An Issue With Mr Benn

In the same week that parliamentary authorities performed a U-turn over silencing Big Ben for the next four years, I bought an edition of The Big Issue. It carries a picture of Mr Benn on the front page. No, not that Mr Benn. Not the late, eloquent socialist politician. But another of my heroes, the man in the bowler hat, who lives at 52, Festive Road.
With the world as it is, just now, who wouldn’t give their right arm for a magic door to disappear through. Dress in whatever you fancy, for an adventure you couldn’t dream of, even if your name happened to be Roald Dahl.
Whatever your views might be with regard to the business model, The Big Issue, as publication, stands up well on its own merits. Peppered throughout with quality content, and always reinforcing the “Hand up, not a Hand out” philosophy.
The vendor I bought my copy from was a nice guy. His courtesies conveyed with an eastern European accent, and a huge smile. You know, one big enough to melt the heart. And the smile didn’t run away after he’d pocketed the £2.50. And he didn’t tell me, “have a nice day.” Well, he did, but with utter charm. He slowly raised his face to the sky; his eyes closed. Then he took a breath and held it for what seemed like minutes. When he faced me again, he was wide-eyed, and that smile was back. He gestured with a wide sweep of his arm, as though he was introducing me to a surrounding world around I was hitherto oblivious of.
As I was turning to leave, the soft voice spoke once more. “Enjoy this beautiful day,” he said.
How could I not?    

7 thoughts on “An Issue With Mr Benn

  1. Lovely – both Mr Benn and your moment with your Big Issue vendor. I've found the same – there was a young Middle Eastern-looking seller who stood outside our Co-op every week in the darkest depths of Winter, the warmth of his smile was palpable, and we always exchanged good wishes. It always gave me a lift, so I hope it did for him! I saw people walk past and studiously ignore his presence and I couldn't help but wonder if there was an element of racism attached to that too. I haven't seen him in a while; I hope he's okay.


  2. I agree with you that the Big Issue often has quality content – proper articles and features, not itsy-bitsy say-nothing filler content as do some other magazines these days.


  3. It's life affirming when we cross paths with such people. A friend introduced me to the word, 'lagom', this week. (“Lagom är bäst”, literally “The right amount is best”, is also translated as “Enough is as good as a feast”). That's how I've always tried to live. Enough, but not too much. It's one way we can make room for those less fortunate in our midst.


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