by Mel George

"...so when I got back from the Falklands, I found my wife had a ten year-old son with another man, having presumed I was dead; that was when I started drinking, would you believe. And, well, guess it just got worse, and I'd turn up to work drunk and lost my job and then I couldn't pay my rates – I went on the dole but I spent it most of it on drink of course. So one day the man from the gas board comes round and cuts me off, and then the bailiffs, and before you know it I'm out on me ear, sleeping in a doorway on an old cardboard box trying not to get stabbed in my sleep, eating in these soup kitchens and smoking the dog-ends I find on the ground. I had a wife, a career - now I make seventy-five pence in five hours begging and do that all day until I have enough to buy vodka, except you can't make enough money for it that way, so I ended up inside for nine months cos I did over some poor guy for cash just so that I could drink to forget this utterly pathetic life and hold off topping myself for one more day." Our hands touched as I passed him a polystyrene cup of soup, but I kept a safe distance behind my armour-plated smile. "Oh dear," I said cheerily, "still, you have to look on the bright side, eh?"


Mel George, author of Synchronised Strangers, watches people secretly until they do something interesting enough to write down.