Beware the spin …

01 Apr

In the story of the ‘Man with the twisted lip’ the great detective Sherlock Holmes uncovers a great fraud.

A seemingly rich and prosperous man, with good connections and a fine lifestyle has been paying for it all by becoming a profession beggar on the streets of London. His unmasking comes as rather a shock to those who knew him.

Hearts are moved by the sight of destitute and homeless people on our streets. They often have a dog in tow. This gives companionship, protection and, in Britain, a better chance of someone giving. We are, after all, a nation of animal lovers.

It is because of our generous spirit that we give. Recently, however, there has been an individual in town who has abused this. If someone tells you a story of an injured relative, of a place in a hostel some miles off or of a payment that’s not arrived remember that it’s just a story.

Believe me, I’ve heard them all. I taught one boy who in later life became notorious for bursting into tears and was known as ‘The Crying Man of Swindon’. It was all a con and he eventually had a court order preventing him from entering the city centre. He moved to Oxford.

The town’s clergy will never send someone to you with a request for help. Don’t believe if they know names of church people. These are easily gathered from noticeboards or magazines left lying around in churches.

Unwittingly you will almost certainly be helping to feed an addiction whether it is drink, drugs or gambling.

Although some really are cheeky beggars, the majority of those on our streets deserve our support. The Salvation Army advise to buy food and drink, but please ask before you do so. Even the poor have likes and dislikes.

We should not confuse Big Issue sellers with begging. If you get a chance to buy a copy from Illy outside Waitrose in town do. Have a chat too, he’s a nice guy.