— Chelsea Cox contributed with this article.
The Lifestyle section here at The Linc is always on the look-out for the weird and wonderful encounters of students at the university. This week a Lady meets a Tramp in the heart of neighbouring city Nottingham…
Author F. Scott Fitzgerald once said “Give me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy”, a quote which sprang to my mind after an eventful trip to Nottingham.
On the way back to the train station, having had slightly too much to drink, my friend Matt and I decided to get some nibbles for the journey back to Lincoln. After battling with the vending machine and spending a while pacing up and down the platform, we came to the conclusion that we’d missed our train.
A very helpful man (they do still exist in this cynical world) then informed us that the next train to Lincoln was at 6 o’clock the next morning; more than seven hours away.
Turning to each other, Matt and I burst out laughing, but with only a Crunch bar, a packet of Wotsits, and no money between us for the £70 taxi-ride home – our hysterical amusement was short-lived.
So what do you do when you’re stranded in a city you know as well as the bottom of the sea, it’s below freezing, and your LBD only just covers your modesty?
It was then that we stumbled upon our hero for the night; a scruffy, thirty-seven-year-old, one-eyed tramp. Not quite the tall, dark and handsome stranger so often read about but, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.
How ironic. We’d spent most of the day avoiding The Big Issue sellers and homeless people busking and persistently asking for spare change.
He introduced himself only as Chris, and after listening intently to our predicament he gleefully volunteered to help us out: “I’ll show you where all the warm places are,” he said.
The first place was a dirty little corridor full of hot-air vents: “I come here all the time. There’s never any security around and I can usually get away with a few hours sleep without being disturbed,” he told us.
The idea of spending more than ten minutes there repulsed us, and after seeing the horror in our eyes, he suggested that we move to somewhere a little more civilized.
We ended up making ourselves at home on the steps of an indoor shopping centre. The only people who wandered through to question us were two guys and a security guard who Chris had obviously clashed swords with before. The first man, an alcoholic clutching his part empty bottle, was dressed as Indiana Jones. He removed his cowboy hat to reveal the sort of barnet only a mother could love, and did a little dance to help lift our spirits, before heading back into the night to buy more ‘juice’.
The second man was also homeless and someone who I can only describe as being one of those nutters you meet on the bus. He attempted a smile, revealed a distinct lack of teeth, and warned us that the security guard was on our trail.
It was really starting to feel like a Hollywood fugitive film and five minutes later, the Terminator (the security guard) was upon us. Chris, being the hero eager to protect us, argued our case but the security guard didn’t seem to care. And why should he? After all, he was wearing a thermal jacket.
Before the interruptions we’d found out quite a lot about our hero of the hour. Surprisingly we learned that he’d had a decent education and even started his own business. But he’d lost his business and his seven children when his wife divorced him: “The last one died as a baby,” he told us.
“I managed to help pay for the funeral even though I can usually only get about £50 a day from begging. It was really beautiful.”
He’d lost his left eye due to a disease that he couldn’t pronounce, which hadn’t been treated in time: “If I’d had the money I would have been able to go private and save my eye, but I’m just grateful the disease didn’t spread,” he said.
He continued to tell us what his kids’ favourite cartoons are and how he’s only allowed to spend time with them when his ex-wife sees fit.
How I wished I were one of those secret millionaires!
After more talking, Matt decided to blag a lift from his Grandma – something we should have done hours earlier. Thank the lord for mobiles! Following a further hour of pavement dancing to keep warm, we were officially rescued at 1 o’clock in the morning.
Grandma June gave our knight-in-grubby-overcoat £10 for his trouble and we bid our hero farewell: “I’m just glad I could help you out,” he said.
“It’s been nice to talk to someone other than drunken tramps. I’ve missed out on making some money over the past couple of hours but Nottingham isn’t the safest place in the world and as long as you’re safe that’s all that matters.”
We’d been given our hero but we didn’t write a tragedy; it’s inspiring to know that there are people willing to help others despite themselves (even if they aren’t quite Prince Charming). Nowadays you’re lucky if someone even takes two minutes to give directions and selfless acts of patronage seem to be something of a bygone age. Cinderella would be well and truly stuffed in today’s society.
Have you had a quirky, funny or random inspiring encounter? We want to hear from you!Tweet