I can walk down any High Street in this country of ours and everywhere cast my eyes upon mirror images of myself. One at least for every half-dozen or so of the shop windows that bounce my reflection back at me. I wouldn’t discount that there may be as many women, but I don’t see them as easily as I do the men.
I can identify with these men. I detect an echo of my own inner thoughts from them and interpret their demeanour, even as I project my own.
My brothers cannot comfortably merge with the ne’er-do-wells and lost souls that frequent our town centres, those so far descended that people no longer register them. Yet these daytime strollers have grown to be as much a part of that urban landscape and mythology. Men who don’t even exist in the eyes of the popular media. These men don’t fit the convenient stereotype. The men who catch my eye are decent men, family men; devoted, law-abiding, confused; abandoned men. Honest citizens, worthy of respect, whom government policies are increasingly trapping on the wrong side of the law.
You can see them too. They have a uniformity, dressing to a certain standard but with varying signs that something is no longer quite as it should be. The fact that I see them during the day is significant. What is the growing industry that employs these men to pace the streets? The training shoes tend to be the giveaway, for my friends will still, for a while, be clothing themselves with the dignity afforded by past employment whilst their feet are shod with comfort, and expense, in mind. When I catch their eyes, they drop theirs. They do not have the self-esteemed nonchalance, nor yet the ready challenge of the terminally disenfranchised. I represent no threat to them. They have already seen my feet. Under my nice coat there is a moth-eaten hole in my woollen jumper.