Years ago, when I lived and worked in London, I often visited the most opulent parts of that city and saw riches and wealth you could not imagine. I often looked at shop windows and marvelled at what was available on offer and the prices asked for. I saw ladies handbags worth many thousands of pounds (£); necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, tie pins, cuff links and many items of jewellery worth a fortune. I remember once looking at a window and having to check closer the price of a particular gold watch. "Is that the real price?" I thought, "or have they put the decimal point in the wrong place?"
I was astounded at the prices they were asking for a variety of goods and gifts I never believed existed, never mind wanted or needed. I certainly would feel uncomfortable wearing a watch worth so much on my wrist.
I also walked by well-to-do luxury hotels and restaurants. Establishments with a "maitre- d'hotel" type person with an imposing uniform standing at the door and welcoming you in. I witnessed many chauffeur-driven posh cars and limousines stop by, and bejewelled ladies and rich men walk out and enter these buildings.
I recall once a business acquaintance of mine invited me at his "gentlemen's club". It was such a luxurious building with the man outside opening the door for you and welcoming you in. He looked at me suspiciously and would have probably thrown me in front of a London bus or taxi, if I were not with my friend.
Inside, the carpets were so thick and luxurious you sank in almost to your knees, (a bit of an exaggeration), and everywhere real oil paintings of portrays of various people who in the past were members of this place. Chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and statues everywhere, it was wall-to-wall ceiling-to-floor luxury all round.
We were led to a table and the sommelier asked us what we wanted to drink. My friend suggested the Châteaux Expensive, or perhaps the Châteaux Exorbitant; or if I wished, they had a selection of fine brandies favoured by emperors and kings from years gone by.
Also, in London I witnessed poverty in the extreme. I saw at corners and in side streets men in dirty tattered clothes huddling together, sitting on the ground, near air vents at the back of buildings and hotels trying to keep warm by absorbing whatever heat came out from the dirty black grille low on the wall.
I saw the homeless and the down-and-outs gathering in the parks late at night searching for a park bench on which to sleep. By their state of unconsciousness it was obvious they had been drinking cheap hard cider mixed with methylated spirit; a favourite brew leading to quick oblivion and a temporary respite from their world of want.
I saw the same scenes of poverty side-by-side with riches in Edinburgh where I visited and stayed many a time.
Even today, in the small town where I live, there are many homeless people spending the night outdoors in these terrible freezing winter weathers with rain, snow and winds as their only friends.
I just cannot understand how, in one of the world's richest countries, we have such poverty in Britain.
Little seems to have changed from the days when Christ taught about the rich man and poor Lazarus at his gate.
I leave you with a song sung by a friend of mine, Father Francis Maple. He writes a daily sermon HERE.
Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the papers,
with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
And held loosely by his side
Yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news
So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind
Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She's no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her world in two carrier bags.
In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven,
Same old man is sitting there all alone
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his tea-cup,
Each tea lasts an hour
And he wanders home alone
And have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman's mission
Memory fading with
The medal ribbons that he wears.
In our winter city,
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
In a world that doesn't care