Saturday, 29 August 2015

Confession

As a consequence of bringing Nº 3 son and wife back to where we left their car so they can resume their journey, we are tied up for the weekend, once again, in the middle of Skipton. I haven't yet worked out how CRT mooring rules apply to the sort of travelling we've been doing in this neck of the woods for the last few weeks, but I don't feel I've been stopping anyone else from parking up and enjoying the sights.

Be that as it may, we had a lazy day after they'd left, and then I made tea at about 7 p.m. – essentially a cauliflower cheese with tuna in it, with cheese on top toasted under the grill, and served with our very occasional treat – baked beans! It was yummy! As it was all getting near to being ready, a young man crouched down on the towpath and peered through the window, having seen me and the saucepan of baked beans. He waved to attract my attention – not difficult since he was about two feet in front of my eyes, and called "Excuse me, sir."

Now it was his misfortune that he had approached me in more or less this same location two weeks ago, asking for money. In my more innocent youth I might have provided some, but since I now have a fair amount of experience of this, in Edinburgh and Brazil and a number of other places, and since Nº 1 son works with homeless people in Cornwall and says "Dad, on no account give them money", he was out of luck. My immediate instinct, on seeing him in front of me today, was to assume he was after more of the same. In addition, in spite of all the above experiences, I feel very inept at dealing with such situations, and wish they wouldn't occur. So I simply shook my finger in a negative sort of gesture and turned away to finish getting things ready for our meal. He moved on.

But I was very unhappy. Too late it occurred to me that I had, right in my hands, the wherewithal to give him some warm nourishment. Whenever I make this dish, I always make too much, and it would have been the simplest thing to have asked if he wanted some. We would hardly have noticed the difference. Besides, to do such a thing was normal behaviour in Brazil, where someone might come by the house and ask for a "prato" – a plateful of whatever we were having for lunch. They were never refused. By the time I'd thought all this, it was too late. He'd gone, and I was left wondering.

All the ifs and buts, all the discussions about homeless people and begging, all the debates about the causes of and solutions to social issues of this sort, are irrelevant. Nor am I looking for anyone to soothe a troubled conscience or pour vitriol on the vulnerable. Erin Me brings us all sorts of adventures. I don't know what might have been the response, or the benefit, if I had offered him some of our food. I'm just a bit sad that, at this point in the adventure, I didn't do something a bit different.

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