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» Tramps

I was the tramp
Our tale begins with yours truly sitting in a police car. You see, I'd been homeless for a good many months and in between roughing it, I'd done a fair bit of sofa surfing on especially cold nights. At one particular “friends”, I had however come a cropper. See this friend, rather then asking me to move on, as others had in various ways, decided instead to go for broke. I was asked to go out and pick up some stuff from another mutual acquaintance only to find that person wasn't just not in the house, but not even in the same city! Trudging back I phoned up – I'd left everything I owned in this friends place, beyond the bag on my back that literally went everywhere with me – it had a change of clothes and a sleeping bag in it. I was refused, and then was put on the business end of the most painful and hurtful tirades I've ever been witness to.

Threats a plenty came across the line. So I'd phoned the police as the temperature was dropping below zero at this point to get back what stuff I could carry with me. By the time the police had arrived (2 hours later), this friend had managed to hide/remove/whatever everything I knew to be in that house.


So the police took me to the local salvation army centre, but as per – it was full to the brim. It's December, there is snow coming down quite heavily and I'm on the streets. Fuck.

In a moment of desperation I phoned a guy I'd worked with as a phone monkey for Currys. At this point I figured I didn't have anything to loose. The diamond came through.

“No probs Lea, get your arse round to my old man's – we'll set up a bed for you and we can work out the rest later!”

After an hour or so I got to his old man's house based on the directions he'd given me. By now I can't feel anything below my knees and my fingers are becoming difficult to move – it's that cold.

I stay at his Dad's place for two weeks in the end. But that's not the best part. Oh no.

His Dad was (as I understand it) a well known and trusted member of the Muslim community. Where both the local council and Christian charities had told me they couldn't do much due to me not being a single mother/(ex)junkie/asylum seaker/ex con. This one man, with a handful of phone calls arranged a place for me. Even better, thanks to his good words on my behalf, I didn't even have to pay a deposit!!!

So here I am, at home nearly 18 months later and very much alive thanks to a virtual strangers' kindness.

Thanks Noah, I can't say how much I owe you – how much is a life worth?

As for the “friend”, she ended up with practically all of my ID (in another bag), computer (worth a few hundred) and piles of other stuff. Not that I can prove it, of course.

Apologies for length...
(Fri 3rd Jul 2009, 7:39, More)

» Screwed over by The Man

A one sided affair
I was never popular at school, if I'm honest. I was one of those oddball types who actually enjoyed learning, I was the kid who did his homework during lunch.

In short, I was, looking back, the ideal victim. Through secondary school my injuries included a broken nose, several cracked ribs and bruises so numerous that I would lose count a week or two after any school holiday was finished. I couldn't make it from one lesson to another without getting either physically assaulted (at least once per day) or getting verbal from someone as I tried desperately to be invisible as I marched through the corridors.

The teachers... Their idea of punishment when I couldn't hide the bruises, was to give any assailant a three day holiday, which as you can imagine, got round and only made things worse. Despite my parents best efforts after a particularly egregious assault, whereby my face was utterly pulped. Nothing changed, the school would tell them there was nothing they could do beyond suspensions... There are many days I wish I'd taken my step dad's invitation to go to the police up. But I like a fool didn't, trusting the teachers to protect me...

Then one day what little faith I had left in the system was utterly destroyed. One of the gangs that made it their mission in life to make mine hell jumped me just before the start of the school day. I'd like to say that I was trying to be adult in not retaliating and going to the staff, but it would be a lie - the fight had been beaten out of me long since. At the insistence of a mate who witnessed the end of the assault, I slowly made my way to the staff room. That was that I thought. Wrong.

The staff brought the Keith (for that was his name) and demanded to know what he thought he was playing at. He claimed I'd shoved his brother into a corridor wall with my bag before pushing him to the wall and in front of dozens of witnesses threaten to and I quote "fuck you up permanently". The brother and his mate were duly brought and they confirmed the story. I had a big bag at the time and readily conceded that I may well have barged past him at some point. At worst I figured Keith was about to get away with it yet again, but no. My head of year informed me, whilst I stood before him with several cuts and no small amount of bruising developing on my face, that if I couldn't find any proof that I hadn't shoved this kid, I would be permanently excluded, with no right of appeal. I didn't have a word to describe how I felt at the time, but looking back thunderstruck covers it nicely.

This same head of year was the person who had on no fewer than three separate occasions told my folks that there was no possibility for such a thing happening was now telling me this was precisely what was about to happen to me. Zero tolerance was the reason given. Again I'd like to claim that I was simply playing it cool, truth was I didn't have any words left. I went to my next lesson pretty much accepting that I'd not be in that hell hole by the weeks end.

As it happens my Spanish teacher after hearing what had happened went to bat for me, turns out it was her class that this incident occurred, together with his form tutor, who stated in no uncertain terms that both he and his friend were lying sacks of crap who would back each other up no matter what and who would whine and complain at the sound of a raised voice much less than a physical assault had said nothing to either, went to my head of year and put a stop to the process that was at this point half way complete.

But I never forgot and again when word got around, the bullying increased tenfold. They and I knew at that point I couldn't complain, that if I defended myself beyond trying to block their blows they could have me expelled. I'd like to say there was some happy ending, or funny comeback, but there isn't. About a quarter of the boys in my year who left at sixteen were in prison before they hit eighteen, a fair few died in car accidents a drug overdoses and me? Well I my life pretty much went from one disaster to another after that.

Apologies for length and lack of funnies.

(edits for loose/lose fail)
(Sat 4th Aug 2012, 17:37, More)

» Buses

First time in San Francisco, 1986
A friend and myself were visiting this fine country for the first time. Unsure of the area and not wanting to get ripped off by the cab drivers, we decided to go by bus to visit a local aquarium as we'd seen the adverts over town - this place had live humpback whales.

So, we get on the bus (the exact change bit caught us by surprise I must say) and sit back for a nice relaxing ride. Sadly another passenger had decided that this was not going to be so and he was sat directly in front of us. His boom-box was emitting what could only be described as ear piercingly loud noise, apparently this was what passed for music in these parts. I asked him to turn it down. He patently ignored my request. So I asked again only for him to turn and look at me as though I'd asked to shag his mother. He gave me "the bird".

Now my friend is the strong quiet type. Not one for putting up with nonsense and knows a thing or two about hurting folk, he decides he's had enough of this and sets about stopping it. Leaning past me he simply pinches the mans neck and the guy drops like a sack of spuds. The music was switched off in a fluid motion as my friend sat back and began to relax. The rest of the bus erupted in applause.
(Sun 28th Jun 2009, 10:28, More)

» Prejudice

My Sister, the smart one...
Now as I've previously said on here, one of my best mates is Dan, his father, Noah is a Muslim who originally came over here from Pakistan when he was 11 back in the late 50's.

My Sister was sent to one of the best schools in the area, whereas I and my brother got sent to a dump of a comprehensive. She had opportunities thrown at her the likes of which both myself and my brother would have given up vital organs to get. Her grades were and are by far the best of the three of us.

So imagine my surprise when visiting last Christmas to hear her giving a speech to myself and my mum that would have brought a tear to Nick Griffins wonky eye.

It began with the usual "immigrants be stealin' our jobs and homes" shpeel and carried on like this for a good ten minutes. Then she turned to me and said "And that goes for your friend Noah too, fucking paki!"

At this point I'm brimming over with fury, but as I'm about to bite a curious and delicious thought pops into my head.

So I swallow my rage and ask:

"What about the kids and grandkids of immigrants?"

"They can all fuck off as well."

"So when are you planning on moving to Denmark or Northern Ireland then?"


Strangely the subject got dropped pretty quickly and I left not long after...

Great Grandmother on my Grandads side was from N.I., Gran is a Dane
(Fri 2nd Apr 2010, 18:18, More)

» Screwed over by The Man

Not all training centres are equal
After leaving school in 1997 aged 16 I found myself in a bit of a rut, I simply didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. Looking through the local paper I saw what I thought to be the answer to my prayers: A skills centre for teens that offered the option of doing the then newly introduced NVQ qualification - the so called modern apprenticeship scheme. Having received my NVQ training credits card (a blue plastic card with the yellow NVQ logo) I quickly arranged an interview.

I was shown around the place, the idea was that you'd try all manner of different trades, welding, brick laying, motor mechanics etc in order to find what you liked and then start working toward an apprenticeship in that field.

A brilliant idea in principle and to this day I think its a clever idea to offer this sort of introduction to real work to early school leavers like myself. I had a great time, I learned that I had a knack for electronics and that I was frankly lethal when attempting welding (turns out that if you have the knack, you can in fact use a mig welder to drill holes through a couple of 3mm thick metal sheets). Also learned the value of good stock keeping, acting as a storeman for their automotive dept and in doing so stopped a spate of thefts that had been going on for weeks.

There wasn't the availability to do my NVQ there in electronics, so I signed up with another provider that specialised in electrical and mechanical engineering.

The NVQ scheme was broken up into two parts: A foundation course - NVQ2, where you learned how to read and create technical drawings as well as use basic hand tools in mechanical engineering, health and safety etc, it then split to a specialisation - you could choose to do either electrical or mechanical engineering, though you also had the option of doing one after the other if you so wished. The second part was the modern apprenticeship or NVQ3 itself, this would be part paid for by a company and part by your NVQ credits...

Specialising in the electrical side of things I was truly in my element. The tasks came naturally to me, there was no bullying and the trainers treated you like adults. I had a great time making the test pieces in the electrical side - things like building a ring main spur (one light that could be operated by either of two switches - the sort of setup you'd find with a flight of stairs) or the electronics side learning to solder and building neat little things like an astable multivibrator (two LEDs that flashed alternately).

I passed the foundation section with flying colours with both my sense of self worth and my confidence being as high as they had ever been. Things were finally looking up.

Right until the head of my section had to sit me down and explain that there was no way I would be eligible for an apprenticeship. Turns out that you only have enough credits to do one NVQ2 and part of the NVQ3, but that the skills centre drew their funding from the same pot (something that was frowned upon deeply by many of the actual training centres - the skills centre was only supposed to tap them when actually on the NVQ, not the taster sessions), I didn't have enough left and no company was prepared to take the full burden.

I've been told that the loopholes the skills centre used to exploit have long since been plugged and that the whole area of modern apprenticeships has been radically overhauled since I passed through, but it did and still does annoy me that it was allowed to go on at all.


(edits for clarity)
(Mon 6th Aug 2012, 5:49, More)
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