Friday, March 16, 2012

Arthur's Seat.

I've been living in Edinburgh on and off for about two years now. I live near Leith Walk. I walk up and down it regularly. There is this guy who always sits around the street. Wiry wild grey hair, bleary red eyed, of African descent, wears dirty blue jeans, blankets tucked and wrapped around his waist. Face haggard and rich with lines and wear and ruin. His hands are tought, skin cracked clay and caked in grime or dirt. He sits in bus shelters, smoking cigarette doubts. I seen a man once hand him bananas.

Every city has these lone wild card eccentrics.  Lone ineffable homeless characters. Often an oblivious feature the street. This guy sleeps outside Majestic Wine everynight on a grate with some cardboard for a matress and a tatty sleeping bag to keep warm. He sleeps awkwardly on his side. I've passed by him while he sleeps. I always take a moment to look at him. What crazy world has he got inside of himself? What has life unleashed upon him? Maybe he escaped something far worse. Maybe he has gone a bit mad with indifference. This man with wild grey hair and a red eyes, who is he? His atmosphere is not hostile. He feels amiable, pleasant, yet his oddness is undeniable. He walks up and down Leith Walk. I've never seen him anywhere else. He has sat ouside the 'Sea Breeze' cafe (greasy spoon), and they don't move him along. He sits with a blanket over his shoulders. Sometimes fast asleep. Other times just waiting. Waiting for what. Waiting for the mercy of the sun perhaps. Afterall, he survived winter sleeping out here. Least I think he did unless he has somewhere else to go. I've seen him sleeping out there in ice cold conditions. He must have some strength. Some immunity.

He carries bags filled with other platic bags. Not sure what's inside. More polymers, maybe blankets. People know him, I'm sure. People stop to talk. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to find out more. Somehow I found out his name is Arthur but I can't remember who told me. Did I make it up? I don't think so. Someone told me. I heard it. Somewhere. Some rumour. But that's how I see him - Arthur. I wanted to talk to him. Find out his story. Give him a cup of tea for his time. Instead, I have his name, and some photos I took one evening walking down. I never asked permission. I just wanted to capture him. Get something down.

I've walked passed him so many times and felt the urge to talk. He probably gets it all the time though. Strangers trying to be nice. Trying to be angel like. Thinking they will be the first person to really give him the time of day. And one evening he was walked towards me, our eyes met as eyes do, and we both said 'Hello' as we passed by.

Arthur has his own style. His own atmosphere, his wild wiry grey hair, his short limping gait, his just sitting watching time pass, people migrating to work and back. I might yet talk to him. Keep a respectful distance. Maybe this is enough, to acknowledge him here with some photographs, and keep that mystery which anonymity brings. I don't want to invade his space. He intrigues. That is enough. Seeking too much can destory a thing. So, there he is, Arthur.


Anonymous said...

when I first saw you I knew you were special I know....


Jim Murdoch said...

My ‘Arthur’ was a redhead. I’ll bet you can buy ginger wigs in Tam Shepherd's that are a decent approximation of what his hair was like only he had a big shaggy beard to match; a wild, shaggy, ginger beard. And crazy eyes. I used to notice him around Central Station in the late seventies poking around in the bins that no longer seem to be there. He was lanky, unkempt and used to wear a long gabardine overcoat that had seen better days or perhaps I’m embellishing the image; you know how flawed my memory is. He reminded me of me. By this time my ginger locks we all but gone but every time I saw him I thought: That could be me some day. Eventually I stopped seeing him. We never spoke, I never gave him money—I never actually witnessed him begging—and I fully expect he’s dead now although as he only looked about fifteen years older than me there’s no reason why he couldn’t be kicking around. Maybe he got his act together and is sitting in a comfy detached bungalow in Bearsden right now.

G McCallum said...

I heard a story that his father owned the old mansion at the bottom of leith (Constitution Street), that his father beat his mother to death and when his father died he moved out not taking any of his fathers or mothers possessions he even left the mansion to the city council and he's been living on Leith Walk since the 80's

Anonymous said...

lizzie said...

I have seen this man you call Arthur too. My thoughts are the same as yours. Only yesterday I passed Arthur standing under a canopy across the road from the wine shop. It was absolutely freezing. I also wonder about him and how he survives and would like to offer help but like you don' want to be nosey, intrusive. I gave him some money and looked into his very bloodshot eyes and wished I could help but of course he very possibly does not want this. How did he come to be there? Next time I think I will buy him a hot drink I think he might accept that. I wonder if he is known to social services, but again possibly has shunned them. I am pleased to have a name for him now anyway.

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