Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Irony deficiency

January 01 2020

By Deputy Editor Mat Amp

We all have those particular things that we swear we’ll never do. If it had occurred to me 10 years ago, I might well have declared with total confidence that: “I’d never steal 100 quids’ worth of meat a day from Morrisons’ on the Seven Sisters Road, sell it to local pensioners in the pub across the street for 60% of face value and spend the winnings on crack and smack.” WHOOPS...

With a habit to maintain and my options seriously limited by homelessness, the choice was to shoplift or beg. And it wasn’t the cruel or up-tight members of the public that put me off, but rather the looks of pity from the kind and well-meaning. Those looks sliced me in half. 

So, while I would rather not put my hand out if at all possible, it certainly isn’t a judgement thing. That would be ever-so-slightly hypocritical when you consider that I didn’t blink when it came to taking part in organised, turbo-charged shoplifting sprees to fund my habit. 

At one point we had it down to a fine-tuned military operation. Someone would carry the rucksack while the other two of us would pop security tags and load up with choice cuts. We would be on our way before the cameras swept round, marching out of the door, straight over Nibblesnipers Lane and into the Hairy Lemon public house opposite (names changed to protect the landlord, blah, blah, blah). 

The guv would let us sell our ill-gotten packets of flesh to his distinguished clientele on the proviso that we took our dodgy meat round the back door (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). The Hairy Lemon’s punters tend to be near the top of life’s experience division and for them a few squid saved on the old beef steaks means more amber nectar in the jug. It was a triple win with happy punters, a happy landlord and a super chuffed trio of sated junkies.

Of course, nothing lasts forever. Eventually the keepers of the great meat river twigged to the leak in the dam, ‘beefing’ up security, which wound up our little project. 

On top of that I’d been struggling with my health for months. My spirit felt like it had melted into a lethargic puddle of spent energy and when I looked around for my get up and go, it soon became evident that it had already fucked off.  

You can imagine the look on my face when the doc diagnosed me with anaemia, a shortage of red blood cells often caused by a lack of red meat. 

“There’s no deficiency of irony in my iron deficiency,” I quipped glibly to the doc, but the joke fell a bit flat when I explained where the irony came from. It wasn’t so much that I’d stolen thousands of pounds worth of meat that saw him instantly direct me down his B1470 humour bypass, more the fact that I’d managed to eat precisely none of it.

In a nutshell

  • It can be easy to forget that stealing meat from a supermarket and selling it to pensioners – in order to grease the wheels of a heroin habit – can seem shocking to a majority of the general public. 
  • No matter how open-minded we may be, we’re all shocked by certain things that other people do. It’s worth bearing in mind that we really don’t know if we’d do those things much differently ourselves, until we’ve been tested by life, rather than theoretical supposition and all the pontificating bollox that goes with that.
  • Even if we are sure that we would never indulge in certain behaviours, that shouldn’t inform the way we treat those that do.
  • We all make mistakes, but it’s just a better world to live in if we all get busy supporting each other to move forward, rather than using the big boot of judgement to kick people while they are down.
  • When I found myself homeless my boots were ill-fitting and falling to bits, but it wasn’t until a few empathetic souls took a walk in them that I knew where to tread next. A few people decided to take a punt on me and gave me their trust, and that encouraged me to try and do the same for others. And thus far, it’s worked.