1996 Turn of the Year

We had returned to the UK for the Christmas holidays. It seemed to be a good idea at first, all that joviality and love. We had taken a coach from Vitoria right through to London. It seemed to be the right thing to do. Unfortunately, people tend to get in the way.

The coach was full, and filling, with Thatcher’s cultural refugees. Almost to a woman and man, people were on the run from a Britain that was tough and getting tougher. The Poll Tax was being imposed and this brought about opposition, public disorder and the inevitable police backlash.

The refugees were a motley bunch, but they all knew the words to The Fairy Tale of New York. Things went well for such a long coach trip until the first real police check in which a sniffer-dog found treasure at the back of the bus. Somebody had decided that the ideal Christmas gift was a bag of weed. That cost us four hours, a missed ferry, and an equally missed connection from London.

Sonya and I ended up walking the West End of London for eight hours until the daylight came, bringing with it the coach to Leeds. In that time, we got to see what over twenty-five years of Tory rule had done to the wellbeing of the nation’s more vulnerable.

I have never seen so many people, and of all ages and gender, sleeping rough.

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