So there I was, driving home after a late finish at my evening job.
(Yes, I have more than one job. In fact, I never have fewer than two jobs these days — because, in this age of zero-hours contracts and temporary work without meaningful protections, I can’t afford fewer…)
It was dark; it was cold; there were hardly any pedestrians still around; and even the other cars were few and far between…
I was just passing the edge of Cambridge’s town centre — in fact, almost next to a university hall of residence that a pal of mine lived in, way back — when, ahead of me, I saw a young woman on the pavement, walking in my direction and waving her arms…
Naturally, I slowed down and pulled over onto the kerb, my shining armour glinting faintly through my warehouse clothes.
Now, my car is a Renault, and so none of the electrics work; as a result, the windows are stuck closed — meaning that I had to lean across and open the passenger door to speak to her…
‘Are you straight?’, she said, quickly pushing her face into the gap.
‘What…?’, I asked, baffled.
‘I mean, you’re not gay? You do like girls…?’
‘Well, yes; but I saw you waving, and I thought you might be in trouble…’
‘If you like me, you can have sex with me — for £30’, she said.
‘Um, well’, I said. ‘Look, it’s nothing personal, I promise; but I don’t think that’s such a good idea right now.’
‘I’ve never done this before’, she said. ‘But it’s fine: I’ve already got the cond…’
‘No, what I mean is that, uh, my wife and I, um, we have, you know, a very old-fashioned marriage, if you see what I mean…
(Don’t worry, ladies: I’m not really married. I was just thinking on my feet, there…)
‘But I need £30. I’ve got to get £30. It’s not for drugs or anything: it’s for my rent.’
‘Trust me: I really do know what that’s like’, I said. ‘And I know it’s not for me to tell you what to do or not to do. But I don’t think that being out here this late, on your own, flagging down drivers, is the best way there is of managing this. Surely you know what I mean…?’
‘Could you give me £30? Or you could lend it to me, and I’ll get it back to you…? There’s a cash point at the Co-op, if you’ve got your card…’
‘I’m awfully sorry’, I said. ‘And I know you might not believe this; but I can’t go to the cash point, because there won’t be any money in that account until Friday morning. Really. I’m living on loose change today and tomorrow. But you can have what I’ve got on me, okay? Look: three … four … four eighty … four ninety-something. Nearly five quid: that’s a part of the way there, isn’t it…?
‘No. I’ve got to get £30. I’ve got to have £30 by tomorrow.’
‘I really am sorry’, I said. ‘This is all I have… Honestly…’
‘I don’t believe you! You’ve got a car!’, she said.
And then she walked away. Further up the road. To wait for the next man with a car. In the cold. Alone. Late at night. Desperate for £30.
And, of course, I don’t know any of the details. Is she one of Britain’s millions of ‘working poor’ — who find that rent, council tax and commuting are eating up 80% and more of their earnings, with everything else still to be paid for? If she’s not working, perhaps she’s still in the infamous ‘six week’ (and the rest!) wait for her first payment of ‘Universal Credit’ — that newest weapon in our carpetbagging elite’s campaign of conscious cruelty towards the poorest (and a benefit from which the ‘Bedroom Tax’ is deducted before it even gets to you…)? Was she so desperate to have the money the next day because she’d been told she’d lose her tenancy if she didn’t — probably via a so-called ‘Section 21’ eviction notice (and I know all about those, because I’ve had one)…?
But I don’t know anything about her or her situation. Except that she was being driven to the most dangerous kind of amateur street prostitution over significantly less money than Iain Duncan Smith will claim on expenses for a single breakfast.
All I know is what little she said to me. But even if I’d known more, what could I have done to help…?
I drove on through a few more junctions and took my usual turning, away from town and towards the motorway. If I’d turned the other way, I’d have gone past the street where, a few months ago, I saw a homeless girl in tears of rage and misery. Apparently, a passer-by had given her some money to buy food — and she went straight away into Sainsbury’s to get some. She’d left her sleeping bag and blankets where they were — on the pavement, outside a shop a few doors down — and when she came back, someone had got rid of them.
I only had loose change that day, too. But at least she took it.
It’s 2017. It’s Tory Britain. And if you aren’t angry as hell, then there’s something very wrong with you.
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