When I go away for long weekends by the coast I always walk
around the town to absorb the place. I always look out for tramps - not the
aggressive beggars but tramps who seem to have dropped out life and have
adapted to life in the gutter. I admire their nerves of steel - not knowing
where the meal will come from, if someone will beat them to a pulp that night,
where they’ll sleep next week, what they’ll do if they get ill, where they’ll
spend icy winter nights and what will become of them. There’s nothing to jack
up their lives - nothing to look forward to, no friends, holidays, soft
bedsheets, Christmas, home life, purpose, music, toilet roll, prospects,
personal library of books, salary. There’s also none of the main building
blocks of live – a partner, someone to talk to at night, a shared life, someone
looking out for you (don’t lean on those things myself.)
How do they live
like that? How can they go down the road of life and miss all those turnoffs
that save you from living as a tramp? Who is wondering where’ve they vanished
to? Why aren’t they claiming a pension?
If I was a tramp
I’d desperately need to have a radio about my person; a day without music and
the human voice would greatly reduce life’s quality. I’d probably need a tub of
peanut butter as well.
It haunts me to
think a destitute life will happen to me. Perhaps its insecurity but even though
I’ve saved up loads of money and invested well part of me expects it all to be
taken away at any time. Lying in bed I imagine witnessing a man ill-treating a
swan in the park, beating him to death then having to shed life’s normal skin and
go on the run, living under motorway flyovers and stealing food.
Part of me
identifies with tramps - cutting the strings of responsibility that are so
plentiful they can form a net - then free-falling and dropping out altogether.
I rented a flat out to a couple who had sold everything and bought a
narrow-boat and nearly dropped out of society; they
said canal life is laden with folk who have dropped out or are running from
I can remember
being in Glasgow on business and in the evening I went out looking for
somewhere to eat. Heavy rain slanted by a wind was come down and there was a
tramp sat on a bench putting his face up to it as though it was warm welcome
sun. I can remember one tipping a tub of Complan
powder into his mouth then swilling it down with a bottle of water. I quite
like cold chips so I could eat cold chips easily like tramps do.
In Whitby I can
remember watching a tramp who was watching a young lad stuff a carton of chips
in a full bin. The tramp moved in and slid them out while there was probably
some heat left in them and ate them with mucky fingers.
Here is a
painting of a tramp sitting in a gutter. I ensured I painted three things I
have seen: a tramp wearing a tie, one with a cat on a lead and one with a thick
book. Why would a tramp wear a tie? This always stuck with me.
came easily (I’m sure the low quality reflects this) though before starting it
I made the mistake of looking at photos of tramps I’ve taken over the years. I
found one I’d taken at Marble Arch in London. I was sat on a bench eating a
sandwich observing a tramp sat opposite. I feel a bit mean now but I approached
him, stuck a camera close to his face and took a photograph. Suddenly his eyes
came up and focussed; when he looked back at me I realised there was a real
person in there. I felt awful. I took it in 2007 and wonder if he’s still
alive? I hope he’s got a feather mattress and duvet in a dry warm room on the
roof of one of the grander hotels though a crematorium assistant has probably
scattered his ashes on an anonymous patch of soil in a Garden Of Remembrance.
Jackie Wright doesn’t seem to agree…
Time to add a bottle of Blue Nun…
The cat in based on my cat Twinkle…
This is the rambling tramp who was at
Marble Arch in London. When I got up close his eyes opened wide and I saw the