Saturday, October 20, 2007

In danger

On Friday 12 October, I narrowly avoided again being assaulted in the porch we sleep in at night. This time Declan woke to noise only to find a guy with one foot in the porch coming straight for me (I sleep on the outside so that Declan can sleep with our well-tied bags). Declan actually stopped the guy from stepping on me with an outstretched hand, shouting "What do you think you are doing?" To this day we still do not know if this guy had intended standing on me, probably breaking a few of my ribs. Then a few hours later Declan had to sit up again to another guy who also wanted to have a go at me. Oh I forgot, the next morning we woke up to an empty can of Red Bull, only to discover that someone had thrown the contents of it all over our sleeping bags and ground sheet.

Friday appears to be the day of the week when I am particularly at risk. The last time I was assaulted – a guy that didn't like "f****** tramps" repeatedly kicked me in the chest and shoulders – was on 21 September, er, a Friday. And on 4 May, oh another Friday, I was assaulted twice (a guy dragged me out of the porch by the ankles and a few hours later I was kicked in the back). And although not just directed at me, on 7 September (yet another Friday) somebody threw a glass of beer all over us as we slept.

So mindful that the next Friday (that is, yesterday) Declan might not wake up in time to prevent me ending up with something fractured, both he and I spent all week working non-stop on a petition to the United Nations in relation to human embryonic stem cell research. This petition was posted yesterday evening in one of these online petition sites and we will next be contacting prominent scientists and academics who might be interested in the petition's proposal, and perhaps put their name to it. (Last night in the porch was pretty quiet: with the exception of a guy who at 5.00am on the button – the time we get up Monday to Friday – passed by the porch roaring something at us, there was nothing else. Even the porch's floor, which I have to clean with water and paper every single night, was clean.)

On Thursday evening Declan's pitch – where he sells The Big Issue magazine – was taken over again by The London Paper, a free tabloid owned by News International of Rupert Murdoch's New York-based News Corporation. Under the Big Issue code of conduct a vendor can't argue with another street trader over pitches, so Declan had to leave. We didn't sell much last week and now find ourselves with 15 magazines which we bought but were unable to sell. Oh, well.

Declan phoned the Big Issue and also emailed the Big Issue outreach manager. There isn’t much more Declan can do, having been told by John Bird, the founder and editor-in-chief of The Big Issue, in a letter of 10 September, to more or less stop bothering him. This is his email on Thursday:

Subject: The London Paper

Dear Paul

Further to the graphic telephone message I left for you this evening with David (surname unknown), please find below copy of my email of even date to the Executive Chairman of News International, Mr Les Hinton, regarding the takeover again this afternoon of my Big Issue pitch by The London Paper.

Yours sincerely,
Declan Heavey
Badge no. 1163


Dear Mr Hinton,

I refer further to my letter and enclosure to you of 31 July 2007, a copy of which I sent by fax and registered post to the Chairman & CEO of News Corporation, Mr Rupert Murdoch, and wish to confirm the takeover again this afternoon of my Big Issue pitch outside McDonald's on Liverpool Street by The London Paper.

Yours sincerely,
Declan Heavey

cc  Mr Nick Hallett, Distribution Manager, The London Paper
     Mr Paul Joseph, Outreach Manager, The Big Issue

The main problem with selling so few magazines is that this weekend we can't for example put together a few pounds to buy food for Saturday and Sunday, never mind a cup of coffee. I wanted to spend a couple of hours begging on Friday afternoon – yes, I am afraid that on top of everything else, I also have to beg people for some change, which is illegal by the way – but we realised that it was more important to get the petition posted before going back to the porch for the night. Last night when we were walking to the porch we were both so hungry we decided to walk back to Sainsbury and buy a cheap packet of biscuits for 33p.

The subject-matter of the weather is currently on the verge of replacing the hunger though. According to the Met Office’s website, next week temperatures will be “below normal with overnight frosts”. Temperatures now don’t go above 12C or 13C, which would be fine if a person wears a jumper, a coat and a cap. Admittedly I do have an autumn coat, which was given to me by a customer who normally buys the Big Issue from me, but underneath all I have to wear are light long sleeve tops. When I asked the Sisters of Mercy nun who is in charge of clothes in the Dellow Centre (the only centre we can now attend for showers, coffee and a cereal breakfast since the minister’s wife of the Methodist Church-run Whitechapel Mission barred us on 18 June due to concerns about our safety) for warm clothes on 8 October, she didn’t even give me a cap.

So my feet are usually cold, and so are my ears (I found a scarf a few days ago) and when I stand in my Big Issue pitch, especially between 7.30am and 9.10am, I totally understand the meaning of the expression “cold to the bone”. At night I am also cold and would be colder if Declan hadn’t found me a very big plastic sheet, which I use to wrap around my sleeping bag once I am inside it – I have to punch holes in it to try and stop my sleeping bag from getting damp, defeating the purpose, I suppose. If we ever get off the streets, and it won’t be thanks to the helping hands of those organisations whose purpose it is to help homeless people with whatever they need, Declan and I intend working for NAC 24/7, if only to avoid being put back on the streets.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Declan still recuperating

Declan is now getting over his “viral infection”. Gone are the sweats and the shivers and the fever, the only remaining symptom is the headache. When last Friday we returned to the Royal London Hospital (where he was hospitalised from 2-4 October but only treated with Paracetamol tablets and a fan one afternoon to reduce his temperature), he was told he had been discharged and that if he had problems he should go to the hospital’s Walk-In Centre. And what of Declan’s temperature of 39.1C, which had been taken by me with one of the hospital’s own 3M Tempa Dot Single Use Clinical Thermometers? Well, they are apparently quite unreliable things.

So a combination of Paracetamol and the Ibuprofen and Codeine Declan obtained on Friday afternoon from Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World), as well as almost total inactivity during the weekend, has more or less done the trick – at 9.00am on Saturday, when we were waiting for the Idea Store Whitechapel library to open, Declan’s face was colourless and big drops of sweat dripped from everywhere, really.

I was a bit worried early this morning because we were on our respective pitches at Liverpool Street Station selling The Big Issue and it was raining – Declan got sick after rain got through the bottom of his runners and wet his socks – but no, it looks like the infection is nearly over. It wouldn’t be thanks to the clothes that the Sisters of Mercy-run Dellow Centre gave me yesterday though. First, on Friday morning I was told by the nun in charge of clothes to come back on Monday, and on Monday she handed me an almost empty bag (I haven’t asked her for anything since 11 April and of course I don’t have to dig deep in my memory to remember why). I suspect I am wasting my time having another bash at asking for more clothes – so things on that front are a bit tricky. But perhaps not tricky enough: last night the alarm of the porch we sleep in at night flashed a blue light all night.

On Saturday, Declan wrote to the Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights in further reference to his application of 8 September and with particular regard to his urgent request for expedition of the same date:

Application no. 22541/07
Heavey v. the United Kingdom

                                RULE 41-URGENT

Dear Sir/Madam

In further reference to my urgent request for expedition under Rule 41 of the European Convention on Human Rights made on 8 September 2007 (with particular regard to the reasons cited for the necessity of expedition), I enclose for the attention of the Court copy of Discharge Summary Report of 4 October 2007 from the Royal London Hospital certifying that I was admitted on 2 October with a viral infection.

I also enclose copy of prescription of 5 October 2007 from Medecins du Monde UK for Ibuprofen 400mg for 4 weeks and Codeine Phosphate 30mg for 1 week.

I also re-enclose copy of my letter and enclosures of 22 September 2007 to Chief Superintendent Ken Stewart of Bishopsgate Police Station regarding my (illegal) begging and severe assault on my wife.

I beg to again point out that under the heading “Necessity of expedition”, the aforementioned urgent request for expedition of 8 September states the following:

An urgent expedition is necessary in this instance because of the violations of the applicant's human rights already existing and are likely to be even greater. The right that will be violated is the right to private and family life by the threat to the applicant of being severely assaulted, becoming seriously ill and/or being reduced to begging. This would constitute a threat of irreparable and serious harm. Being reduced to begging is a threat that is imminent given that the applicant’s savings have already been exhausted.

Yours faithfully

Declan Heavey

Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies of the United States and Sir Martin Evans of Britain won the Nobel Medicine Prize yesterday for their research with stem cells. Their discoveries on embryonic stem cells developed a technology called gene targeting in mice that can inactive genes, providing information on their roles in various diseases. They can change any gene, disabling or enabling it. The manipulations are carried out in embryonic stem cells, then it's reintroduced to the mouse, where it's incorporated by the germ cells – sperm and eggs – so that the desired change is reliably passed on to a new generation of mice. Evans is widely credited with the discovery of embryonic stem cells.

In relation to NAC’s campaign for embryonic stem cell research, I am still doing my research but getting quite close to figuring out the campaign’s first take action. Declan and I are particularly taken by the work and accomplishments of Italian Luca Coscioni, who, before dying of amiotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2006 at the age of 39, had received the support of 96 Nobel Laureates in his appeal in support of freedom of scientific research. Portuguese Nobel Laureate in Literature, José Saramago, wrote to Coscioni:
Perhaps the support of a mere writer like me might be rather out of place in the list of renowned scientists who, by means of their names and their prestige, have put a seal on the statements made by Luca Coscioni in his letter of 20 March, so clear and moving. In any case, you are welcome to use my name. So that the light of reason and of human respect may illuminate the gloomy spirits of those who still believe, and will always believe, that they are the masters of our destiny. We had been waiting a long time for the day to dawn, we were tired of waiting, but suddenly the courage of a man struck dumb by a terrible disease gave us new strength. Thank you for this.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Declan admitted to hospital with a viral infection

Declan spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the Royal London Hospital. The name is quite flashy but the hospital is a bit run down – their lift is the slowest thing I think I’ve ever been in: the second day when Declan was moved by a worker to a ward on the top floor, not only did we have to wait for 5 minutes but on the third floor everybody in the lift (including one patient on a drip and another with no legs) was told to come out because a patient just out of theatre had to be transported back to his ward.

The Royal London Hospital is on Whitechapel Road, just a few metres from the Methodist Church-run Whitechapel Mission – where we were barred by the minister’s wife on 18 June due to concerns about our safety: not even a complaint by Declan to the Charity Commission has brought about a re-admittance – and near the Sisters of Mercy-run Dellow Centre, the only place left for us to go: this morning Declan and I had no choice but to ask the nun in charge of clothes for some warm clothing, which I was told to collect on Monday.

Declan was admitted from the Accident & Emergency Department at about 11.30am on Tuesday because of high fever – total lack of energy, sweaty, body aches and chill. The discharge report states Declan has a “viral infection”. I say has because his temperature was back up this afternoon to such an extent that he had to get a hefty prescription for Ibuprofen and Codeine from Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) – an international humanitarian aid organisation that recruits medical and non-medical volunteers, who provide healthcare for vulnerable populations around the world, and happened to be in the Dellow Centre this morning for referrals to their centre in Bethnal Green.

Perhaps I should add that the treatment Declan received from the Royal London Hospital comprised of Paracetamol painkillers and a fan on Wednesday afternoon to bring down his temperature. (And where did I sleep while Declan was in hospital? Well, I was allowed to sleep on a chair beside Declan’s bed because the hospital residence for the next of kin of patients was full up.)

It was while Declan was lying on the hospital bed that I came up with our campaign for embryonic stem cell research for private funding. After doing research on the internet, I believe it will be totally unique … but more about that in the next blog.

Oh, and just for the record, at the moment Declan’s temperature is 39.1C, as high as it was when he was admitted on Tuesday morning (I have a few of these single-use clinical thermometers). He is absolutely dripping in sweat and going back into the hospital now to see what they have to say about it.

We don’t have to be reminded that the Department for Work and Pensions (Declan’s whole application to the European Court of Human Rights is against this particular department) and the Department of Health (of which the Royal London Hospital is a part), share the same solicitor’s office.