Friday, 6 March 2009

Still Moving

It’s just after nine in the morning and I’m driving through Small Heath in Birmingham, where I’ve just picked up an ex-Motability car, a Ford Focus, to take down to a dealership in Brentwood tomorrow.

As I’m turning right at an island I see a couple of old homeless guys walking along the pavement, and recognise them straightway.

Over ten years ago, when I used to do more driving within Birmingham, I would come across them once every few months or so, in one less affluent part of the city or another.

I think they are twins, definitely brothers at least. They have matching grey hair and beards, and are wearing voluminous dark overcoats. They walk together but never side by side. One is always a couple of steps in front of the other. Sometimes the one in front will, without looking, reach out and lightly touch a lamppost as he passes it. The one behind will then touch it as well. I’ve never seen them speak to each other.

It occurs to me now that I really don't know if they are homeless or not, it just always seemed an obvious assumption to make.

The odd thing is that I thought about them recently, for no reason I can now remember, and assumed that they would have vanished by now, another small disappearance in a city that seems to contain fewer and fewer of that kind of conspicuous oddball.

I wonder what strange, lop-sided wisdom they could impart if they wanted to, and whether they will still be wandering these streets in another decade’s time.

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