Friday evening it was. I stopped on Churchill Bridge to offer help to a man and woman with suitcases, not sure which way to go. You know people are lost when they twist their heads to look at the phone in an effort to orientate themselves. I suppose they were looking for the route to their B&B. There are lots near our place.
‘Can I help, perhaps?’ I said.
‘Go away,’ said the bloke, an Ulsterman by his accent, then, as I obeyed, a muttered, half-hearted, ‘I thought you were a beggar.’
It was a disagreeable moment. It rankled all the way home and all evening, on and off. A beggar?
I told Arthur about it yesterday. He was fresh from a get-together with retired psychiatry chums, and he is inclined to probe anyway.
‘What bothered you about that, old boy? I assume you weren’t in your gardening clothes.’
Having been taken for a beggar, funnily enough, troubled me least. Likewise, while the man’s look of antagonism was unpleasant, it was not personal. He would have been ugly to anyone, his ill mood worsened, maybe caused, by his dodgy navigation.
‘Just as well you had not doffed your hat to welcome this couple to our fair city. You might have found it tossed into the river, your man believing that we in Bath only have hats to hold them out for money.’
The hat is getting on a bit, so might not have been that great a loss.
‘Sign of the times, maybe?’ said Arthur, getting to the heart of it, as per.
Well yes, addressing a beggar, or any other stranger, need not be discourteous, even if you do not welcome their attentions. But more even than that, how sad that someone, starting a weekend break in a tourist city, assumed a passer-by did not seek to do them good. It did not auger well for the weekend.
I feel sorry for the woman. The man’s response embarrassed her. They will have had words to start their weekend away. Serve him right. Mind you, I hope the row did not last too long.