Saturday, 9 April 2011

The power of three

Last night was an extraordinary experience. We met at Macdonald’s on The Strand, “we” being a Guardian Angel called Tamara, Nathan and me. I was initially very disappointed. The police had promised to look after us, but simply didn’t turn up and several other people who'd promised to come were similarly absent. The woman behind the counter of the Charing Cross police station was very rude to us when we went to pick up the official fliers, and when she handed them over, we’d only been allocated a very small pile. We all decided that Philip, a famous miser, would have loved this particular fact, and walked around, handing them out saying; “one between three.”

It did make me realise something, however... So many people had clicked various buttons on our Facebook appeals saying they “liked” what we’d written. A few kind people even sent messages of support, but it’s always dangerous to assume that someone else will bother to get out there on the streets and do what’s physically needed to be done. All our publicity and all the messages of support for Philip across the Internet and we only managed to muster 3 people in person. Clicking buttons of support is all very lovely, but it doesn't stop the nasty people! “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist...”

Anyway, we targeted all the places where we thought Philip might have been exactly a week before. The poor bloke still can’t remember. We found a number of people who had seen him and pieced together a fairly good, if slightly predictable, picture of what he was up to. We know he walked along the queue outside Heaven and talked to a group of young lads at the top end, we also know he walked past Madam Jo-Jo’s, where he spoke to an Asian lad who was about his height. Not exactly evidence that would change the course of the investigation.

There are some rancidly bitter old queens out there, however. One suggested that Philip might be pretending he couldn't remember the attack. "And why would he do that?" we said, "well you know Philip" he croaked through his tight, lemon-like lips. The most horrifying encounter, however, was with two little twinks on Old Compton Street, who came mincing over for a bit of goss and immediately lost interest when I told them Philip wasn’t dead. They asked if he was famous. I said he was well-known in these parts, which plainly wasn't famous enough. They turned their queeny noses up and sashayed away, lisping; “he does look a bit like Pam Anne though, doesn't he?” The ability of a gay man to cut through the profound and locate the inane is legendary!

There is, however, so much love for Philip out there on the streets of Soho. I'd printed pictures of him, which we held proudly with the fliers which said "Meteropolitan police call for witnesses." Countless people came running up. “What’s happened to Philip?” Terrible fear in their voices. They were so upset to hear what had happened. It’s clear quite how many people he regularly touches with his eccentric ways; the extraordinary community of tough nut trannies and sex workers around Brewer Street were particularly devastated by the news. Some went running off into the shadows because they didn't want the world to see their make-up smeared by tears. Dustmen, taxi and rickshaw drivers, paparazzi, buskers and homeless people all knew him and all wanted us to send him their very best. Philip talks to – and befriends – anyone. A modern day Samuel Pepys.

It was very upsetting to be on Piccadilly a week on from the very moment he was attacked. It was also slightly confusing. The place was heaving with people, almost to the extent that we started to wonder if he’d actually staggered there after being attacked in one of the darker side streets. Had the attack happened in the location where he was found, then scores and scores of people are guilty of not intervening; a fact that makes me incredibly angry.

We wrapped up at about 3.30am, I guess, and walked back with a bag of chips.

Several text messages woke me up this morning to say that we’d been mentioned many times on the BBC London news and that the woman who put Philip into recovery position has now come forward. I very much hope this is the result of something we've done...

You see, even three people can make a difference.

 
350 years ago, Pepys woke up in the night, and by the light of the moon, thought he saw a ghost - or more specifically, the pillow that he'd flug away from him earlier on, stand upright. He was scared, but eventually fell back to sleep.
 
Sir William Batten and Pepys did a tour of the docks in Chatham, and visited several warehouses filled with "old" goods that were about to be sold off. Pepys enjoyed the experience, as he enjoyed any experience which showed how important and respectable he'd become in recent times. A candle auction took place, and all sorts of things were sold and purchased. Sir William Batten bought some regalia from Cromwell's time, which he planned to stick in the garden and then burn on Coronation Night.
 
Pepys took a barge with an enormous group of rather fancy men and women, and they sang their way down the river, whilst eating neats' tongue and rinking bottles of wine. That does, indeed, sound like an incredibly pleasant way to spend a few hours. (Apart from the tongue thing... that sounds horrible!)

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