Drug addicts, alcoholics, street people, ne'er-do-wells and people with 'not good head' are called 'paro'. They are mostly harmless, some are petty thieves, and most beg or will do small, quick menial jobs for a living. Here, in Portsmouth they are all known and tolerated. I would even say looked after by the community - sort of!
For my own peace of mind I have three favourites, i.e. those to whom I give hand outs, or use for errands. I say peace of mind because I can then easily say a firm no to the myriad others without feeling mean.
FLY is a special favourite of mine. He has a dilapidated bicycle. He carries full cases of coke from retailers to Bars around Portsmouth, on his head while riding his bicycle. I call on him to fetch large bottles of drinking water or cylinders of propane for me. Last week he came to my door, shivering and soaking wet, hoping I had an errand for him. I didn't at the time, but I gave him a shot of rum and an old dry T-shirt of McDowell's. Some days later McDowell he said he saw the T Shirt on Baygone (other Paro). Fly probably sold it to him for the price of a hit. My most recent encounter with him was yesterday. He stopped me on the street, asked if there was anything I needed; he could do it for me NOW. That should have been my clue, but I missed it. I asked him to buy 2 large bottles of water and leave them by my door. I gave him $20ec. Keep the change. When I got home hours later, no water, no $20, no Fly - of course. I decided to cut my losses and deal with Fly next time I saw him. I have to say I was surprised. He always treated me straight and he is too smart to kill his reliable sort of bounty. This afternoon he turned up with 4 large bottles of water, all smiles. I told him I was almost mad at him. "No, no, I don't want that. I wouldn't do you bad". I gave him 2 cigarettes and $5ec. He must have done well with my original $20. to afford an extra 2 bottles.
JENNIFER hangs around outside the grocery store begging for change and talking to the air. If I have a heavy load I get her to carry it to McDowell's Bar for the price of a shot of rum. They tell me that Jennifer used to be a classy women and owner of a high fashion clothing store. She still dresses elegantly and holds her cigarette like Rita Hayworth, but she is now a serious crack addict and has lost her senses and looks. Yesterday I gave her a coin and she turned and ran around the corner. It must have been the 1ec she needed to make up the cost of a hit.
POTTY or possibly Porty, as in Portsmouth. I can't tell, and nobody knows when I ask. Probably Porty as he was a natty man about town in his halcyon days. Anyway, he will answer to either. I am told that he taught everyone in Portsmouth to play the guitar, that it was he that started everyone off in music, some of whom went on to have real musical careers overseas. He is a bass guitarist. He worked as an orderly in the Portsmouth Hospital for many years but succumbed to cocaine and lost everything. However, although tatty (no longer 'natty') and in need of bath, he maintains some modicum of civility. He eats real meals not scraps, always pays for his rum, never begs, is respectful (he can be difficult when he is 'under his rum' though), enjoys his reggae. He often carries my heavy bags from the Bar to home (2 cigarettes and 3ec) and does messages for MCD . You could grow potatoes in his ever present red cap.