George Monbiot is The Day Today’s roving reporter
My bike slipped from under me and I rolled on to the pavement. I thought at first I was unharmed, but when I pulled myself up I found my left foot could not support my weight. I phoned a taxi. The accident and emergency department was almost deserted. It was evening, but not late enough for the broken drunks or the seasonal fight victims – goodwill to all men unless they’re looking at my bird – to start arriving…
Only one person was sitting there. There were no magazines I wanted to read, so I parked myself two spaces from him in the hope of starting a conversation. He had a number one haircut and tattoos on his neck and knuckles. His hands and face were filthy. He wore a stripey fleece jacket, like the one I once owned, until I lost it. His was thick with grease and soot, and pitted with cigarette burns.
“What are you in for?”, I asked. He held up a finger, suppurating, black and yellow, missing its nail. “Blimey. How did that happen?”
“Pig slammed it in his car door.”
“Because he’s a fucking pig.”
“What had you done?”
“Nothing. Fuckers were moving us on.”
“Oh. What sort of a vehicle do you live in?”
“So where have you moved to now?”
He looked at me then turned away without answering. I had transgressed. Travellers, as I had found when I’d written about the harassment they faced, were often – and for good reason – wary of telling people much about their lives.