I slept rough – the public’s contempt for homeless people is a disgrace
本文选自 The Guardian | 取经号原创翻译
I recently spent several months in central London recording 30 homeless people as they chronicled their lives with great candour and humility. Much of what they talked about was their life, now, on the street. No front door key. Few possessions. Little dignity. I collected their stories and called the book Four Feet Under, because they live four feet under the rest of us.
chronicle |ˈkrɒnɪkl| v. to record events in the order in which they happened 把…载入编年史；按事件发生顺序记载
candour|ˈkændə(r)| n. candid behaviour, speech or quality; frankness 坦白; 率直.
I was on the Strand on a chilly October dawn and went into a McDonald’s to buy several coffees, as I’d seen a group of young men waking up on the pavement outside and thought they could use a hot drink. I ended up in a huge argument with the two security officers – complete with earpieces like the Men in Black – who would not let me make the purchase. “It only encourages them,” they told me. Encourages them to what? I was livid and within no time I too was barred from the premises.
premise |ˈpremɪs| n. The premises of a business or an institution are all the buildings and land that it occupies in one place. （企业或机构使用的）房屋及土地；经营场所；办公场所
That was the first of many examples I witnessed of the treatment homeless people receive on a daily basis. Why is this so? Perhaps we are now such a fractured and injured society that even the weak will attack the weaker, and people with much cannot endure the sight of those with nothing. Is it a twisted form of shame when we know the number of children who are homeless or in temporary accomodation has risen by nearly 40% in the last three years?
The hours of darkness are open season on the homeless. It is a common sport for drunk club-goers to urinate on them as they sleep. Aside from the fact that it’s disgusting, it has a further consequence: that person now has no usable bedding. No laughing matter in winter. Many – women included – are beaten and kicked until the assailant gives up the game. Charisse, a woman who had fled domestic violence told me: “A lot of people out here are vile. I’ve had people kick me, spit on me, pour alcohol on me and light a lighter – I’ve had it all, trust me.”
urinate |ˈjʊərɪneɪt| v. to get rid of urine from the body 排尿；小便
be no laughing matter |to be sth serious that you should not joke about 不是开玩笑的事；严肃的事
Rape is a real concern. Homeless women are easy targets. Sexual assaults are horrifically common. Nothing is done, nothing can be done. By the time the girl has dragged herself to a police station the rapist would be on the tube home or tucked up in bed. This is why they tend to sleep during daylight hours.
tuck sb up | cover sb snugly with bedclothes 给某人盖好被子
I got an unpleasant taste of what it is to be seen as sub-human, not deserving of respect, only of suspicion and violence, during my time on the streets. In the early hours one morning I was sitting in a side street near Covent Garden with a guy I’d got to know and a group of his sleeping mates. Out of nowhere came a man in a suit – not a homeless man – reeking of booze and brandishing a piece of wood. He beat me down the right-hand side of my body and legs so hard that I was deeply bruised for 10 days. It was over in seconds. The men I was with were not surprised.
reek (of sth) |ri:k| v. to smell very strongly of sth unpleasant 散发臭气；发出难闻的气味
brandish |ˈbrændɪʃ| v. wave (sth) in a triumphant or threatening way 得意地或威胁地挥动（某物）
There is something else though, something equal to the violence, but somehow more cruel, damaging and subtle. The homeless are belittled, diminished and treated with such contempt that it can drive them to take their own lives.
By about mid-morning every day I was dirty. My clothes were like magnets for filth: general city dirt accumulated from sitting on pavements and constantly being battered by polluted gusts of wind eddying up from the traffic. Sitting at everyone else’s knee-level is a not a clean place.
batter |ˈbætə(r)| v. hit (sb/sth) hard and often 接连猛击（某人[某物]）
eddy |ˈedi| v. to move around in a circle 起旋涡；旋转
One particular time I went to a posh cafe to warm up, get a coffee and use the loo. I was eyed with great suspicion. My outward appearance had changed but I’d plainly not lost my sense of entitlement to a table in a fancy coffee shop. The waiter thought otherwise. He was cold and unfriendly. Unlike all the other customers I observed, he made me pay immediately, and not as I got up to leave. Instead of giving me verbal directions to the loo he actually came with me. An escort. He waited outside the door until I was done. It was horrible. It was cold and I went immediately into an Accessorize to buy another, thicker scarf. The shop assistant not only never took her eyes off me, she remained three paces behind me the whole time I was there. She saw a vaguely dishevelled, edgy and grubby-looking woman. A potential thief. Homelessness is much more than not having a home.
escort |ˈeskɔ:t | n. person or group of people, ships, vehicles, etc accompanying sb/sth to give protection or as an honour; person, etc accompanying valuable goods to guard them 进行护送的人﹑ 船﹑ 车辆等
vaguely |ˈveɪgli| adv. in a way that shows that you are not paying attention or thinking clearly 心不在焉地
disheveled |dɪˈʃevld| adj. (of hair or clothes) untidy; ruffled （指毛发或衣服）不整齐的, 凌乱的.
edgy |ˈedʒi| adj. nervous; easily upset or annoyed 紧张的; 易怒的; 暴躁的
grubby |ˈgrʌbi| adj. dirty; unwashed 肮脏的; 不洁的
Now homeless people are criminalised, too. Antisocial behaviour orders are bits of paper quite a few homeless people have in their pockets. Typically, they’ll be handed out if the council wants a particular area “cleansed” – like Regent Street in the tourist season or the main stations where international travellers are around. Darren told me: “We get arrested, go to court, get a massive fine and then we have to stand up and say, ‘Excuse me, your honour, I’ve got to go off and beg now, to pay this fine … and then I’m going to get caught begging and you’re going to fine me on top of the other fine I’m begging to pay …”
cleanse |klenz| v. make thoroughly clean 使彻底清洁; 清洗
All the tremendously courageous, funny and damaged people I met during those weeks became my heroes. The weak and the poor are deserving of our kindness. And remember this – misfortune, bad decisions and tragedy are all that separate us from them.
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