During the long hot summer of 1976 Will was at Grammar School where he had acne, a girlfriend and intelligence. He was reading among other things Peter Benchley’s “Jaws”. He was happy. In the long hot summer of 2018 he is living in the smallest house in Britain, pictured above.
His story is not unusual; broken marriages, jobs lost and depression causing a downward spiral that finished on the street. But like many homeless people he works hard to maintain some dignity, and if anyone comes to visit he says “Welcome to my abode and please excuse the mess.” Last night, however, his visitor was unwelcome – he’d been out foraging for food and returned to his doorway and the realisation that his radio had been stolen.
That radio was vital to him, it was his only possession apart from the clothes he stood up in and the bedding he’d begged and borrowed. That little box of technology was his only medium link to the mainstream world. His Book at Bedtime was going to be Peter Benchley’s “Jaws”, which he was looking forward to, and from which he’d find some strange symmetrical comfort – book-ending his adult life story, if you like.
Before it got nicked, his radio told him the British government is earmarking £100m to “eradicate” street-dwelling by the end of the decade, with particular emphasis on homelessness and mental health. One hundred million pounds is a lot of money, but Will wonders how many of those pounds he’d need to replace the thing that helped keep him sane.