Lloyd – one-half of Pete and Lloyd, of dog-drugging fame – is quite a character.
Long greasy greying hair, emerging from his filthy black beanie hat, merges with his filthy grey shaggy beard and hash-stained moustache. Rarely seen without drink and spliff in hand, he consumes port and special brew like they are going out of fashion and smokes dope like a choo-choo train.
First thing in the morning, he will ask the passing public, “Any help for the homeless?” As the day and the drinking progresses, this will evolve into asking, “Any help for the hopeless?” And, my personal favourite, shouting, “Any hope for the helpless?!”
He has a tendency to randomly shout tidbits like “Goal-acchio!” at the top of his husky voice, and is forever singing “I love you baby!” at innocent passers-by. He does not know many other lyrics to that song, which will forever echo within my head.
Lloyd has not always been homeless. He was, in his own words, “born with a silver spoon.” Both parents and a sister growing up. But a wild child. He travelled to Goa when he was young to do the whole hippie trail, smoking charas and opium out of chillum pipes by the beachside.
When first flying back to London, he stuffed his suitcase with as much hash and heroin as he could afford. Times were somewhat different then. He was offered several thousand pounds for the lot back home, a small fortune back in the 1980s. He sold the hash at a large profit, and kept the heroin to himself. His legs and arms tell a shocking story of his addiction; they look like he survived a fire. It’s really quite miraculous he survived to fifty years.
This transnational drug dealing lark not only provided Lloyd with hash and with heroin, it also provided him with enough money to live like a lord, so he returned to Goa quite quickly. Again and again. He developed a more, let’s say, secure method of smuggling the gear, whereby he consumed the encapsulated drugs, flew with his package “in the hold,” before reproducing, smoking and selling it in the UK.
These undignified escapades earned Lloyd a pretty penny. Now with wads of cash and the gift of the gab, he was hot property, with a flash car, apartment and a beautiful Polish woman on his arm. This girlfriend was a kickboxer, no less. He mentioned more than once that we would threaten to stab her, I guess to try and offset his fear of her beating him black and blue. It didn’t sound the most romantic or sustainable relationship.
Anyway, the outcome of such activities are rarely dissimilar. Lloyd got cocky, he got careless, and after catching the attention of some UK border guards, who found some small amount of narcotics in his bag, he was busted. When imprisoned at Her Majesty’s pleasure, he tried to ‘withhold’ the rather more incriminating package, but eventually reproduced it, gratefully received by the border guards. From memory, he was sentenced to more than ten years in prison, serving a smaller sentence as seems to be the norm in the UK.
From that point onwards, from his 30s into his 50s, Lloyd has lived on the streets, mostly on pavements – he doesn’t like tents – mostly up north, and about five years down in Brighton, where I was graced by his glorious company. (He actually had a home for a very short time up north, but that’s another funnier story for next time.)
En route to university in the mornings, I would regularly check in with Pete, Lloyd and Bailey the dog. I started to avoid the road where they setup shop, because Lloyd would insist I take a pew and have a tipple of the dirt-cheap port he purchases with people’s spare change.
He is a hard man to say no to. For a homeless alcoholic ex-heroine addict, he has immense chirp and good humour. We develop a drinking bond, mostly over that God-forsaken port, sometimes in the graveyard with the rest of the homeless crew, but mostly just the four of us at the pitch outside the dole office. Lloyd taps coin like a machine, and can make even the most miserable looking passer-by smile and spare some change. The warm northern drawl, the singing, the loveably misspelled graffiti opposite the pitch, and of course the dog all work a treat.
With shaggy beard, dirty dungarees, and reeking of street-dog breath, courtesy of Bailey forever licking my face, I probably looked and smelled like I fitted in; drinking and singing along with Lloyd, chirping and laughing with Pete, Bailey pawing for my attention, and taking the occasional nap at the pitch. They would fuss over setting me up some blankets, even giving me some hand-warmers, some gloves and one of those inflatable cushions for airplane flights, both donated by some thoughtful humans before being gifted to me. As if I needed them, me, with a warm apartment to go home to. Still, on the pavement propped up against the dole office, Lloyd truly made me feel at home.