Friday, July 29, 2005

Drunk on the Steps

One of the problems of St Mary Magdalene Gardens is that it attracts a lot of drinkers, many harmless, but some out of control and rather alarming if not directly dangerous. On Friday, Per spent at least 20 minutes talking to a guy with a crutch (that I had secretly christened Wuhwah Man) who had turned up on the steps, barely able to say anything other than "wuh" or "wah".

The man insisted on pulling himself up to the glass door at the top, and waving weakly at people who were going in and out of the church to take or run English lessons, to make food parcels, or to run the church office.

It was totally impossible to understand what help he required, he was very beaten up, and had obviously at some point some time ago he had been seriously physically and mentally damaged; but Per kept asking him questions. I was hungry, I was ready to go, but Per was taking his time.

After twenty minutes, I realised the other drunk characters who had tolerated and mostly ignored him and who had been rowing among themselves were quietly listening to the exchange. It transpired that the man was Somali, knew Olso and even spoke some Norwegian. Everyone was surprised, he was actually conversing with the guy. Per's patience and persistence brought a moment of sense where previously none had seemed to exist.

I don't know whether the Somali man finally articulated or got the help he needed, but he was gone later that day, and I have not seen him since.


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