I walked through the park opposite the house. Unusually for that time of morning, it was empty. Normally, sleeping beneath the shedding trees, are small clumps of homeless people. I have begun to recognise most of them as regular inhabitants of the drug den above the house. One particular band, made up of a woman and two men, seem to have proof of address in the form of an Elm tree that sides up to the main street. They have cardboard flooring and packing crate walls. The ceiling is simply the sprout of spider web tree. It looked strangely warm, as I passed through the cast iron gate and moved out onto Whalebone road.
Other than the glut of chicken shops, and Elvis's Barber Shop - owned by a man who's appearance is in stark conflict with that of the true king - there is no sign of a dormant whaling empire.
Unless of course, the chicken shops of London do,in-fact, fry with Whale oil - sending a small boy into the blow hole of the great sea monster. Watching him climb down the dead flesh and land in the pit of the stomach. With a pig's skin bladder he scoops up the putrid gloop, which is then shipped back to land - canned - and hustled around the fast food chains, now as omnipresent and reassuring as the post box once was. The Vegetable Oil has to run out at some point. Sunflowers can be crushed without the sun. Rapeseed.
In the gym I watched as a young woman was ogled by three, veined, sweated men. I then realised that by proxy, I was the fourth. She was struggling with the caribina. Ribena. of one of the totalitarian torture machines supposedly meant to make us be more loved. Lycra vultures, the men fooled no one with their constant circles. Eventually, the one with the Asian stereotype ponytail stepped in and helped her out. She was not happy, as I would not have been if someone had patriarchally taken away my own, personal struggle.
Like all liberal men, I then doubted myself.
Should I have stepped in and offered to help? At what point does the struggle shift onto an open playing field away from sexisms prying eyes. These are the kinds of arguments the PC world throws at us now, and all the better for it. If she can't carry shopping, do I help? If a pram needs lifting to street level, do I help? If a woman spills her bag over the street, do I help her pick up the pieces? or just watch from afar. Or is it all just sexism? Would I help a man pick up his spilt bag? Probably not, I would probably question why his bag was so open than it could spill.
Holding open doors died for me long ago. As did giving up tube seats. Infact, these days, I wait with baited breath at the conflict that flashes over their face when I refuse them my stool. Equality must mean no seat giving up -unless you have one leg, can't breath, a baby on board badge, or are some kind of Religious Cleric (Catholic Guilt)
Of course, the act comes from the thought; if the initial thought is of good will, then it isn't sexist. If the initial act comes of sexual advance, then it is quite possibly sexist. The same goes for if the initial thought is simply "A woman!" - this is sexism, in a pure form.
I walked home, the homeless clump had gone. Key in lock, I saw them round the corner heading up to the drug den. At least they get the warmth - from the drugs and the central heating. In the carpark by the house, the woman who lives in a clapped out range rover was stretching her legs beside the drivers door, in what I can only imagine is her front garden. In the rear window, I spied a small, carved wooden 'Home' sign. So sweet, that if it was in a film, it would be far too bleak and far too implausible..
She gave me a nod, and a smile, and then climbed back into her....living room. It's all just walls, I thought, different walls.