Friday, March 13, 2009


Lexie was evicted from his flat some years ago because he allowed the smalltime drug-dealers who preyed upon his addictions to ply their trade in it, and was so famous for aggressive begging that when he was banned from two of Cambridge's thoroughfares it made the front page of a local newspaper. So why am I writing his obituary?

Because when you got to know him, you could see that substance use had not completely effaced his humanity. For example, when his banning order was published, a woman, a senior citizen, wrote into the same paper recalling how Lexie had always helped her across one of the roads he was banned from, it being notoriously difficult to cross.

There's been much opposition to individual and collective banning orders from the more liberal element in Cambridge, but it was the making of Lexie, because he had much less opportunity to bump into the people he scored drugs from. Another key component in deferring an inevitable death from organ-failure was the policy of the drug-agency he collected medication from, that if any alcohol at all was detected on the breathalyser, the medication was withheld. This didn't stop him drinking, but it meant he had to put the cans of super-strength lager to the side at a specific time so that he wouldn't fail the breathalyser test the next morning.

Unfortunately, when the contract to run the drugs-service was put out to tender, the conditions set down for bidding precluded breathalyser tests. That's another story; but the consequences for Lexie were that the complex machinery of carrots and sticks that mitigated the effects of his substance use upon himself and society was irretrievably broken, and his behaviour became much harder for the dedicated staff looking after him to manage.

What effect will Lexie's actions have on his life after bodily failures terminated the death that composed much of his time on earth? God knows. But it's very difficult to get into a situation where you're addicted to one or more substances by yourself - something the police in Cambridgeshire are showing their realisation of by differentiating less between big and small fish, and merely asking whether somebody is a fish.

In a society whose values are so topsy-turvy that smoking a cigarette in a public toilet carries harsher penalties than injecting heroin in it, I hope senior police officers will close their ears to those who enthrone rights high above responsibilities, and move towards zero tolerance of all drug crimes.

I pray that the Lord grant eternal rest to Lexie.


  1. We have limited contact with the homeless due to the widespread use of the automobile here (much of the city is not "walkable" - things are far apart). We did give out grocery sacks of food and water (instead of money) for awhile, but with the hurricane the homeless disappeared, and only now (6 months later?) are starting to reappear.

    I remember once, years ago, my husband told me he gave money to a 20-something young man on crutches, who was looking very beat-up. He said the look in the fellow's eyes was like he wanted to cry, in disbelief that someone would look at him with kindness. We went back a little while later, trying to find him, but he was gone. I've often wondered what happened to him. Never saw him again. There was also a woman (about my age) who looked like a professional businesswoman, wearing an expensive jogging outfit, who apparently started hanging out with a panhandler who had a very rough appearance. She was seen under freeway overpasses and on streetcorners with this guy. And lengthy signs started appearing on telephone poles, addressed to "Isbell", asking her to come home. And, finally, I noticed that the director of one of the centers for helping the homeless was named Frances Isbell. I wonder.

  2. That's certainly a danger - that if you work with people who are homeless, addicted, etc, you cross over the thin line between a helper and a "rescuer".

    Folk who are both homeless and roofless are quite rare in Cambridge, in the low double figures, I guess. But we have a tendency to get people from London with multiple problems, as we're only an hour from London by train.

    I don't remember seeing a hurricane on the news - what was it called? Did it pass over your house?

  3. You didn't see Linda's photos of Hurricane Ike last autumn? That's the one I meant. The homeless had disappeared for quite a long time. I thought at first they'd all gone into the hurricane shelters, but don't think that could be the reason they were gone for so many months. Someone suggested the police had been ordered to round them all up.

  4. Pam, I thought I'd replied to your comment, but now it looks like I'm having trouble leaving comments on my own blog!

    I've been out of touch for a bit 'cos my daughter caught a vomiting bug and ended up so dehydrated she had to go to hospital, but thankfully sh's ok now.

    I'm trying to find Linda's post on Hurricane Ike, and have found a pic of her daughter that mentions the hurricane. Will keep looking. - FD

  5. That, and those following, are Linda's hurricane posts.

    Glad your daughter is okay now. I never had a child dehydrate that severely - it must be alarming!

    I'd wondered if you all were okay, but it's Spring Break here so I thought you all might have that, too. (Children are all home for a week - lots to do....)

  6. We had the half-term week a couple of weeks ago, it's all over with now! I hope you enjoy yours. Will look for the hurricane photos.


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