This was written in 2000 for a competition run by the Big issue. It was highly commended by George Szirtes in the 2006 Norwich Writers' Circle competition, and published in the competition anthology Reverie (p. 30).
FOUR GAFFES ABOUT HOMELESSNESS
The other news of 1963 –
the Skopje earthquake – was a hoot to me,
age six. I laughed out loud when first I read
of people sleeping in the street, not bed.
In the Guardian
(of all places) by one
who should know better: “How can
homeless people ever complain
of what they see on television?
I mean, where would they find to plug it in?”
“Evangelism,” I was keen to note,
“we do not force down anybody’s throat,
but prayer and any needed explanation
happen as part of rehabilitation.”
The answer was, “To rehabilitate
the homeless, what a job, you’re doing great!”
You’ll know she wrote it drily. I did not;
but irony was always my blind spot.
A short history
by my then MP
of the Africans’
(this was off the cuff,
he hadn’t read enough –
with Paul Oliver):
“Of course, a hundred years ago they were still living in trees.”