Look beyond your own little bubble


Each morning I am woken by one of two things, either the little lady waking up in the next room, or my alarm clock. Eventually I roll over to kiss the wife and get out of bed to start my day. I have so much to be thankful for and I never take it for granted for a moment. I have a healthy wife and daughter, a roof over my head that I can call my own, a car, and a job that I enjoy to pay for these luxuries. We’re by no means rich, but we’re happy and fairly comfortable. This fact is regularly highlighted to me on my journey home from work when I go under the five ways roundabout using the underpass to avoid the traffic. Four out of the five days that I cycle through there, there is usually a couple of homeless people asking for change. I have always had mixed feelings about giving to the homeless, people often say we shouldn’t give as it only encourages them to spend the money on drugs or alcohol, donate to homeless charities instead. Who’s to say that homeless people are the same and they are not actually going to spend it on some hot food or a hot drink on a cold day? I often see a few regulars down there, there seems to be a couple that stand out and I often wish I carried a bit of change for them, but in my job there isn’t a lot of call to carry money on me. I’ll give them a nod and a smile, and carry on with my journey, at least feel this way that I am not totally ignoring them like they are any less of a person just because they are homeless. Who am I to judge when I don’t know them? These are real people with real feelings and all sorts of reasons for being on the streets. Most of them don’t actually want to be there, they are not there by choice, and most of them just want the chance to get out of the vicious cycle they’re in!

I was intrigued by one in particular the other day, I have seen a couple of times and noticed that he is often writing. What does a homeless person write about? Was it a letter to an MP complaining about the lack of support? Was it a letter to long lost family? Was it merely a shopping list? Or was it some kind of diary, something left behind to say “look, even if I’m not here now, I once was… I existed even if you didn’t notice me”? I consider words to be very powerful, and to see this guy putting pen to paper meant that being on the street hadn’t beaten him… he had a voice and he wanted someone to hear it! He had more going on in his head than just getting enough change together to get wasted later that day. I did think about it for a while on my ride home.

I’m not the sort of person who can just strike up a conversation with a stranger, its just not me, although I’d love to find out a bit more about our homeless writer friend and how he ended up on the streets, and of course what he is writing about. Most people avoid conversations with a homeless person, we have generally given them a bit of an intimidating persona, imagining they’ll get angry if we don’t give them money. Its easy to imagine this and use it as an excuse to walk past and pretend we didn’t see them. Yeah, maybe some of them have taken the fall on times especially hard and turned to drugs, and sure I wouldn’t want to encourage their habit by throwing more money at it, but getting clean and turning their lives back around is a choice that only they can make, simply walking past not giving them anything probably won’t change anything, as they’ll no doubt find the money one way or another. It does make me wonder what is going on in our society when we have people sleeping rough in the 21st century. How can immigrants wander in a get housing when we can’t keep people who have always lived here off the streets? Something seems wrong about all of that! It was heart warming to read about Robbie, the homeless guy from Preston who offered his last £3 to help a young lady get home late at night, and was rewarded with an online campaign that went viral and raised £45,000 for him. If only we could do more of this and get more people off the streets, especially in this cold weather!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I never take my life for granted, I know how lucky I am, and I am thankful for it every day (even on the bad days!). It hits home when I hear of close friends going through tough times and relationships failing. I literally had my feet swept from under me this week with news of this very kind. One of my oldest friends had spoken with me of tough times the last time I saw him, but knowing the relationship I just thought they’d work through it. It seems I was wrong, and it seems with very little warning, a point of no return has been reached, and while I can’t go naming any names or gossiping about it on here, I can’t complete a journal without mentioning it. This blog documents my life, my thoughts and stuff that affects me, and this is huge news! I am truly gutted by it, especially as I photographed their wedding. Although Its not the first time I have been made aware of couples whose weddings I have photographed that have separated, and I always find it really sad. To have seen, and been a huge part of what should have been their biggest day, only to find out that it just wasn’t meant to be, is a real anticlimax. In two of these cases I hadn’t even got their wedding album back to them before I found out it was all over. Bad times indeed. I guess you just never know whats around the corner. You think you know someone and then suddenly your world turns upside down. Of course nothing is guaranteed, and of course there is no rock solid guarantee that my own marriage couldn’t fall victim to this. I guess everyone, as certain as they are, is taking a chance on love, although I’d like to think that when it comes to odds, with me and the wife they are stacked heavily in our favour. I knew straight away when I met my her (even though I’d had a couple of drinks that night!) that there was something different about her. She was so much more than just a pretty face, she’s the other half of me! I have the best wife ever, and I am well aware of it. If I had a time machine and could go back and change anything, all I’d do is make sure I met her sooner!

Still, enough dwelling on relationships for now, this blog post is a little later than planned and needs to go out, but it can’t be uploaded without this little lady in it…

IMG_3214

Someone has really found their feet, and after daddy being such a soft touch for such a long time and carrying her home twice a week since September from nursery instead of using the buggy, now suddenly she doesn’t want to be carried at all, and would rather walk home! I was a little unprepared for this, but managed to get this shot by giving Clare my phone, as I’m still smitten with it, and it seems to do a half decent job in low light! I need to get in the habit of carrying a camera around with me again as this new 365 project isn’t getting off to a very good start! Oh well!

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About andrewvokes

Husband to my beautiful wife Clare, and father to two gorgeous girls. Cyclist, runner and photographer, living in Birmingham, UK.

Posted on February 12, 2015, in Personal, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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