things but that we should be willing and able to attempt change, and if you can't do that as Mr Dylan said, get out of the way.

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M.C. Newberry

Tue 26th Jun 2018 23:07

I can claim to be beyond the middle aged and maybe just
within the middle class range - but that - and a job
dealing with the realities of life 24/7 on the streets in a great city have provided me with experience to comment
on those who have a passing association with its many
problems and feel encouraged to write about it. The hard
knock school of life has its uses, not least when knowing
in some depth what is being discussed - as in this case.
My many contacts with the vagrant element in both the
old East End docklands and West End (where the bright
lights and compassionate passing donor remain constant
in their appeal), were a never ending source of education. enlightenment and occasional entertainment in human terms. It is often surprising how contact through adversity and necessity engenders a growing "if you must" mutual understanding, and any aspect of "pity" is insulting in that context when self-respect still glimmers in a person's eyes and behaviour.
But, as I've observed accurately, the problem is not new -
and is likely to continue despite best intentions. Change what you can
and accept what you can't...despite
any feelings of regret or failure.

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Stu Buck

Tue 26th Jun 2018 21:53

not just me thats becoming bored of it then?

this is an excellent piece hazel. good to insight some debate as well, even if its overshadowed by tedium

edit - just as an aside, you can mute these peoples work if you dont want to read it. i think i have more accounts on mute than i do accessible, purely because when i come on here i want to enjoy the work of people whose work i like reading. i dont think WOL subjects you to anything you dont want if you use it properly. there have always been people on here i have removed from the blog timeline, and i would fully expect them to do the same to me if i came across as a prick. which, lets be honest, i am doing now.

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Wolfgar Miere

Tue 26th Jun 2018 21:38

Bloody well said Pat, I hope a few more might stand up and be counted.

I can tell you there are others who feel exactly the same who have communicated those sentiments to me, unsolicited I would add. I have also communicated with at least two regular female contributirs who are reluctant to engage in comments due to the tone of blog threads.

Of course it is for them to address this matter, it is unfortunate they feel unable to.

Recently It was suggested that my conversation with another contributor put people off commenting, that is unfortunate if true. But not nearly as worrying as people feeling excluded because of gender or difference.

My apologies for going off subject, but I feel this is a trend that requires challenging now!

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Darren J Beaney

Tue 26th Jun 2018 21:30


Pat Hughes

Tue 26th Jun 2018 21:22

I love this piece Hazel,you have something to say that is honest,that makes me appreciate another human beings experience of this mostly shitty world.
Increasingly WOL has become an arena for middle aged,middle classed blokes to write poetry that pokes fun at anybody who isn't exactly the same as them.
There is an undercurrent of misogyny and malice to anybody who isn't the same as these "blokes" and its quite frankly past its sell by date.

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M.C. Newberry

Tue 26th Jun 2018 14:20

I enjoy a bit of WOL sparring but this subject sees how
the old adage about the likely outcome of "good intentions" is so often ignored/put aside in the pursuit of
personal "there must be reasons" justifications.
I spent much of my working life (and the years since)
dealing with the vagrant element and found through
hard-earned experience that their presence and their
behaviour had many causes. What cannot be denied is
that they exist - and have done so for generations, with
servicemen a historical section (witness the introduction of
the Vagrancy Act 1824 to deal with the numbers of those
who had served in the various wars of that time and which
contained laws against begging and persistent anti-social
street behaviour - so nothing of that sort is remotely new!).
There will always be those who have their reasons and/or
excuses to remain on the streets and it's sensible to treat
their presence with some circumspection if you are a
passer-by with no experience of how and why they can behave (and react!) as they do.

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Laura Taylor

Tue 26th Jun 2018 13:58

Maybe Hazel. We'll never know.

Read The Grass Arena though, reckon you'll love it.

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Tue 26th Jun 2018 13:50

Hi Hazel. Poems like this in the nature of social interaction and the scars that society bears usually lead to lively exchange. Polarised opinions are brought to the fore. It's quite sad that it is left to "well balanced" folk to be faced with a sort of confrontation. Sadly, as with all risks that build up pressure, they are often not intercepted at an early stage, for example in dangerous road junctions or where accidents wait to happen. Perhaps this man's journey has a story which would be worth the hearing. Your poem illustrates to me that the dislocation is like the spearhead of attack. Anyway, good for you Hazel!

There but for the grace of God go I, would seem to fit the bill.


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Hazel ettridge

Tue 26th Jun 2018 13:20

Hi Laura, those words also puzzled me but they were obviously meaningful to him. My first interpretation was, as yours, something psychic or spiritual - but who knows? Maybe it was his way of saying "you haven't got a clue".

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suki spangles

Tue 26th Jun 2018 11:03

Hi there Hazel,

Thanks for sharing. A fantastic example of "show, don't tell"...


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Laura Taylor

Tue 26th Jun 2018 10:46

I keep coming back to this line 'You are not open'. Wow. So heavy with potential meanings. Almost puts him in a spiritual/prophet-like place.

I really liked this poem Hazel. It's honest, which poems do need to be in order to connect, and it shows your genuine concern and the moment of shock when suddenly you are no longer in control of your world. Puts you in his place, in that way, as he will also not be in control of much of what goes on in his world, being subject to the whims and cruelties of the law and of the general public.

Have you ever read The Grass Arena by John Healey? I totally recommend it. I saw the film made of it years ago, which was excellent, but I'd say read the book first.

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Graham Sherwood

Tue 26th Jun 2018 09:07

............and some fell on stoney ground!

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Wolfgar Miere

Tue 26th Jun 2018 09:03

To add Graham, I have put a good deal of thought into responding to Hazels work, for you to dismiss it as a show it laughable and rude.

But hey, your welcome to say whatever you like, thankfully.

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Wolfgar Miere

Tue 26th Jun 2018 08:58

Oh I’m sorry Graham, I don’t see how discussing a poem and challenging comments detracts from the writing, it is the provocative piece which has facilitated the conversation, I thought that was actually one of the purposes of poetry and art.

Neither I or Brian have attempted to exclude anyone from our conversation, I would welcome even more contributions personally. As for the David and Brian show, frankly that is ridiculous.

Never the less you have made a comment which doesn’t relate to the piece at all, excellent.

I am attempting to highlight misunderstandings which often arise from the absence of knowledge, specifically about people living on the streets in this case.

Again, please readers join in. Take a look at mine and Brian’s history Graham and see how much conversation relating to people’s work we generate, is that not your desire for WoL?

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Graham Sherwood

Tue 26th Jun 2018 08:58

Hazel, I worked on a homeless shelter last Christmas until March this year. To a man/woman they were all really good and very polite people.
The only issues that the organisation experienced was at the assessment stage and there I’m afraid your experiences were also noted. Drugs and Alcohol being the culprits.
Over the four months the MK Shelter organisation placed 35 people into secure accommodation so they could apply for work they badly craved.
Sadly (for whatever reason) those who are more deeply entrenched need more than a bed for the night, food for the day and some professional help.
As David regularly describes via his hard-hitting work, sometimes a sticking plaster isn’t good enough, major surgery is required.

Your piece is very thought provoking as you can see below.


Tue 26th Jun 2018 08:55

Hi Hazel,

Thank you for sharing your experience. Something to think about for today...

Great poem!

Anya xx

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Graham Sherwood

Tue 26th Jun 2018 08:49

The main problem here is that when the “David and Brian Show” gets going it tends to make other commenters run a mile and then Hazel’s excellent piece is reduced as a result. Please consider this as a outcome.

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Brian Maryon

Mon 25th Jun 2018 22:53

Hazel - that is very brave of you to admit it.

Sorry about my earlier W.I. comment...I realise in retrospect it came across as rude.

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Hazel ettridge

Mon 25th Jun 2018 22:37

Brian, I'm thinking there is a very wobbly line between interference and interaction. I got it wrong this time.

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Wolfgar Miere

Mon 25th Jun 2018 22:12

I am making no attempt to embarrass you Brian. I really don't think there is a requirement for me to, you're doing fine. You are free to say whatever you like.

I note you have not addressed any of my legitimately posed questions. I hope that you might at least consider them privately if not on here, I somehow doubt it though.

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Brian Maryon

Mon 25th Jun 2018 22:01

I try to be honest David even if it's not PC to do so, particularly on a forum such as this. And I don't change my position even when an attempt is made to embarrass me

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Hazel ettridge

Mon 25th Jun 2018 21:59

The experience shook me. I really get that I'm living on another planet and that i crossed a line big time. He has shown me something really important - something I needed to see. Sitting at home tonight thinking, my god - I've got a house, I've got a comfy bed, I can play music, I can watch Netflix, I can make myself a cuppa, I can sleep easy....
This is a terrible poem (if it is even a poem) but I needed to put some words around the experience.

Thanks for the conversation.I

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Wolfgar Miere

Mon 25th Jun 2018 21:54

Sounds Idyllic Brian, good for you.

If people requested surely it wouldn't be interfering, would it?

No matter, as it obviously isn't going to happen.

What about if someone called you the C word in the street, would you interfere with them, maybe turn a blind eye if the cops gave them a slap? Bad language eh the curse of our society, whereas people genuinely destitute on the street, no don't get involved in that.

Do you happen to know the percentage of service leavers (veterans) living on the street are they to be tossed away also? or do you simply hope the kind hearted like hazel and the WI will deal with that on your behalf.

I happen to know some of them, I'll pass on your concern, don't worry they know already.

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Brian Maryon

Mon 25th Jun 2018 21:51

I'll be honest, I don't have any comprehension of other people's lives. This applies equally to people who live rough or those who live round the corner from me. I don't interfere in their lives unless requested. I also don't want them interfering in mine. Sounds like they didn't care for Hazel's interference either.

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Mon 25th Jun 2018 21:40

Your heart shines, Hazel.

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Wolfgar Miere

Mon 25th Jun 2018 21:16

And that is how people get abandoned, written off, so much easier isn't it folks?

I can only imagine some people have absolutely no comprehension of other peoples lives, frankly its bloody sad.

Thank goodness a few take time to stop and help. It is relatively easy for anyone to end up in such a desperate position, that too is beyond the comprehension and imagination of many I suspect, they can only hope it remains so.

Of course its quite funny as well, isn't it?

Well done for putting this up Hazel, it highlights some quite revealing attitudes.

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Brian Maryon

Mon 25th Jun 2018 21:09

Booze, drugs, money yes...but custard creams? Did you think it was the local W.I. gathering Hazel?

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Wolfgar Miere

Mon 25th Jun 2018 20:58

Hello Hazel,

I don't really know what to say other than I can relate to his and your experience of the encounter.

There is a great deal of paranoia and distrust among those truly living on the streets, almost everything is unexpected.

It's good to capture and record such moments though.

Approaching those poor wretches living through such times can be a tricky affair, there is a protocol, like approaching a silver back.

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Graham Sherwood

Mon 25th Jun 2018 20:52

Hob Nobs would have done it!

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