Pins and Needles

January 29, 2015 10:53am Published by Jules Smith in The Art Philosopher 34 Comments


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.

“Why not?”

“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.

“Who did?”

“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.”



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I remember him. You are probably the only person who cared enough to sit and talk to him and you also made him smile I remember.

My moment of goodness!

You have a good heart, a keen eye and a listening ear, Jules. Those are the key ingredients for sainthood.

Thanks Larry 🙂 Now I just need to cleanse myself of all the naughtiness! Saint Juliette….I think that rolls off the tongue beautifully!

St. Augustine wrote, “”Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” I think that you’re on firm ground St. Juliette.

Haha! I like that 🙂

I’ve been sitting here for a while, trying to think of the words that’ll convey how your post made me feel. It is difficult because there’s a contrasting mixture. One one hand, your kindness in stopping to talk to him I’m sure did wonders in helping him to feel his humanity again, even if for a moment. On the other hand, I’m thinking of how sad it is that he lost the last thing (his guitar) that he had that made him feel as though he had a purpose…and his kids. This was a butt kicking little read Jules. You are so gifted with words…please never stop writing! xx

Thank you Tracy, such lovely thoughts. Yes, it’s so sad that all he has now is a tiny suitcase. Where’s the hope? Where does he go from there? I just hope he will get to see his boys one day; maybe that’s enough to keep him going 🙂

This is a beauty of a piece, Jules. It’s poignant in its simplicity. It’s “what happened on the way to the forum” and the rest is up to the reader. Me, I took off on a personalized head trip: I want to right the wrongs Paul has suffered, to see to all homeless ones, to take all the shelter animals home with me… Right. And I arrived at the Always. Always do whatever I’m able to do when the opportunity presents itself. Which is what you did, which is Beautiful.

Thank you, Miss A 🙂 If I could save everything I would, but if we can all do our bit, when we can, like you say, then that’s a good leap forward. 🙂

Poor fellow. I hope his sons still want to see him – it would be too sad for words if they don’t. You were saintly, Jules – an angel of mercy with a camera. And he did let you take his picture after all!

I hope so too, Mr. Gorilla Bananas, it would be so sad if he never saw them again.
Yes, he let me when I left and someone else tried to at the same time and he told them to sod off! Ha!

your heart is gorgeous gold, mah dahlin. i had many homeless friends in college, they have their own city-within-the-city in SF and i felt most at home with them. i’m confident Paul’s story will be told in full in some capacity, maybe in a song…*)

So is yours my sweet Phoenix *)

I hope he can find a guitar and sing his story. I’d buy it 🙂

His story is heartbreaking. But just want to hug you and thank you for this beautiful piece. You took time to hear him out, showed him compassion, not many do that Jules. You’ve made a difference in his life, even if you may not feel so. And in ours too, by sharing this with us! Bless you!

Awww…thanks Aditi (((((HUGS)))))

I hope it did make a tiny bit of difference. 🙂

Poor bugger.

Do you think the police really broke his fingers?

I don’t know, I can only go on what he told me. His fingers were swollen and he couldn’t bend them. I assume he was busking without licence and had probably been doing it despite being warned not to and Mr Policeman got racked off.


I hope there’s a happy ending out there somewhere for Paul. Christ, this made me so sad. It can happen to anyone. You. Me. Nobody is immune.

Remind me to stop complaining so much.

So do I. Yeah that’s true, you never know what may sideswipe you one wet, Wednesday afternoon.

This made me feel like I was gonna cry but I didn’t so it’s cool.

There aren’t too many people who would spare time for someone in this guy’s position. Even though they might consider themselves “good” people.

I like your style.

It’s easy to walk past people and not give them the time of day but just to have a bit of a chat might make a difference to both of you.

Thank you, freddylicious

This makes me smile. Too often we just speed by. I’m glad you took the time to stop and talk to him. Can you imagine how much that one act means to him and will continue to mean for days to come? Thanks for that.

Life’s too short not to stop and smell the flowers, Crystal 🙂 Thank you

Completely agreed. =)

OK, now I want to know more about what happened to this Paul guy. Why would they break his fingers? Who does that?

I don’t know why anyone would do that but…
How does anyone end up in this situation? There will be a myriad of reasons and things that happened both externally and internally that led to this. I think it’s sad that we all have such little time to be bothered to help people who sometimes find it hard to help themselves.

See, that’s why I love you.

And see! That’s why I love YOU. Hello Blue 🙂

Hello Gorgeous! Let me guess: busy 24/7. Right? I hope you’re doing fine.

Someone is stealing my time 🙁 I don’t know what’s happened to the hours in my days but they aren’t long enough!

I’m doing fine my gorgeous blue…thank you 🙂 x

I am waiting with some anticipation for the Valentine’s Day pre-game post and post-game evaluation…


Get ready to be severely disappointed …I KNOW that psycho wine killer will not deliver me an exciting gift and the postman just walked right past my house. BUT…I have knocked a little something together and will pay you lip service, Larry 😉

You did very well with your lip service sans joker.

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