Thursday, 16 April 2015

How I lost me van

Small disasters with big consequences. In this interview for The Homeless Library, Martin describes trying to run his life and his electrician's business out of a van. And when the van goes AWOL, everything else follows too...

The Homeless Library is gathering material for a history of homelessness in the UK. Interviews, artwork, poetry, book sculptures and handmade books are all included, making a history shaped like no other. 

As well as looking on this blog, you can also find and befriend The Homeless Library on Facebook.

Homeless Library, handmade book. April 2015


How I lost me van. This is the thing, people's lives change from a very small point, a small crack. And this crack gets bigger and bigger. I should get my paperwork and show you, it goes back to when I lost me house. Goes back to before then, when I got divorced and lost me son.

I've led an interesting life, a lot of people who are dyslexic have an interesting life and learn to cope. A lot of dyslexics don't have a problem til they're challenged at school. When I was at school, I couldn't write, couldn't understand it. I see the big things and the little things, the bit in the middle don't matter. Get a test paper and I can work out the pattern and don't logically know the pattern, but yet you work it out, the answer.

The van. If you've lost your home and you're living out of a van, how do you present yourself? If you're running a business, how do you present yourself to a customer? You've got to clean yourself up and pull the wool over their eyes to an extent. Money is the key, the need to wash, to buy whatever is needed. A house is better than a floor. A van is better than a field.

I was kipping in a van, able to get a meal and a shower. The caretaker at this place in Warrington where I was doing the electrics told me, if you hit it in a certain way, you get a free shower. "But I didn't tell you!" Getting something free can make all the difference. If you only have enough money for a shower, or a meal, which one are you going to pick?

My contract was paid off in instalments. Small people like me don't understand contracts. The money should've covered what I was paying for, drills etcetera, but the guy paying couldn't pay anymore. The ruse came about to get me and the van on a supposed job. They just wanted to take the van off me. Guy had an iron bar on him. They took the van.

But you've got to have something to start with, to keep you going. Where I grew up, on the estate, there was a guy who went around with a handcart with a couple of buckets, working from that he was a plumber. Nowadays you need a vehicle to run a business. I lost my van.

David Bowie was a big influence on my life. He wrote songs that start in a jumble and it becomes something good. But I'm a dyslexic and I can't read what I wrote anyway. A lot of people come in here (The Wellspring) and you get whacked with their frustration. It comes out in violence. You've got to be like the horse-whisperer, you've got to see other signs, other ways. Deal with that person's emotions.

If you can't imagine something you can't deal with it. I've been homeless and I can imagine that. Normally, solutions can't come instantly. Sleep on it and that answer comes easily the next day. Life's a dance, it can be resolved in a glance, or some chest-throwing, or violence. We forget that we're animals, think we are the most superior thing on earth and we're not. The most intelligent thing if you ask me is a virus, because it has the ability to revive itself. How many times have we said we've crushed Ebola? And yet it's still standing, still mutating and is that not intelligence? Life is resistance, it's how you meet it.

The Falklands War. A profound thing upsets British military forces, because they're unusual, they're compassionate. They came down to Goose Green and they met young conscripts from Argentina, boys less than 18. It knocked them back. The Argentinians could've won. It's another pattern. If they'd used that information, it could've made all the difference to the war. That's hindsight. The Enigma Code was broken not by logical thinking, but pattern.

Politicians! We're just beating people up, we gotta start praising. This political thing, everyone's suffering. Can you tell me is an single one of them working for people who are on low wage, or no wage? Cos if they really were, this place would be empty. We're told the National Debt is being managed, but it's trillions and no one can comprehend it. Cameron is just lining the pockets of the rich so they can survive recession.

We've got to help all the people. Do we want this to continue? (Gestures to all of the people in The Wellspring.)

The Homeless Library is a project devised by arthur+martha to document the heritage of homelessness using interviews, artworks, poetry. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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