Monday, April 23, 2012


Our post office also has a little corner-shop-and newsagent as part of it. 

So I'd bought some stamps, and now I was at the corner-shop-and-newsagent counter, buying a loaf.  As I was putting it in my bag, the assistant turned to the next customer and said,

"Hello, Lizzie, is that all you want?"

There was something in her tone, which was friendly but - - there was something a bit different.

I turned, out of curiosity, to look at the lady standing next to me.

"Yes, just this sandwich, please," said Lizzie.

Lizzie was a tall, athletic-looking thirtysomething with long dark hair.  The first thing I noticed about her was that she absolutely reeked of cigarette smoke.

As she showed the shop assistant the sandwich and handed over the money, the next thing I noticed were her hands.

They were filthy.  Not just a bit grubby.  Filthy.  Black.  As though they hadn't been washed for years and years.  The insides were the blackest, as you might expect, shading to dark grey round the edges and pale grey on the tops.  I tried not to look as though my eyes were out on stalks, even though they were.

Following her out of the shop, I saw that she was wearing a longish black skirt, bare feet and boots.  The boots were covered in mud.  So were her legs.

She handed the door to me so I could follow her out and I saw her face.  Also filthy.  Grey splodges all over it.  Her dark, curly hair could have been glossy and beautiful -  instead it was lank and greasy.

I was heading home, which is only a few hundred yards from the shop.  She was walking in the same direction as me and set off with a fast, swinging stride, head up, carrying the sandwich and nothing else.

And so we walked until I reached our house.  She turned off down the road directly opposite and that was the last I saw of her, striding confidently away into the distance.

Lizzie isn't really the name that the shop assistant called her.  I feel somewhat protective of her and whatever her story might be.  "Mental health issues" I'd guess, as a glib description.  All day I have been wondering what Lizzie was thinking as she walked along on this grey April morning, clutching her sandwich.


Anonymous Lizzie said...

I was thinking - "Who is that middle aged lady behind me and why is she so clean? I wonder if she realises that I am really Dawn Collins, the councillor for Horsforth."

12:07 am  
Blogger Helsie said...

Very sad. We have a local man in much the same condition who lives among his supermarket bags on the banks of a local creek. He is not penniless but chooses to live this way.
As you say - mental health issues.

12:22 am  

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