Thames Reach
Sunday 19 November 2017
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A new attitude to life

Photograph of a man in a football jersey

Transcript of a piece of audio in which Mick talks about why he slept rough, what it was like, and the "scariest experience" of his life that led him to seek a more settled lifestyle.


Mick: I’ve been on the streets on and off for over half of my life. First, when I was about 14 years old, when I got kicked out of home through family breakdown. Then I had my first child, at 17, then went into the army at 18. Came out of the army as a single parent. From there: on the street, off the street, on the street, off the street.

Q: What was the worst thing about sleeping on the streets?

Mick: Many worst things, but trying to get to sleep of a night time, and having to get drunk to the point of oblivion to get to sleep of a night. And then having people moaning that you spend your money on drink is probably the worst.

Q: How do you feel, having served your country and then being on the street?

Mick: Well, I’ve been over to Ireland twice, and Bosnia. Sometimes it angers me, you know, that they call me a waste of time. They call me all sorts of names and that I shouldn’t have this, and should be this, that and the other. Yet it sometimes feels to me as though I’ve gone out there and put my life on the line so they can then come and abuse me, so it makes me angry sometimes.

Q: You mentioned drink, as well, and drinking. What problems has drinking caused you?

Mick: I would say quite a lot. I’ve been an alcoholic, or still am an alcoholic, although I’ve been off the alcohol now for 10 months, but the chaos that goes with alcohol and the problems associated with being an alcoholic have been problems:  many relationship breakdowns; many times been in other places because, with alcohol inside you, you’re short of temper, and things can get out of hand very quickly. You find yourself in a revolving door: on the streets, off the streets, on the streets, off the streets.

Not drinking now has made a big improvement in the way I am and the way I deal with the world. I also know that because of the drinking, for many, many, many, years, from Special Brew to White Lightening and all of the cheap and nasty stuff, that any time I could trip over. So it’s caused many problems.

Q: Why are you no longer sleeping rough?

Mick: The reason I am not sleeping rough any more, or travelling, is because of my blindness - my eyesight condition. I ended up back on the streets last year, 2005, for two weeks, which felt like two years, and it was the scariest experience of my life. I’ve on the streets for over half my life, so I know how the streets run.

Doing it as a person with the majority of their eyesight gone was very scary and sometimes you have to admit defeat in some things. And being able to wander around the planet is not one of them things I can do anymore, not unless I’m more stable. So I made the decision that I have to get myself more stable, which is not always easy.

Going from a homeless person, where the world is against you and you’re against it, to a person that now has to work out how to look at the world that is for me and I’m for it. Many fundamental changes have to be made, and are being made, to keep me off the streets, and it’s work that I have to put into myself.