Tales of the Second City: Duty of Care

April 25, 2023

While certainly not the only person to take a handsome guy home from Birmingham Pride… I’m probably one of the few to leave them on the sofa for the night.

I emerged from Boltz during the dying hours of Pride. The club’s busy darkroom had been stifling and it was refreshing to pause for a moment in the light drizzle. Glancing over the road, I spotted a vaguely familiar figure slumped under a canopy at the corner of Kent Street.

He was a student whom I had briefly met a few years earlier.

I squatted in front of the lad and asked, “Are you OK?”

He looked up with bleary eyes and shook his head pitifully.

I plonked myself down next to him.

“What happened?”

“Don’t remember,” he replied. “I veeeery drrrunk.”

He had found himself separated from friends and collapsed in an intoxicated heap in this sheltered nook. The details were all a little hazy.

“Where are you meant to be staying tonight?”

“Wifffffriends… Can’t remember. Phone dead.”

He was lucky to still have his phone… and wallet for that matter.

“I live a couple of miles out of town, only ten minutes in a taxi,” I told him. “I could make you up a bed on the sofa. Would you like to stay at mine?”

He looked at me with huge sad eyes and whimpered, “Yes please.”

My heart melted.

I booked an Uber, raised him to his feet and half walked/half carried him to the pick-up point.

“Try not to look too drunk,” I warned, as our waiting car came into view, “and for God’s sake don’t throw up or pee yourself in the back of the cab!”

I sent my partner a simple text message, “I AM BRINGING HOME A STRAY!”

My automatic response to being directly asked for help is, “Certainly… as long as it doesn’t involve money.”

I have been aided on so many occasions during my own travels and misadventures that I like to return the favour when I can.

Whilst interrailing around Europe in my late teens, I was stood at a pedestrian crossing when a stranger asked if I were British then pressed a £1 coin into my palm and walked away without further comment. That coin proved to be the only currency I had (or access to, due to a debit card mishap) when I returned to the UK and found myself stranded at Euston Station after the last trains had departed. I used my lucky pound to call parents and ask them to buy me a ticket home on the first morning train.

After a restless night on the cold concourse, I found a duly purchased ticket waiting at the booking office… along with £10 in cash.

“Your father paid an extra ten pounds in Birmingham so we could give you money out of our till to buy yourself breakfast,” the ticket clerk explained.

Apparently, this was unprecedented and required phone calls to management but worked perfectly. Genius!

On another occasion, whilst on holiday in Spain, my partner and I asked a couple how to find a particular restaurant. They warned us it was on the outskirts of town, a fair walk up a steep incline, but gave clear directions how to get there.

Ten minutes into our trek, the couple pulled up alongside in their car and beckoned us in. They had remembered that the restaurant closed several months earlier and came to find us.

The girlfriend was so apologetic, “We felt terrible and didn’t want you thinking we had given you bad information on purpose.”

They kindly dropped us off at their favourite place to eat in town.

Next morning after Pride, our sofa surfing ‘stray’ awoke surprisingly chipper.

I offered coffee and arranged an Uber back into town, whilst trying (unsuccessfully) to retrieve his socks from my tenacious puppy’s jaws.

“Send me your bank details so I can pay you back for the taxis,” he insisted.

“Don’t worry about it,” I told him. “Buy me a beer sometime… and leave a good review on TripAdvisor.”

I couldn’t help wondering, would I have been so inclined to help had he been a complete stranger? Would I have offered a place to crash if I hadn’t known him from Adam? I’d like to think I would, but not sure.

I have subsequently learned of the Southside Safe Space. This initiative provides help, whatever the reason, located in the Arcadian car park every Friday and Saturday from midnight until 5.30am.

Do we all have a duty of care?

We refer to ourselves as a ‘gay community, so maybe it is the responsibility of the whole community to ensure the safety of all, treating strangers in need as we would our friends, partners and logical family.

That I was able to offer a helping hand to one so vulnerable and prevent their Pride weekend ending in strife… is something of which I am very proud.