We had a brief glimpse of a few snow flakes, they settled for a few minutes and then slipped away leaving everything wet… and now it’s raining. It really isn’t very wintry from a snow point of view! In my first Radwinter novel, the season changes from late a summer, through autumn, into a harsh and very snowy winter. Thomas has met his friends in the Lark for quiz night, and now they are about to get into a taxi to take them home through a raging blizzard.
There was a blast of a car horn and we stumbled out of the pub, into the freezing night to find our transport to take us home.
Out of the whirling blizzard a figure jumped at me; it was Kylie, grabbing my arm and pulling at me, shouting that I had to help. I tried to ask her what the matter was as the taxi driver honked his horn, Leo and John were already inside.
“Please Thomas, I’m begging you!” she shouted. “There’s an old man, I can’t help him!”
I waved at the taxi to drive on but John bobbed out asking if I was OK. I told him to go, I’d get another taxi, and they zoomed off into the night as Kylie pulled me along.
She was saying something about a tramp and as we turned off the High Street and went over the bridge towards Mill Lane she shouted above the wind that there was an old tramp, collapsed in the snow. I would have gone straight past him; he was huddled against the curving wall of the bridge where it went down to the River Hope. He was just a snow-covered lump; I squatted down beside him and was enveloped in the stink of urine, cheap booze and old clothes, and considering how cold he was, he must be powerfully filthy.
“Hey, old chap, what are you doing here?” I asked, shining the light from my phone on him.
Kylie crouched beside him and wiped his face with her bare hand and that simple gesture made me suddenly feel a huge lurch of affection for her. She had so little herself and yet she had so much compassion.
“Are you ill? Do you feel alright?”
He opened an eye and squinted at me from under his snow encrusted brows. He mumbled that he was going home but just needed a little rest.
“Where are you going?” I asked. He couldn’t stay here. “Come on, old man, tell us where you live and we’ll get you home.”
He began to sing ‘I was born under a wandering star’, in a quavery drunken voice.
“Let’s get you onto your feet and we’ll see what we can do,” I took his arm and Kylie took the other and we managed, with much slipping and nearly falling over, to get him upright. He was a little fellow and must be wearing a bundle of clothes because although he was very stout he didn’t weigh much.
He lurched against me and despite the reek of him I held on to keep him upright. He was very cold and was shaking but he began to sing again. I tried to ask him where he lived or where he was going, but he was obviously just a tramp or street person. Kylie was clutching the other side of him to keep him from falling over and for once she had nothing to say.
“Ring the police,” I told her and gave her my phone; we couldn’t stay here and however charitable Kylie was making me feel I wasn’t going to take this old fellow home with me. “I’m going to take him over there,” and I indicated the doorway of the empty shop on the corner of the street, one more little business which had folded.
I tried to get him to move, but his legs kept buckling so in the end I had to wrap his stinking arm round me neck, put an arm round his back and virtually carry him over to the doorway where I let him subside into a heap.
“Got a couple o’ coppers for an old man?” he wheezed and then started coughing. With any luck a couple of coppers would arrive in a police van and take him off to a nice comfy police cell for the night.
Kylie hurried over to us; her face a pale blob. The police weren’t interested if he wasn’t doing any harm to anyone; they’d said their cells were full, that if we thought he was ill or hurt, we should ring an ambulance and get him taken to hospital but otherwise there was a night shelter in Strand for rough sleepers.
“What are we going to do, Thomas?” she asked, not sounding like herself at all.
If you want to find out what happens to the old tramp, to Thomas and to Kylie, you can find out in my paperback, Radwinter, or in the Kindle version… here is a link: