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Down and Out in Cameron's England

Kidnapping Jesus at Christmas

by MICHAEL DICKINSON

I’m back in England after a fruitless searchfor teaching English work in Spain and Morroco.  I arrived practically penniless.

To my great relief there was a Western Union agent at Luton airport and I was able to Access the 161 pounds my brother sent, so the money problem is over for a while.

When I explained my situation about being homeless and wanting to claim social security to the information desk I was sent to see the chaplain of the nearby church and she adviced me to go to this place ‘Noah‘ –  in Luton where I was give chicken soup and some sandwiches on the premises with a small group of mixed nationalities, and I am to be give a bed in a shelter dorm nearby after I’ve give my details to a rather bossy woman supervisor.

There is no wifi in the place, so I was allowed out for half an hour to access internet in a noisy nearby Irish pub. The group and me will be taken to the dorm at 10 pm and we have to be at Noah for breakfast at 8.15 am. I don’t usually get up until 8.30! Don’t like this regimentation. Beggars can’t be choosers; I suppose, but tomorrow, after visiting a Citizen’s Advice Bureau; I think I’ll head into London and try to find a cheap hostel where I can be more independent while pondering what to do next.

* * *

We had to be up at 6am! (not 8am) this morning and were escorted back to the other charity building for a cup of tea and then ejected at 7.30 into the cold dark rainy predawn, not allowed back into the Shelter until 10 pm at night. The woman in charge was bossy and condescending to all. I think the streets might be preferable to such conditions.

Writing this in a Luton Coffee shop. Don’t want to go back to that shelter tonight. I may head into London and try to find a cheap hostel where I can be more independent while pondering what to do next. 150 pounds left. What a curse money is!

* * *

I’m sleeping in a cardboard box on an iron grating outside the back of a Sainsbury’s store in Camden Town under a staircase in a quite a concealed position. It’s quite well lit by a street lamp and behind a lowish iron barred fence which I can easily climb. Buses and cars stop at a traffic lights on the nearby street and I hear blasts of different music from car radios, and snatches of conversation from passersby. They have no idea that the box lying on the grate in the little enclosure they pass contains a live body. Tonight will be my second night.

Last night was freezing, and one of my legs kept going int cramps. I had to get up before dawn to go for a jog around the area to keep warm, but today I bought some thermal socks and found a large nylon quilt in some rubbish and a cushion with a painted scene from the kama sutra of a courtly Indian man and woman copulating, so tonight I’ll be warmer and more comfortable.

“Seek and ye shall find.”

The box is big and wide, as long as me. I think it must have contained a mattress or something. I found it on someone’s doorstep next to the bins and lugged it to my sleeping area. It closes over me like a coffin, and keeps out the wind and rain.

I came to Camden because someone mailed me yesterday saying that there was a squat there that might take me, so I took the train from Luton. Unfortunately the squat was full and I could find no room at the inns in Camden, but luckily everything came together with the discovery of the box and the hiding place. I also bought a little packet of Black Mamba and have had a few smokes, some of which have had a result similar to the Michael Jackson haunting experience, with me hurled around in a sure and intricate dance routine down a back alleyway where I went to shelter from heavy rain on Saturday, but more positive and uplifting than the experience in Istanbul.

I set up my rune circle on a doorstep in Camden Lock today, Sunday, but although hundreds of people walked past I only had one customer, who gave me a pound. Another guy gave me a pound just to take my picture, but being a religious Jew, said he didn’t want to consult the runes. We had a longish chat about religion, Israel, and capitalism. I ate a good lunch from the thrown away remains in the bins I found around the food stalls in Camden Lock – rice, noodles, chips, salad, and sweet and sour chicken.

“Ask and it shall be given ye.”

A couple of days ago I decided I really wanted a black balaclava to protect my ears, head and face from cold weather. I wondered where I might buy one cheap. No need. This afternoon I saw a pıle of rubbish in the front garden of an empty house. Rummaging around, I came across my black balaclava in perfect condition, although soaking. It’s now drying on the grill outside my box. I also found an almost new pair of suede shoes my size, a pair of black gloves with a raised white skeleton pattern of the hands and fingers, a witch’s hat, and a sign with skulls and crossbones bearing the legend: ‘CAUTION! HAUNTED!’ which I have left outside my box while I’m away as a warning to any intruder.

I also found a nearly full bottle of red wine, of which I will have a few sips before retiring tonight.

I’ll stay here for a while I think before going to investigate the squat in the East End. Apart from the cold, I’m feeling much freer and happier than of late.

Scrimping all the way!

Sales send profits zinging,
Making bankers rich,
Money rules the World,
Oh isn’t life a bitch?

CHORUS
Jingle cash, jingle cash….

I wrote it this morning. Sang it outside Sainsbury’s on the way to this coffee shop and got applause and someone gave me a quid! I’m now going out to sing it at a few more places

This Christmas Day morning while walking in the street after leaving my cardboard box home, I was passing St Michael’s Church in Camden Town, when I suddenly felt the urge to go in. The Christmas sevice had begun and was in progress. The congregation wasn’t very big. There were a few vergers/assistants waiting near the entrance. My eye was suddenly caught by the Nativity Scene set up with the statues of Mary and Joseph, the Three Kings, the shepherds and the barn animals, grouped round the statue of the infant Jesus lying in the manger. I reached down and picked Jesus up (big as a teddy bear) and made my way to the exit.

Suddenly I was grabbed by an elderly female assistant who demanded “Give it back!” “No,” said I, trying to pull away. Three other assistants, including a vicar, grabbed the child and there was a tug of war, before I finally let go of my prize and left the church. I laughed hysterically at my outrageous act; which had completely taken me by surprise.

On the way to the Crisis Centre for homeless people at Kingsway College near King’s Cross for Christmas lunch I came across another church – St Pancras. I had a look in. The service had finished and there were only a couple of people in the church. There was another Nativity Scene in an alcove with much smaller statues. I picked the cute little baby out of the manger, put him in my pocket, and exited, feeling as though I had symbolically rescued Jesus from the clutches of the Church. Tonight he’ll be with me in my box, and where we go thereafter, God alone knows.

Michael Dickinson can be contacted through his website.