Baggage by Clare Pattinson



Animation based on life of Chris Kitch
(Author of “Pavement for my Pillow”)

Clare Pattinson



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Homeless Inertia

This week we wrote about the quietest places we’d ever been, and thought of three sounds we could hear in those places if we listened hard enough.





The quietest place I’ve ever been is Cutteslowe Park. But if I listen hard enough, I can hear birds singing, water running and flowing, ducks quacking, and the odd dog barking.


In the quietest place I’ve ever been, I can hear birds, elephants, crocodiles kangaroos, tigers, sharks, and lions!

There are many reasons for homelessness. We are told that people, whoever they are, are only a couple of unpaid bills away from it. Some people seem to be almost destined for it, and once it happens, there is an inertia about it which makes is hard to get out of.

Without an address, a job, someone to give a good reference, a good record when it comes to employment, or without good health, how can someone get a fresh start – a clean break?

There are schemes and programmes where someone could build up enough good will to get the makings of a good reference, but is the price of keeping one’s nose clean too much, at times, and is a reference, or the promise of one, enough to keep someone on the straight and narrow; to keep them watching their p’s and q’s and taking the patronising and humiliating treatment?

Living without responsibilities I something which many would find attractive. No-one to answer to. No timetable to keep to. No-one to tell them where to be, what to do, nor how to do it.

The fact that someone may be without money more often than not does not seem to matter…we can wait for a weekly spree when pay-day comes. We can wait for days on end without money.

We can take advantage of the help available to us – at least that help which is not patronising or humiliating, that is.

Some homeless people these days dress quite fashionably – thanks to numerous clothes banks – and we can eat well enough, and even enjoy a comradery and a social life which we could never find in a hopeless job where we would be enslaved by our employers and our landlords.

Some people do make the incredible effort necessary to get off benefits and get back into ‘respectable’ society, but it doesn’t take much for them to be back on the streets. There is a revolving door…

…People sometimes are either in prison, a hospital or a hostel, on the streets (however temporarily), or in shaky accommodation and casual employment. It seems too distant a goal – a stable, happy, conventional life – to realistically aim for, and I am sure few achieve this. Most will be bobbing around the bottom of the pool indefinitely; most would be wise to just enjoy life as best they can, wherever they are, and not stick their heads above the distant parapets or the respectable mainstream, wouldn’t they?

Michael Paul







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The Quietest Place


The quietest place I’ve ever been is Cutteslowe Park. But if I listen hard enough, I can hear birds singing, water running and flowing, ducks quacking, and the odd dog barking.


In the quietest place I’ve ever been, I can hear birds, elephants, crocodiles kangaroos, tigers, sharks, and lions!

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Sprinklers turned on the homeless

This [link to] article appeared in the Guardian recently. This is how some of the guests at the Gatehouse responded:

Surely the homeless people were somewhere where they were not welcome…I wonder how it has got to the point where the church is having to deter them in such a way? Were they causing a lot of bother to people around the cathedral? The story is quite one-sided I wonder if the press would be so supportive of the homeless if the homeless were sleeping near their property? I wonder if the press is just anti-Christian, or anti-Catholic? I wonder if the press even stopped to consider what the Catholic church does for poor people in the world or, indeed, what they may be doing (without bragging about it) for the homeless and poor people in their own neighbourhood. The story is basically out of context, and biased. If it wasn’t for the Christian principles behind the social security system, the poor would be poorer.

Some churches in America are there because of corporate greed.

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Q. If you were Prime Minister, what would be the first few things you’d do in power?

Let cyclists cycle on pavements (Michael P)
Carry on fixing the country (David)
Make tourists go to the back of the queue at McDonalds’ (Michael P)
Increase the amount pensioners on benefits can earn per week without being taxed (Jeanine)
Ask people to act and behave more respectfully to themselves and others (David)
Ban British Summer Time (Michael P)
Make sure all city streetlights are kept in good working order (Michael P)
Actions not just words (David)
Ban smoking outside (Michael P)
Tolerance (David)
I’m already an MP and have been all my life (Michael P)

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Sent to Coventry

The BBC documentary series Inside Out South explored how homeless people in Oxford are being offered housing in Coventry because of the acute housing shortage in the city. These are some thoughts on this news from guests at the Gatehouse:

“I’m surprised there’s room in Coventry ”

“I’ve been sent there enough times in my life.”

“Sharia Law was in effect in Coventry in the 13th century; ”

“Lady Godiva, a local wealthy woman, was faced with a difficult force.”

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Me and the Gatehouse

I first came to the Gatehouse last May. Somebody told me about it. I came on the bank holiday. I found it a bit strange at first. I hadn’t been anywhere like it before. I started coming three days a week – Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. I met my friend Michael here – I gave him one of my coats. On Wednesday I like to chat with people in Art Club and talk to the ladies who come along each week to help out.

I don’t like having to wait in the cold for the Gatehouse to open. It seems to be getting worse. You get a wet bum and then you might get worms! It makes us feel like rats. Perhaps all the cakes are bad for diabetes sufferers too. I prefer party food, like pickled onions. People pick pizza up with their hands here, which doesn’t seem hygienic. Today’s stilton soup smells a bit like cheesy feet. I like the conversation here though. I’ve been talking to a lovely lady called Bridget, who took a great picture of the Didcot Power Station, just before it got knocked down. I’d recommend anyone to come along.


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The Daily Star advert

An Essay

The Daily Star advert said go to any Martin’s or MColls Newsagent and claim a free T-shirt. No-one in Oxford had heard of such a newspaper or shop. Finally, somebody said they were selling them in Summertown but nobody had heard of the offer until I showed them the advert – so a long bus journey there and back for ZERO!

Rob the Slob

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A Fistful of Dog-ends

I usually go to sleep in my centrally-heated room, after listening to the comedy slot on my little radio, at about seven in the evening. I don’t spend the evening watching the soaps, as ‘others’ do in the house. The soaps, and the ‘others’ are not my thing these days. I’m sometimes woken by the noise which the person in the room above thinks is music, and if, as today, this is at 4am, I will not get to sleep again…4am is a good time for me to go out and get some tobacco. It is the day before pay day, so tobacco is in short supply, and has been for several days, so I pick up the dog-ends and roll them into pretty decent smokes. I must have been doing this for several years, and the early morning, before the sweeping machines come round to tidy the pavements, and before the litter bins are emptied at about 5.30am, is the best time to do this. To-day it was quite frosty, but it hadn’t rained, so there was a good number of cigarette ends around – especially near the doors of the pubs, and at the bus stops…I found about half a day’s worth in one circuit of the central shopping area; this took about 20 minutes. When I am out I also look into the bins to see if there are any stickers to put on my fast food loyalty card – I get free coffee this way…six stickers on a card buys a nice enough cup of coffee, and at about 6am, when the place opens, I often have enough stickers, and so I wait for the doors to be unlocked and go in and have one. I do this most days, so the regulars at that time know me…when I first got to this town, a kind man who does the overnight cleaning there, gave me a handful of loyalty cards complete with stickers, and ever since I’ve been quite a regular there myself.

So, I had a fistful of dog-ends and the means to get myself out of the cold for a while. When I had sat for a while and chatted a bit with an old girl is there every day, I headed off again – it was still dark, and cold, and the waves of workers off the buses come more frequently by then. To-day, as I left, I made myself a roll-up and I wandered off to do another ‘circuit’…I met a friend at the bus station. He ‘sleeps rough’, but doesn’t really see that as a terrible thing. We talked and laughed for a while, and he told me someone may soon be able to give him somewhere to stay. We talked about my situation – prejudice against the homeless, and against the mentally ill, the abundance of dog-ends, the sense of freedom we get in the early morning in the fresh air, in the park, under the pink-flecked sky…I took him to my room, and we had a cup of tea. We do have some quite civilised chats. I looked at my watch and told him I’d have to head off to meet my old buddy in a café elsewhere and we walked back to town together, still chatting quite happily. We will probably meet again later at the place where we eat almost every day. Tomorrow I will be rich. I will not be stuck for the price of cigarette papers…perhaps we will meet then and have a beer or two before the money disappears inexplicably back to where it came from. A fistful of dog-ends can be just about enough to sustain someone on such a day, and good company and the caring people we depend on.

Name withheld

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Sometimes I think Oxford is a bit of a sh*thole

Sometimes I think Oxford is a bit of a shithole place. Why?

I don’t like the Westgate car park – it’s too noisy, too smelly and full of needles. The wheelchair ramp is broken. Once I was assaulted there. Someone took my wallet and all the money went flying.

I don’t like all the tourists on Cornmarket. All those crowds scare me. The cyclists get in the way too.

I used to like The Oxford Story, but now it’s closed. I call it the dodo.

I like the Gatehouse though – it does good food, you’re in the warm, and the people are friendly. I love the new garden they’ve made. There is a cover with lights on, although it doesn’t keep you from the rain. If would be great if they could put an outdoor heater there for when it’s cold: sometimes people are waiting out there in freezing conditions before the Gatehouse opens.


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