May 13th 2020

Darling Paloma,

How strange it is to be walking on the streets which you know so well but now seems so unfamiliar.


It was good to see the vagrant again. If I don’t see familiar faces after a few days, I begin to worry. I haven’t seen the gentleman in the tweed suit for over a week now and I am getting a little concerned. The vagrant was wearing a mask. He stood across the street and when he shouted ‘ good morning,’ he was unable to hide from his eyes a particular pride that while most in the city still refused to wear one, he had, what looked like, one of the better styles.

How are you?’ I asked.

‘ Not good,’ he shouted back and then rather oddly started to play a game of charades. I may have my guesses wrong, but his gestures suggested he had got up too early. His head throbbed. The room he had been sleeping in had turned in circles. He went white. His stomach came up to his throat.

‘ Is there anything I can do?’ I asked, rather pathetically.

He shook his head. I pretended not to understand. I left him a note under a plant beside one of the closed stores. If you’re not generous on days like these, you’ll never be generous at all. I’m sure I heard someone tut as they were passing, but I could have imagined it; my senses are heightened at the moment.

It was a colleague who worked in my first office who used to moan about beggars on the street. ‘ It comes from my time in India,’ he said. ‘ At first, I gave and gave but then each time I walked out of my home, the children were waiting and would swarm around me like flies round a piece of meat. After a while, the meat started to rot, and the flies multiplied. I never gave again. I began to notice their cute smiles and wily wailing! Most of those on the streets are experts. ‘

A child at a Kolkata railway station in India.

The image stayed with me for a long time. I went to the extreme and gave nothing. This was my finest hour. I ignored the ‘ big issue ‘ sellers by patting my pockets and apologizing that I had no loose change on me. I rushed by sometimes even crossing the road from anyone I saw approaching with their hand out. That was until I was passing a beggar, and your five-year brother pulled on my sleeve and asked me for some money. He wanted to give something to a man who was making music with a mouth organ. I tried to ignore him but quickly gave in. I watched him walk over and let the man finish his tune. I remember he was playing Danny Boy and beautifully. And then in the sweetest way your brother handed him the money with such grace that all the years I had refused to give made me feel ashamed.

‘ That was a beautiful thing to to do, ‘ I said to your brother as he returned to my side.

‘ I loved the music,’ he said simply.

I smiled and leant down to kiss him on his cheek.
From that moment on, I swore that I would give to a beggar who played some sort of music, be it with the voice, mouth organ, guitar, drum, paper and comb.

My friend, the vagrant, is an exception. I gave it because he clearly is a good guy.

Tomorrow your mother heads in for another scan. They want to be careful over these last weeks. As you probably know, you are your mother’s first child and being a little older than the average woman who gives birth, they are overly cautious. This is good.

Te Quiero mucho,

Papa.

Published by Simon Astaire

Simon Astaire was the youngest agent ever employed at ICM starting the Music department and representing a variety of clients before turning to head a PR agency where his clients included brands such as Bulgari, Armani and celebrities and members of the Royal Family. He is regularly quoted in the press and has been described in The London Times as a PR Prince. He had a regular column in the Sunday Telegraph called Station to Station where he interviewed a diverse mixture of high-profile individuals on their imaginary last train journey. He has written six novels and two biographies including soccer star Sol Campbell when he was nominated for best new sports writer. His latest novel The Last Photograph, was made into a film of the same name. It had a US theatrical release in November 2019 and is now available on all platforms. His blog ' Letters to my daughter' began March 19th 2020.

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