James Campbell: A night of police, politics and shifty sorts…

The third chapter of James Campbell's extraordinary diary about being homeless – published only in The Big Issue

James Campbell has been sleeping rough since May when he left his home in Kettering to look for work. He has been selling The Big Issue in Scotland and keeping a diary of his experiences. Here is his third chapter…

Later Today G, N and me have got to find another skipper for tonight. Where we normally stay has workmen sorting out the roof so we need to find a temporary place (just like regular folk eh!). No sign of N, so me ‘n G go off to a place that G knows, and hopefully will get a good night’s kip. As per usual is it fuck.

So we’re getting settled for the evening. There is light and I have a book, G has a bottle of cider, which is his wont, and we spend a bit of time just spraffin about our lives and circumstances and, sort of, just laughing it all off. ‘Bout 12.30 we have visitors. The Police. Now, to be very fair my encounters with the Police in Edinburgh have always been OK and this is no exception.

Police: “You lads arite there?”
Me: “Yeah, fine, just getting our heads down.”
P: “You need to move from here about 7ish ‘cos the guys will want to get into work.”
Me: “That’s OK, we’re usually long gone by then.”
P: “Well we’re covering this area all night, so if you boys have any bother let us know, that’s of course unless you are the cause.”

If you boys have any bother let us know, that’s of course unless you are the cause

They both laugh and make their way on, no bother or this, that and the other, just looking out for their citizens. I like that.

So, anyways, later two gadgies arrive, I’m almost asleep so they are wakening me and G. G looks a bit nervous, I am shitting it! They sit down and start the inevitable chat.

Gadgie: “Arite boys, d’yous skipper here every night?”
Me: “Nah, just a one-off whilst our regular spot gets refurbished.”
I think it’s lost on them.
Gadgie: “Anyway we are here to… well, you know… get sorted.”
He makes an injecting signal with his hand.
Gadgie: “So as not to offend you, is it OK?”
The other gadgie hasn’t spoken.

Me: “This is the street man and you are as entitled to be here as much as we are. Just don’t go fuckin’ it up, I am knackered and can do without the carry on.”
Gadgie: “Nah, we’ll be arite. What are you reading?”
Me: “Shadow of the Wind, Spanish job.”
Gadgie: “Oh yeah, I read that, Julian Carax ‘n that, good book.”

With that they started cooking up.

In my teens I was an injecting drug user – heroin, amphetamines, vodka!?? (what THE FUCK WAS THAT ABOUT!???) and before HIV and all that cross-infection stuff, and before Harm Reduction was invented by who the fuck ever, we always were very careful ‘bout what we were doing, no sharing, injecting technique etc, we were very proud of our craft, until Grange Hill came with their advertising and everyone got into it. Couldn’t have done a better job if they had a full orchestra playing Greensleeves and knocking out free Ben and Jerry’s!

Anyway they got all the kit and kaboodle ‘cept silent gadgie is wanting in the groin. And he looks like he’s well rattling, sweating and shakin’.

I’ve got a roll wrapped in foil.

Me: “Here. Straighten this out and put a small bead on it and have a smoke before you start digging about there, you’re too not fucked to not cause any damage.”

Silent Gadgie does so and his nerves start to straighten. And they get on with ‘The Procedure’.

Nice guys, we start talking about books and music and politics and stuff. Silent gadgie was apparently a chemistry post-graduate but wanted to play punk ‘n soul in a band. Well sorted and away to find somewhere else to skipper, off they go.


Aaaah Nice, time to get our heads down. G is incensed, he doesn’t like drug users, but hey ho, this is mental anyway so what the fuck!

Police: “Arite lads, everything going ok? That’s not a bottle of cider I see is it? Thought not. You haven’t seen a couple of wrong ‘uns knocking about?”
Me: “Unless I got a mirror I haven’t seen any shifty shit goin’ on, ha ha.”
P: “Arite then, you lads have a good night and don’t forget what we told you about 7.”
Me: “Will do, goodnight officer.”

I get the cider from G and take a deep swig, no sleep tonight now anyway.

James Campbell is not his real name, and the photo is not of him