Oliff’s Life

Richard helped to spare a person from this fate
Richard helped to spare a person from this fate

It was a very cold day. I was walking a dog along Market Harborough’s Northampton Road fully insulated against the chill wind.

The forecast for that night wasn’t good as more snow and icy conditions were set to envelop our region within the next eight hours.

“Welcome”, I thought, “to springtime”, as even the hardy border collie squinted in the face of the cold blustery weather.

As we approached a busy road junction I recognised a man who was familiar to me, only by way of meeting him from time to time: a “known” stranger if you like.

He looked somewhat forlorn; head bowed, inappropriately and shabbily dressed, and seemingly in a world of his own. I’ll call him Stan.

“Everything alright Stan?” I said. “Oh, hi Rich”. It was as if I’d woken him from a dream.

He tried desperately to look perky but I could see that something wasn’t quite right.

He told me that he just couldn’t find a job, his girlfriend had left him and that he was in the process of being evicted from his home.

His benefits would apparently be withdrawn if he didn’t accept a hostel place in Leicester.

“I live here,” he said, “this is my home town: I don’t want to live in a hostel in a strange city.”

We chatted for a while before parting. It was not my decision to distinguish any exaggeration or fiction from reality. I could only form my thoughts from what Stan had told me.

I just knew that I wouldn’t sleep right that night unless something was said to someone who might help a fellow human being in apparent great need.

I made calls to somebody at Harborough Council who was most understanding and told me he would get immediate help.

The police were brilliant, telling me they would surreptitiously check his wellbeing. That night it snowed quite heavily. I slept as soundly as I could.