Every so often they let me travel

You know what it is, every so often somebody leaves the door unbolted, and before they know it, I’m away.

Actually with me it’s more a case of every so often people remember me and ask me to come down to London for a meeting. Therefore my aim is to ensure that I attend the meetings and then get to view the finest sight in London. This is a Virgin Pendolino destined for Glasgow. Best viewed from the inside of Coach B as it pulls out of Euston.

Still I got to London and had to stay overnight, so got to mooch about and discover various things. One was Golden Turmeric Latte. Who ever knew it was even a thing? I confess to not actually trying it, the sign was outside a coffee shop rather more exclusive than I am. Still, it’s good to know that London, apparently the one place in the country which is qualified to tell the rest of us how to live, has got its priorities right. Everybody, apparently, needs their golden turmeric latte.


But anyway I was walking back across Lincoln’s Inn Fields. I remember walking that way about five years ago (might be a little longer) and there was somebody from Pret a Manger giving out free sandwiches etc. The company has a proud tradition of not throwing food away but instead give it to the homeless etc. As an aside I’d mention Greggs as another company who are stalwart supporters of foodbanks and others. But anyway back then this chap from Pret was feeding about a score of people.

As I walked across Lincoln’s Inn Fields there were a lot of obviously homeless or destitute people. There was a stall already set up with sandwiches and suchlike, and I stopped to talk to the person in charge. Apparently now they can feed 240 people a night.

Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ”Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you?”

Indeed as I walked round the city, just keeping my eyes open you’d see the tents.



Now I suppose we can blame austerity, or the wicked tories, or whoever you like. But fifty yards from the feeding station at Lincoln’s Inn I noted a bar with an awful lot of well-dressed people spilling out onto the pavement, very few of them clubbing together to buy a half pint of shandy with four straws. Indeed walking along the South Bank I noticed one bar advertising beer and lager at £5.90 a pint. Admittedly I cannot comment on the quality because I never bought any, but enough people were doing.

When did we ever see you thirsty and give you a drink? 

Once you’ve had anything to do with the Homeless or foodbanks, you’ll recognise the tents, even the occasional encampments. They’re the sort of tent handed out to the homeless by local authorities with no other housing options. Normally only to single males.



Should you talk to any of these people, the first thing you’ll notice is the high proportion of mental illness, sometimes diagnosed, sometimes perhaps not. Some have done time, some are ex-servicemen. Has it been decided that spending plenty of time out in the fresh air is the best way to help these people?

And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 

Still, it must be awful when nobody has any money to help, because of austerity and the wickedness and greed of ‘them.’ (Never us, always ‘them’.)
And as I crossed the Millennium Bridge there were people working on it. They’re going to have the ‘Illuminated River’ as an art project. They’re starting on the first four London bridges but they hope to extend it to fifteen. Apparently it’s going to cost £3 million pounds a bridge.


I wonder how many cheap one man tents and Pret sandwiches London could buy for the homeless and destitute of their city, for that sort of money? How about an art project which produced a city where you didn’t have people forced to camp under bridges and actually got treatment for their mental health problems?

Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

But then for that to happen, I suppose people would have to actually care enough to do something. Obviously some people do, but it strikes me that you’ll find them handing out food at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and not in City Hall or Westminster. It’s enough to make you weep into your overpriced Golden Turmeric Latte.


What do I know?
You might as well ask the dog

As a reviewer commented, “This is a delightful collection of gentle rants and witty reminiscences about life in a quiet corner of South Cumbria. Lots of sheep, cattle and collie dogs, but also wisdom, poetic insight, and humour. It was James Herriot who told us that ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ but Jim Webster beautifully demonstrates that it usually happened to the farmer too, but far less money changed hands.

I, for one, am hoping that this short collection of blogs finds a wide and generous audience – not least because I’m sure there’s more where this came from. And at 99p you can’t go wrong!”

Tagged: , , , ,

46 thoughts on “Every so often they let me travel

  1. Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 3:37 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Sue Vincent's Daily Echo.

    • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 3:43 pm Reply

      I think they hoped I’d just be swept away by the novelty of it all but everything seemed pretty familiar 😦

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 3:47 pm

        Yep, poverty wears a lot of faces, but the human poverty of those who could but don’t is perhaps the worst.

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 3:50 pm

        I think that’s what got to me. If all those people flocking through London who buy a coffee a day, just for one day a week, gave the price of the coffee into a fund, I’m pretty sure the problem would be solved

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 3:53 pm

        One coffee amongst many or the one meal of the day? No contest…

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 3:58 pm

        And perhaps even a roof and medical treatment
        Or is that too over the top 😦

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 4:02 pm

        I jus think of those billions on art…and as an artist, I’m all for people spending money on the stuff. But…priorities?

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 4:09 pm

        Yes, that’s what gets me.

  2. Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 3:45 pm Reply

    It really bugs me what is spent at high levels… and what is ignored at mid-level too.
    I remember one day in London, with a group of avowedly spiritual people, being told I should not have given anything to a beggar. It wasn’t much…I didn’t have a great deal… but even in London, it would buy a basic meal. I knew that, because it was my lunch it was supposed to have bought. “He’ll only spend it on booze and drugs!” Possibly…and possibly not. But then, whatever gets him through.
    Homelessness and poverty are both terrifying when you have to endure them, and with mental health problems too… because if you don’t start out with them, you are likely to suffer from at least depression pretty quick on the streets.

    • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 3:51 pm Reply

      One thing you soon learn is that if you don’t have mental health issues before you come into contact with our benefits system, you pretty soon will have 😦

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 3:54 pm

        I learned that a long time ago… about the same time I learned how to eat on what the market stalls left behind. I can be grateful for that now as it was an eye-opening period of my youth.

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 3:59 pm

        I suspect the world is divided into those who went to that school and those for whom it’s going to come as a shock later in life

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 4:00 pm

        I just don’t ever want to go back…

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 4:08 pm

        but because you’ve been there, you probably won’t because you’ll watch out for the signs

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 4:10 pm

        A lot of people who work hard enough that they should be secure are just one misstep from disaster these days.

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 4:16 pm

        Yes, a lot of people have no real reserves 😦

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 4:20 pm

        Fewer and fewer… 😦

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 4:44 pm

        Yes, limited hours contracts are tricky, they do keep people in jobs, but don’t give them real security

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 4:45 pm

        That, and other symptoms of a decaying society…

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 5:07 pm

        society is held together by people who believe in it and the institutions that got to make it up. When that believe dies, I think society does

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 5:13 pm

        That society might… but change becomes inevitable at some point.

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 5:18 pm

        It’s fascinating to step back, put on the gown of the historian, and take the long view. Change is probably constant, but whoever gets into power seems to pamper their supporters/client state and we still have the poor. I was about to comment, but at least the faces of the poor change. But actually I think we’re stuck in a situation where whoever gets into power, under what system, by the time they’ve paid off their supporters, there is damn all left to look after the poor and needy 😦
        It may be the problem is spiritual rather than political, and the spiritual lack is in those who have, not those who have not?

      • Sue Vincent May 16, 2019 at 5:23 pm

        It is the old saw… those who want power, and have the ambition to attain it, probably shouldn’t have it. But if they paid more than lip service to such ideas as the words you quoted… whether it is their faith or not… we might see some more positive changes.

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 5:34 pm


  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt May 16, 2019 at 3:53 pm Reply

    At least you do something personally.

    • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 3:58 pm Reply

      If I didn’t I’d probably cause trouble 🙂

  4. Stevie Turner May 16, 2019 at 5:03 pm Reply

    Many homeless people are also either drug addicts or alcoholics. Did you see the series of programmes where that ex-serviceman pretended to be homeless and lived on the streets for 60 days? He found out that some of them are given flats to live in, but consider their ‘work’ is begging for money on the streets!

    • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 5:11 pm Reply

      It’s complicated isn’t it. I’ve talked to people coming through the foodbank. Some of them are people with virtually no social skills, or people who think the only way to get something is to rant or intimidate. You get the feeling that it’s the only sort of relationship they’ve ever had
      I’ve met people where nobody in the family has had what you would call a proper job for three generations. They struggle to cope with the idea of work. We’ve allowed too many people to slip between the cracks and to become marginalised.
      The problem is made worse when you discover that some of them aren’t nice people. They wouldn’t be nice people if they’d a steady job on 40K a year!
      Actually the big problem is somehow to help the undeserving and unlovable. Because we cannot leave them as a festering sore 😦

      • Stevie Turner May 16, 2019 at 5:34 pm

        Maybe it goes back to what I’ve been saying on my blog today. Perhaps one of those unlovable people started out as an unloved baby/unwanted pregnancy.

      • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 5:40 pm

        Two or three generations of them! 😦

  5. robbiesinspiration May 16, 2019 at 5:03 pm Reply

    Jim, I think your philosophical prowess is right up there with HG Wells [this is a huge compliment in case your are unsure – smile]

    • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 5:15 pm Reply

      I’m afraid I’ve not yet achieved his eminence, but to the relief of my lady wife I haven’t had his sheer number of lovers and mistresses either
      But he was a great writer and probably not a bad man 🙂

  6. rugby843 May 16, 2019 at 6:12 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Bag Lady and commented:
    Jim shares thoughts I have myself.

  7. rugby843 May 16, 2019 at 6:13 pm Reply

    Had to reblog, you’re writing my thoughts!

    • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 9:10 pm Reply

      well they’re not bad thoughts 🙂

  8. willowdot21 May 16, 2019 at 9:27 pm Reply

    How brilliantly you have told this Jim. It’s so sad and getting worse. This homelessness is no longer prominent it the big city, every town and village has its rough sleepers. It’s a dreadful state of affairs. As to providing Mental Health care it is absolutely abismal. 💜

    • jwebster2 May 16, 2019 at 9:36 pm Reply

      It is difficult, and I suspect people ‘somehow end up in London’ but I know locally that various churches and the local authority and others keep an eye on things. We’re a town with perhaps 60K people, and sometimes we literally have no rough sleepers. At other times we have a couple. But there are people out there who have taken a decision to step aside from the world, perhaps because of mental health issues. They no long try to engage with the authorities, they travel from place to place, sometimes doing odd jobs, and are often ‘looked after’ by folk who’ve known them in this way for years. But their lives are fragile, eventually they just don’t wake up in the morning, but what is the alternative for them, sectioning them and locking them away?
      I think we’ve got to be able to deal with people as individuals not as groups

  9. M T McGuire May 16, 2019 at 9:44 pm Reply

    There a little group of homeless people in Bury St Edmunds. I try to make a point of always saying hello to them. I suppose it’s an old habit from my time living in London where I had very little cash so time was the only thing I could give them. So as I waved and called hello to the group in Bury a couple of days ago one of them said, ‘bless you for saying hello to us!’ and I thought, ‘what are we coming to when someone is so grateful just to have someone say hello.’ it’s incredibly sad. I was going to do a blog post about it. I still might.



    • jwebster2 May 17, 2019 at 5:37 am Reply

      I think you ought to, you do a good blog 🙂

  10. noelleg44 May 19, 2019 at 10:19 pm Reply

    We have a real problem with the homeless here – my town has a well-financed and used homeless shelter but the big cities have become homeless encampments.

    • jwebster2 May 20, 2019 at 5:27 am Reply

      We are in much the same position. We can have spells with no homeless (save erring boyfriends kicked out by girlfriends and the converse, that sort of thing which tends to be temporary) But normally we’ll get two or three ‘rough sleepers’ who are known to the various churches and others and who are supported, but because of mental health problems they won’t engage with the authorities.
      Between the two can be a fluctuating number, never large, of people who’ve fallen out through the gaps in the system and they will tend to be helped within a few days.

  11. patriciaruthsusan May 20, 2019 at 7:42 am Reply

    I’ve heard in the pavements of some parts of London. there are metal spikes so no one can rest on the ground there. There is the same tent situation in the large cities of the U.S. I personally know about the mental health situation. My husband died at 86 two years ago. He was bipolar. He decided to visit the U.S.in 2007 to see our son. I heard from our son that he had withdrawn all our savings to buy medicine for a friend who had actually died a month before. He had been picked up for hitchhiking twice. Each time the police called our son at work to come and get his father. He was afraid he’d lose his job so had to finally have my husband hospitalized in a mental facility. He wanted to keep him safe until his dad agreed to come back to India. His father at first refused so our son had to keep going to court to have him kept there until he agreed. It took a month. The mental health situation is the same as in the U.K. If a person is judged not to be a danger to others, he or she is turned out to fend for themselves if there’s no one to provide for them. Those hospitals are that crowded. Many of those poor people are on the streets. Yet billions of dollars are spent on things not needed. The U.S. Government, the so-called richest in the world, should hang its head in shame but that doesn’t seem available at this time. —- Suzanne

  12. patriciaruthsusan May 20, 2019 at 7:48 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    First, Jim Webster tells of a trip to London and situations there. Next, he has a witty book on offer that tells of country and farm life in South Cumbria, U.K. There’s a good review for it also.

  13. Ellen Hawley May 31, 2019 at 7:30 pm Reply

    Tents and sandwiches are better than nothing, but what we need is more housing, and housing that people can afford. It shames a nation when people have to sleep on its streets.

    • jwebster2 May 31, 2019 at 8:08 pm Reply

      Yes, London has too much housing being built for investment rather than for living in

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: