When one goes for a coffee one tends to want to either converse with your companion or have a quiet moment stating into space-or wondering how they made that pattern in the coffee.
Well I was doing just that and thinking about another coffee shop supplier who proudly say they dont make patterns in the coffee and so charge less.
A man who was wearing two coats and a ill fitting jumper with holes in the sleeves came to sit at the table next to me. It was pretty obvious that he was one of those who lived on the streets. He had a series of items in various carrier bags located in the super market trolley that he was pushing. On the table in front of me was a pair of empty cups and a plastic knife- also the wrapper of a muffin.
He asked if he could have the knife- which he placed in one of the carrier bags. On reflection I do wonder if he was hoping for some of the muffin that had been finished by the people before me.
He then returned to his table. Soon after a middle aged couple came and sat at the next table. They asked him if he wanted a drink and he happily accepted a cup of tea which they bought for him together with their coffees and cheese toastie.
While the wife was getting these items I noticed that the husband engaged the man in conversation. It was not long before I heard all about where he had been sleeping locally and the range of places and facilities he could access. The husband listened politely and I noticed that he said little apart from “I see” or “Is that so”.
A moments reflection suggested that the homeless man was in fact as much in need of a conversation as anything to eat or drink. It was notable that the couple did offer him a share of their toasties as well.
I did not get to hear how the man had found himself in this situation. Having been through life I have seen at first hand how what appear to be steady prosperous circumstances can change rapidly. There was the couple with the big house and several fancy new cars- however all went back within days once the job came to an end. Then there was the person whose family were not supportive and who found themselves sofa surfing.
Two thoughts are relevant in such circumstances-” There but for the grace of God could go I” and ” Count your blessings one by one”
On my travels the homeless appear quite a few times. If you are visiting Trafalgar Square do go for your tea/coffee at the crypt of St Martins in Fields. The location is central and the items on offer are as good as any other. Most importantly however the profits from the cafe and the church supports St Mungos which works with the homeless.
Also if you research some of the other coffee/cafe providers, one ( I won’t name them) they also apparently make a point of recruiting the homeless to serve behind the bar and so give them that new start.
On one visit it was striking to see a bed just off Trafalgar Square for somebody to sleep on that night. Next door was Coutts bank-the rich and the poor next door to each other.