Paul is homeless. I saw him sitting at this fence just before Camden market, where the world opens up into a funky, edgy, retro heaven. A place full of vision where old school meets the now. Eclectic. He was drinking a can of lager and cheering on the young musician nearby who was singing for money and recognition; trying to find a way to break free.
Paul looked sad despite the fabricated cheer he wore on his face so I went and sat on the pavement next to him. He looked at me for a few seconds and I just smiled at him.
“You’re not taking my picture.” He said, staring at the camera slung round my neck.
“Nah….” He took a swig of his lager, “I used to be a musician…” He stared on longingly at the young lad singing. “I had a band called Pins and Needles.”
“Pins and Needles?’
“Think about it…” He looked straight into my eyes.
“Oh.. What happened?” I asked.
“Played the drums, the keyboard and the guitar. The guitar was the last thing I had and they took it from me.” His eyes welled up with tears.
“The police. They said I couldn’t play no more and they did this..” He offered his curled up hand to me, “they broke my fingers.”
I took his hand in mine as the tears rolled down his face. We sat like that for a while.
“I’ve got two sons, aged 12 and14. I don’t see them anymore. I just want to know that they’re happy, that’s all.”
People glanced down at us as they hurried by; as Paul cried and as I listened.
“I wish I could tell you my whole story…”
“Me too.” I replied, but we both knew there wasn’t enough time for that right then.
“One small suitcase,” he nodded back to the small travel bag at the side of him. “That’s my life now.”