Popping into town at lunchtime, ambling down a side street, I passed a dirty-looking one-legged man in a wheelchair.
“‘Scuse me, mate,” he said.
“Yes…?” I replied, warily. I couldn’t see this conversation going well.
“Are you from here?”
“Have you got any ten-pees?”
“No,” I replied. I had no idea if I had or not, but I definitely couldn’t see this conversation getting any better.
“Have you got any money at all, mate?”
“Not much,” I answered. “Why?”
“I’m from Doncaster, and I need to get back home. I need another £4.50 for the train fare.”
“Really,” I said, trying my best to sound unbelieving. I’ve never had beggars try to pull this trick on me since I moved here, so it made a change to hear it again. I also noticed that his accent was nothing like a Doncaster one.
“I’m a diabetic,” he said, pulling a hypodermic from a pocket of his dirty cardigan. “Look. Diabetic. I need to get back to Doncaster.”
If I was quicker at thinking, I might have said something meaningful and concerned, like: isn’t it convenient for you that you can wheel straight off the train into the street when you get to Doncaster?* If I was more violent, I might have just grabbed the handles of his chair, kidnapped him, and wheeled him onto the next Doncaster-bound train, with instructions to the guard to definitely make sure he got off at the right stop. Being me, I just started walking onwards.
“I’VE GOT NO LEGS, MATE!” he shouted at me as I walked away. I felt like turning round and replying: look, I can at least count to one.
* For people lucky enough never to have to go there, or change trains there: if you are in a wheelchair, there are no public routes to, from or between the platforms at Doncaster station. The only thing you can do is to ask the staff to put you in the parcels-trolley lift.