Friday, 8 May 2015

Legit (I've never been)

Drugs are a familiar backdrop for portrayals of the homeless community. While we don't want to peddle cliches, many people we've met have been affected by substance abuse - directly or indirectly. The following contributor to The Homeless Library is very frank about drug use and selling drugs and, while describing these activities, also uses sexually explicit language. And he's a storyteller... 


I'm a storyteller. What I say, there's usually a strand of truth in it somewhere. That's where the story comes from. But the more you can get around the truth, the better. The police only have a few hours to convict you. If we can keep them talking, that's our game won. It's the art of the waffle, give them something but nothing. Like walking up to the edge of a cliff, but you don't go over.

Last time I was picked up, it was for suspicion. Banged up for three days. The police hold you three days while you rattle. I wouldn't've minded but I didn't do it.  They vipered me, took footprints, the lot even though I was wearing the wrong size of trainers for the job. No point in spoiling a good story with the truth.

Keep the dim and the intelligent in balance, that way the intelligent have always got summat to do. Looking after the idiots. My role in all this, in life, is to cause as much trouble as I can and get away with it. But lately I don't seem to get away with anything. It's not good, it gets you this life.

Hostels. I know this week several people who won't bag a bed. Them hostels are ruthless some days, they'd have your eyes out the people in there. The staff are alright, but you can imagine the job they do, how many times do you feel full of other people's shit and how kind do you feel after  all that? But I think it's more humiliating to sleep on a park bench than in a hostel. If you wanted the park bench but you get the hostel, then you've lost.

A group of people actually don't want a bed - surprised? The fella who was sitting here before, he wants to sleep out - he's honest about it he's not making excuses cos he can't get it together to find a place. It's what he does.

You go back to your patterns, to what you know. The police rely on it. When you're desperate you go where you get help, where you've got friends. Doesn't take Einstein to work that out. When they're looking for you, they don't chase you. They just go wait at your mam's. Covered. They know the rules, we know the rules and everything's hunky dory. It's when they try to get clever and change the rules it all goes wrong.

You got to be careful when the police interview you, they're looking for things to disprove. They'll ask for a witness statement so they can rip it to pieces and call you a liar in court. You get skinned in court. They force you to answer, or it goes against you. Then they prove you're lying.

All I've been arrested for recently is lying to the police. I didn't even know that was an offence, I thought it was a national pastime. It's just under "Perverting the course." It was on video, me lying. 50 pound fine. Even then I lied - I said I'd pay it.

The word experience gives the impression that you're supposed to learn from life. I'm afraid to say, mate, we run at the same brick wall time and again - and look at ourselves as if it's not our problem. You've got a better chance of plaiting fog than getting us in here (The Wellspring) to learn from our mistakes.

I duck and I dive, I'm a trader, I trade anything. I'm a cross between Fagin and the Artful Dodger, that's me. Buy cheap and sell high. Get summat people can't live without and then sell it to them. Don't need a business model. If you don't buy you'll rattle your back, you're gonna be ill. I win every time. You don't need a business model, just a desperate smackhead. These are all things I've picked up because they've been done to me.

I've never been legit. Since the age of 15 I've always been a criminal. Ends up like a proper job. Worked for one fella seven years. I had a year of ecstasy, working in this trade. But it was also the year I got sliced and diced. Don't fuck your boss's missus. It was the gamble, the boredom, that's why I did it. A bad thing to do. Usually you find your boss is borderline psychotic.

This business. You can be too scary, you've got to find the middle ground. Be reasonable but show people if they piss you around they get a slap. You can also be too successful in my trade, people get jealous. You can ring 999 for free, that's all it takes. If I don't like the look of you, I just ring the police on you mate, that's the way to do it.

Then you've got that other minor issue, where are you gonna hide the money? Sounds easy but it ain't. I used to hide it with me mate's mum, she looked like butter wouldn't melt. The aim is to spend up without showing it. Spending money isn't easy, you end up with crap everywhere. I ended up buying cheap gold. You can send it to jewellers and get it melted. You want to spend a lot, but not have anything to show as evidence. The shitey gold is 9 carat and the bar is 24 carat. The oldest monetary system in the world, diamonds and gold.

We've got lots of time to be philosophical, it's free. I'm not wealthy, I like drugs. I spend all my day earning what I do at night. As an experiment, was it worth it? No. As a lifestyle? No. But it's the only thing you know and you're stuck with it.

(Interview with Phil at The Wellspring, 16 April 2015)

The arthur+martha project The Homeless Library is the first ever attempt to write a history of homelessness in Britain. It includes not only individual testimonies, but also poetry and art, giving it a shape like no other. Look for more related blogs on this site, or befriend us on FaceBook.Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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