Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Overheard in Oxford

On Saturday evening at about 10pm as I walked along Broad street in Oxford I am sure I heard the following. One of the younger, and more persistent, sellers of The Big Issue was leaving a group of other sellers and 'street people'. As he did so he invited them to come round to see him (implying he has a permanent base) and see a video game (implying he has a video player and television on which to play it) which he had bought for £40 the previous day (more than implying the availability of cash for, let's face it, an inessential).

I do not deny that there is a homelessness problem in Oxford. I have seen people sleeping and living rough in the city centre - not least people living in tents in the churchyard at St Thomas' a few years ago. However hearing such comments as his makes one very wary indeed of giving to beggars. The doubtful or fraudulent beggars' saddest victims are, of course, the genuinely homeless we don't help for fear - and a not unreasonable one - of being conned. That has happened to me in the past I have realised subsequently, and it made me very angry.

1 comment:

Seth said...

I agree it is a problem... but I can't help feeling that not having too suspicious a mind is a good thing in these contexts. I can't prove it, but I think that the majority of those in Oxford have a genuine problem. You get to know who they are, and in many cases one encounters heartbreaking difficulties.

If someone takes advantage of us and our generosity then it is their soul that is in peril.

More of a concern to me are the numerous posters that tell us 'small change keeps them on the streets'. I don't doubt that this is often true, and yet it does leave one feeling rather helpless, especially since not everyone is able to give time etc. in lieu of such donations. A constant source of angst, especially in Oxford!