A friend of mine recently had an encounter with a homeless man that led him to question the differences of wealth in our society. The homeless guy told Paul (name changed to protect the... well to protect my friend) that he had once had a normal life, but all that had come to an end when he got caught up in too much drink.

Paul on the homeless guy...

I knew the homeless guy because he used to sit on the steps outside the bar I used to work in, in Soho. I asked him, "What went wrong for you to end up living in the streets?"

(He made a drinking gesture with his arm)

Then he told us where it all went wrong. He explained that he was a very successful Construction Worker, called a Rigger which I think is like a very skilled version of scaffolding for display centres. He was doing this in the 70's when he was in his late twenties. He enjoyed a lavish life style with a Big house, a couple of nice cars and a disposable income. He also had a wife and two kids.

Due to his disposable income he spent a lot of time in bars, clubs and parties. He started drinking heavily and doing a lot of drugs. In his own words he said that he did everything. He had a lot of affairs and eventually his wife left him taking the kids. After that everything declined drastically and he was drinking more than working and one day he found himself with out a job or a home. It is very tragic and I did not doubt his sincerity at all when he told me this story. I would guess he is now in his mid 50's and is definitely alcoholic.

Paul wondered about how some people are so unfortunate whilst others are so well off, so he decided to ask some well off people how they became that way.

He enlisted the help of Sarah in order to get some moral support and to take the edge off his menacing look and off they went, knocking on the doors of the big, fancy houses in St. John's Wood. The afternoon had it's ups and downs, but most people were polite to Paul and Sarah.. except for one man. He was rude and unkind, but in a way the guys could understand that. Not wanting to cause any upset to anyone, Paul penned the following letter of apology.

Names and addresses changed.

Dear Sir

Re: Apology for disturbing your Saturday afternoon with such a ridiculous question

I am extremely sorry for what happened on Saturday September 8th. My friend Sarah and I called at your splendid house in St. John's Wood to ask you, "How come you got to live in such a lovely place?" You reacted to our question with contempt and disgust. You slammed the door in our faces and I could hear you shouting on the other side of the door, saying that it was the: most ridiculous question you have ever been asked in your whole life. As Sarah and I walked back down your gravel drive we felt shocked and hurt. Were we wrong to ask such a question?

"How come you got to live in such a lovely place?"

Our question was sincere with admittedly a slightly cheeky edge. We had no hidden agenda we merely wanted to understand how people become extremely affluent. Maybe people come from rich families that have been part of the Aristocracy for generations? Do people have to work extremely hard for many years and invest wisely in order to get into the position they are in? Is it all down to luck being in the right place at the right time?

We had spent the previous half an hour asking such a question to your neighbours. Your fellow peers had reacted to the question with kindness and good humour. Some of the people we asked were cleaners who informed us politely that there Landlord/Landlady were away or unable to answer our question. A lot of other people reacted in a good manner finding our question funny. Some of your neighbours spent a little bit of time to tell us their history and what they did for a living. I found it fascinating and was appreciative of their kindness.

Although initially we were frightened by your up tight reaction, my feelings soon turned to that of anger. I reflected that you were rude and insolent. My guess is that you were perturbed that we belonged to 'the Great un-washed Proletariat filth' and therefore had no right to interact with you whatsoever. Maybe you thought that we did indeed have a hidden agenda, to hurt you or damage your property.

I beg for you to look at things from our perspective. Your house is extremely big and beautiful despite the distasteful 'Lion head' buzzer (the tongue acts as the switch of course). Picture us as we stood waiting for quite a while between your concrete pillars on either side of your double wooden doors. As you appeared, you opened the doors in a brash fashion. I noticed you only opened them enough so that your head and upper torso could slither out from one side. You looked like a cliché of the upper class, the quintessential English Toff, if you don't mind me saying.

Here are some more of my observations; Let us start with a description of your Ruddy complexion, probably due to you shouting every morning that your Quail's eggs are underdone. I am sure your red bulbous nose is the result of large amounts of Port and Sherry you have coifed every night for the last sixty years. I can picture you sitting in your smoking jacket, Tumbler in hand, ranting incoherent drivel about this country being great again if we didn't allow any foreign people in, what so ever. I couldn't help but observe your ridiculous looking silk cravat no doubt hiding your scrawny chicken neck, which probably spends it time craning from one side to another while you are sitting in your four poster bed all day, screaming at the hard working cleaners and cook telling them how incompetent they all are. Your furrowed brows and wrinkled face must be from reading The Times on your leather Sofa and spitting all manner of profanities about how the Tories would keep this nation in much better shape.

We asked you on that Saturday afternoon, "How come you got to live in such a lovely place?" To this you shouted goodbye and slammed the door in our faces. In retrospect I wanted to bludgeon your skull with a blunt instrument and rape you on your Shag pile carpet.

Sorry again for disturbing your Saturday afternoon.

Yours sincerely,


Ps. I'll be coming round next Saturday as I have some more questions I want to ask you.

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