"Have you got a pen?"


Boys, i gotta tell you about this guy i met today, some hipster hobo in his fifties walking along the street past my work while i'm outside having mid-afternoon cigarette. "Have you got a pen?" he asks, with scrap of paper in hand. "you wouldn't believe it, i've found two pens today - a red one and a blue one but i went home to change my jacket and i've left them there." Well maybe i do have a pen, just hold on a minute there and i search my pockets but have no pen.

All this time we've been talking at total ease with each other, he starts showing me some ornamental pine cutting he's found and had in his wallet jacket pocket. “When the words come, you've got to write them down” he says; i know what you mean, i tell him. Then he's talking about going on holiday to blackpool and writing poems to give to strangers as presents to thank them for the good time he
had there. Tells me he's a retired gentleman's tailor and is now a beard grower. Be proud of the beard.

Another guy walks by, looks kinda homeless type fella, friendly enough, asks where he can get a bus ticket [but doesn’t ask for any money, which is highly unusual for someone on the streets of this town]. “Try the bus ticket shop” my acquaintance tells him. But i got no money. “Why, how much do you need?” A pound. “Alright, i'll give you a pound, gimme it back next time you see me.”
Bus ticket guy has walkman with him and handful of tapes which my enquires reveal to all be theme song tapes; childrens TV shows and Breakdance 2. With a pound in his pocket he's on his way, no thanks. Our beard grower jokingly shouts after him “thanks for the pound”. oh yeah, right, sorry...

He then begins telling me about a bi-annual beard growing contest he's thinking of entering. In Berlin this year, apparently. Starts explaining to me the seventeen different categories you can enter and how ITS NOT JUST ABOUT THE BEARD but about HOW YOU PRESENT IT i.e. whether you have chosen the right style for you, what you wear with it, how you carry yourself; your gait, no less. (yes, he used this word).

Then we're talking music and he mentions Leonard Cohen, to which i
respond affirmatively, which leads to the pair of us singing a tender
duet of Bird on a Wire while stood at the top of a flight of steps outside my work. We ended up parting with me saying to him if you ever see me on the street, stop me and say hello, or rather please don’t pass me by, which creases him up and he chuckles off telling me to do likewise. I know we’ll never meet again.



June 2005