I write from Hope. Specifically, the Bloom Cafe and Hope Centre.
It’s a cafe space that doubles as a women’s refuge. When one buys a coffee one can also pay money down for another, so if anyone without the funds wants to pop in, they can do so without feeling judged or unwelcome.
It’s one of my favourite places in the city. The staff are extremely friendly and have become weirdly invested in my comedy and music projects.
It’s my favourite place to go to avoid the cold of the flat, or just when I want to see a friendly face and do some basic human interaction with some nice and kind people.
Living near London Road has really brought home how much retail and restaurant staff now double up as social services.
A typical day sees one of the homeless guys who lives in the camp outside Aldi being chased out of the shop by a teenage member of staff for stealing booze; or an old woman being listened to sympathetically by a manager at the McDonald’s across the road, before, ultimately, being told to buy something or move on.
This stretch could be anywhere in today’s England: an ongoing experiment in needless deprivation, where the cruelty, as always, is the point.