Part one of ‘Dude, Where’s My Class?’ – a series of stories by Andrew Gladman, looking at the forgotten British working class.
The following is a work of fiction based on hundreds of true stories.
Big Nylon Turd
My mate in the tent never really existed. Now he just don’t exist even more, y’know? It’s a fucking shame, really is. Fucking shame. He was a decent bloke, I liked ‘im. Couldn’t meet a nicer guy. I used to come visit him, chat, ‘ave a good catch up, bring ‘im Maccy D’s. Always hangin’ around in ‘is underpass, always got a smile on. Decent fucking top bloke. Aren’t enough decent blokes around these days, y’know? Never existed. Never fucking existed, mate. Not, like, properly. Know what I mean? His tent was there, his fucking tent was there. Tried to pack that off. He never fucking let them! Fucking loved that tent, man. ‘e loved it. He did, y’know? Lived in that tent God knows ‘ow many years. Every fucking day started n’ ended in that one tent. If it were cold or whatever, ‘e wouldn’ even leave it. All day in ‘is one little tent. Fucking hell.
Sittin’ ‘ere now, watchin’ punters go past, swervin’ to avoid me. Must think the tent’s mine. Nobody else ‘ere to claim it, I guess. Few noses wrinkling up at the stink. Pisses me off, I’ll tell ya. Dunno why, I’m not beggin’, not yet, still scraping by. I wouldn’ expect anything from ‘em. But it’s like a taste, y’know? A taste a what it was like for ‘im. Every day. Every single fuckin’ day, sittin’ ‘ere, freezin’ ‘is fuckin’ bollocks off, watchin’ ‘em all just walk the fuck by, lookin’ down at him like ‘e’s total fuckin’ dog shit. The hate an’ disgust an’ snotty couldn’-give-a-fuck looks in their eyes. Day in, day out, cannot even imagine what it was like for ‘im, what it does to bloke’s mind gettin’ that all the time. I’m only gettin’ it now, for five minutes while I sit by my mate’s old tent, and it’s makin’ me wanna yell my fucking lungs out at the lot a these wankers. An’ I guess it just winds me up, them all thinkin’ I’m beggin’ from this tent. Not cos I’d think there’s anything wrong with it, obviously. Not like I think I’m any better than that. It’s not pride. I got all that beaten out of me already, don’t you fuckin’ worry. It pisses me off that ‘is tent’s been ‘ere for years wiv ‘im pokin’ ‘is ‘ead out of it n’ now, second ‘e’s gone, all I gotta do is sit ‘ere for a quick fag an’ they all reckon the tent’s mine. Not a single fucker walkin’ past ‘ere remembers ‘im. ‘ow could they, y’know? ‘e never existed an’ they’re the reason why.
We all knew ‘im, of course, our lot. All of us. All fucking knew this one bloke and ‘e didn’t even fuckin’ exist, mate. Used to knock. Knock on the door, well, y’know, not a door but, like, knock on the flap of ‘is tent. Fucking hell. Out he’d come, big fuckin’ grin on, all wrapped up n’ stinkin’ a piss and ‘is fags. Other fuckers’ fags, I guess, n’ all. All littered all over the floor down there. Fucking hell. It’s a fucking shit thing, mate. Fucking shit. Never really there and now ‘e’s gone, y’know? Bloody top bloke. They’ll ‘ave ‘is tent now. They’ll fuckin’ ‘ave it. Swept off like a big fucking massive nylon turd. Dog shit on their fucking shoe. Gone. Forgotten. It will be like ‘e was never fucking there, y’know, never fucking there. ‘e wasn’t though. Never really was. Never existed as far as they could care. Bit a’n inconvenience when ‘e started natterin’ or gettin’ in the way, or worse, gettin’ people likin’ him, makin’ mates n’ all that. Fucked up ‘is not existing a bit, can tell ya. But ‘e’s gone now. They’ll scoop off the tent, God knows what happens t’ the grisly thing inside. That’s just stuff now, inconvenient stuff. You don’t chuck grisly inconvenient stuff in a grave. In the ground, maybe. Not a grave. Doubt ‘e even ‘ad ID for that sort a thing. Hard to get ID when you ain’t anybody, know what I mean? They’ll wash the stains away, wash the memory away. Bam. Done. Gone.
When he wasn’t quite not existing, when ‘e was in the way, they said it was all ‘is own fault. Said ‘e couldn’t be bothered t’ try, couldn’t be bothered to do nuthin’. Said ‘e was useless, wouldn’t commit to anything, that’s why he didn’t fuckin’ count. Guess ‘e finally committed to not existing. Finally doin’ a proper good job of it. Thorough. Committed. Dun’t exist now. Nobody’ll remember ‘im. Wish I could say it’d take a year or a month or even a week, y’know. But it won’t. Not even a day. ‘e’s gone. ‘is memory’s gone. You don’t remember ‘im cos ‘e wasn’t there. No sign. Never any recognition, that ain’t changin’. Mental, man. Fucking mental. I remember ‘im, course. Course I do. Me and a few lads. We’ll ‘ave a drink, say it’s a shame, spare ‘im a silent thought whenever we walk through ‘is underpass and see where ‘is tent isn’t, see where there’s no sign of ‘im. We’ll remember. Can’t say nuffin’ cos we don’t ‘ave a voice to say it with, y’know, nuthin’ to listen to. But we’ll remember ‘im. That don’t matter though. We’re allowed. Don’t matter. ‘e never existed but we ain’t doin’ much better.
I stomp my fag out. Ash on the pavement right by the corner of ‘is tent. I gave ‘im a ciggy a few times, I guess. We smoked together, stank together. ‘im in his tent, me out here, lost in our own little ‘eads, our own little problems, never really proper together. My own little memorial then, just outside ‘is tent. ‘is home. Guess those pissed up punters were right that one time. ‘e weren’t really homeless. Not homeless, just hopeless. In’t that the fucking truth? Never got a fucking chance. Bloke never existed. Never even existed. Guess me neever.
I wonder if I’ll miss ‘im. Can’t miss a guy who din’t exist. I’m already finding this fucking tent gross, nothing fucking sentimental about it really. Bill are ‘ere now, lookin’ like it’s all a fucking inconvenience. Guess that’s what we all get to be in the end. A big fuckin’ inconvenience. Our final victory. Best it can fucking get when you’re not even there most a ya non-life.
An estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018 – a 22% increase on the previous year, the largest annual increase since reporting began. The number is expected to rise again in 2019.
The Labour Party has pledged to end rough sleeping within 5 years, making 8,000 homes available to those with a history of rough sleeping and introducing a £100 million plan for emergency winter accommodation. Labour has also pledged to build one million affordable homes over 10 years and improve standards, security and affordability for renters.
The number of rough sleepers in England has increased by 165% since the Conservatives took power in 2010. As of yet, the Conservatives have not announced any plans to tackle the homelessness crisis.