Just Giving

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I have arrived home. I’m very emotional and upset. I was standing outside the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. I had a good dinner discussing how to let artists make the records they really dream about making … without let or hindrance … without an eye to the bottom line.

Kate bush would never get a record deal now. Nor would Leonard Cohen. Nor would Radio Head. Nor would Frankie Knuckles. Nor would Captain Beefheart. Nor would Bob Dylan.

As I stood outside, a woman came and asked me for £7.50. very precise. Her name was Daniella. ‘I need £7.50 to get me off the street.’

I asked her if she had noticed my cane and how she felt about asking a blind guy for money. That was a really shit thing to do. I’m not a poor blind guy. I’m not destitute. Why did I play that card? I have no idea. my shallow self.

She said she hadn’t noticed and started to apologise and to walk away.

I stopped her ‘Hang on a second. Come here. Tell me what’s going on.’

She put her arms around me and sank down. ‘I can’t believe I asked you for money but I’m really at the bottom.’

Then she sagged and cried and cried and cried. She was skinny and young and she sobbed.

She said between sobs ‘I’m not safe.’

I put arms around her and patted her back in a slow tempo, like a mothers slow reassuring heartbeat. 'You are safe right now, let it out.’

She sobbed. She sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

Then abruptly she stopped and pulled away. ’I’m not safe.’

I gave her ten pounds. I said ‘Remember a blind man gave you ten pounds.’

Why on earth did I say that. It’s like a horrible cliché of a parable. What a ridiculous self important rubbish thing to say. ‘remember a blind man gave you ten pounds.’

I’m not mother Teresa for goodness sake. I’ve been in enough refugee camps, horrible parts of the world. I’ve also been stone broke.

I’m not a poor blind guy being super generous. I’m not a holy man come down from on high to save Daniella. I’m waiting for my driver with money in my pocket.

So on the way home the driver gave me good advice. I was very very upset by her. The driver said ‘They are everywhere mate. You just don’t see them. We’ve been told at the Mosque not to give them any money. They are Rumanian gangsters. They earn more money than I do.’

If you could see all the people on the streets asking for money you’d harden your heart.

So now I’m back home. Am I a fool? Am I a blind fool? If I could see all the beggars would I harden my heart?

I only experienced Daniella. She was on the street, begging a blind man for money. Is that just a sign of the times? That all sense of perspective has gone out of the window?

I really don’t know. It’s midnight. I’m alone in a warm apartment in a safe part of town. I’m blind. I’m terribly upset that Daniella is on the street. I don’t know if my ten pounds is to buy drugs. I don’t know if she’s laughing at me now.

Am I a blind fool? A pathetic vulnerable blind fool?

I do know that if I have a choice – and I do have a choice – maybe I would rather Daniella ripped me off and is laughing; I’d rather I was duped and ripped off a thousand times but that maybe just once I gave someone a lifeline and let them sob in a safe pair of men’s arms that meant them no harm.