Thursday, September 23, 2004


........and then there's Nobby. Nobby is famous in Peterborough, he lives in a bus shelter on Oundle Road near all the posh houses. As you drive past you can usually see him sitting in his bus shelter wrapped up in a sleeping bag, with a bearded head poking out the top. He never bothers anyone, he's no trouble. Once a particularly snobbish resident started some action to have him removed because he was lowering the tone of the neighbourhood. The amazing result of this was that nearly all of the locals in their posh houses leapt to his defence, they wanted him to stay.
He's been living in his bus shelter for longer than I can remember. My girl is nineteen now and I remember pushing her in her pram past Nobby's bus shelter. I reckon he's staying a bit longer so he can qualify for the councils right to buy scheme. Or is it that if he stays in the bus shelter long enough without anyone saying anything it automatically becomes his. I wonder what the freehold value of a bus shelter is?

Nobby used to be a School teacher, he's very intelligent and thoughtful he never says much. It's almost impossible to have a conversation with his, he will speak but it's always a non committal answer, for instance if you ask him how he is he replies "Mustn't grumble." It all fell apart for him when his whole family died in a house fire. he was never the same.

One Christmas eve many years ago it was freezing outside and my thoughts went to Nobby all alone in his bus shelter with no heating and protection from the elements on only three sides, the front being totally open. So I gathered up my children and loaded them into the car.
"Where are you taking the kids?" asks wife.
"We're going to see Nobby."
"Are you mad! It's freezing out there."
"But it's Christmas. I want to go and see Nobby." It's not like we were best friends or anything, it's just that it was Christmas.
So we drove to Nobby's pied de terre, stopping along the way at a garage for 20 ciggies for him. My Christmas present for him.
We arrived and the snow was on the ground, it was dead quiet the snow scrunching under our feet, Nobby was huddled up in his bus shelter surrounded by crates of beer, bottles of whiskey, sherry, Port, tins of biscuits and cake.
"How are you?" I asked.
"I'm fine." he said in his soft scottish accent.
"Warm enough?"
"Can't grumble."
"Here's a present for you." I handed him the packet of cigs.
"Thank you." he says and looks them over. "I don't smoke these" he says, and hands them back. "D'ye drink?"
"Yes ocassionally."
"Well help yer sen to a few cans. I've got plenty."
"I couldn't possibly. They're yours."
"Well you had the kindness to bring me a present let me have the privelige of offering you the same kindness. What will it be, Stella? Kronenberg? Grolsch? Heineken? ... er I have some bottles of Abbott Ale here somewhere... let me see....."
"No really. It's not necessary."
"I insist laddie. Now what will you be having?"
I chose the cheapest lager I could see, Skol. He gave me six cans. I thanked him and walked away with the children.
"Daddy? Why did that man give you beer?"
"Because he wanted to."
"But I thought we were supposed to give him a present because he's poor and has no money."
"That's what I thought."
I get home and the wife looks at me carrying the cans of beer, I tell her Nobby gave them to me as a present.
"Typical." she says "only you could go and visit a tramp and come away with more than you left with."
But she didn't appreciate the guys dignity. I felt aweful taking the beer, but I had to allow him his dignity, my wife couldn't see that, she only saw I had taken from a tramp. That was another blot in my already overflowing copybook.


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