Friday in Edinburgh and the city centre is dressed to party.
Outside Starbucks on the corner of George Street are two beggars. They are wrapped in sleeping bags and layers of clothing.
An office party walks past. Two women give some money, while their colleague - a bloke in a scratchy, shiny suit sneers ‘get a job’ before being heartily slapped on his back. How the lads brayed.
Colliding worlds sharing the same street, the same city and yet utterly miles apart.
Maybe that vile little specimen of a human should take a ten minute walk to see the layer below begging.
Head along Princes Street, up Waterloo Place and past Calton Hill. The road commands stunning views across Holyrood to Arthur’s Seat. The city skyline is majestic, particularly on a crisp, clean winter’s day.
The terraced houses above pay handsomely for this view. The man who lives in the park gets it all for free.
He lives on the very last bench. His entire world is packed into a dozen rucksacks and large bags, wrapped in polythene to protect them from the elements. They are squeezed tightly under and around the bench.
On some nights you can just about make out his black woolly hat and bushy beard peering out from all layers of blankets.
When he moves he has to take his belongings with him. There are so many he moves them in relays - shifting the first batch maybe 50 yards down the road, going basic for the second and then third loads, and repeating the process until he reaches his destination, and then doing it all in return. It’s like watching a human caterpillar; one that moves just as slowly.
As journeys go it is exhausting. It can take hours what you or I would do in ten minutes.
I’ve often wondered what his story is. How did he come to live on a bench below the skies, open to all the elements not to mention the casual verbal and - God forbid, physical abuse - of any random oaf passing on a night out?
Where did his life go off the rails? Indeed, did it?
For some, being alone, even living off the streets, is preferrable to coping with the stresses of modern life which is 24/7 noise, pressure and demands.
In Leith there was a homeless guy who was well known to all for decades. He politely shunned every offer of help or invite back into mainstream society. He simply wanted to be where he was, and so the community let him be. They kept an eye on him though. That’s how it should be.
The guy in the park is no bother. Families entering through the gates go past his bench without any worry - he says little - while dog walkers are well used to his presence.
Shame the same couldn’t be said for the moron in the suit who, with the bravado of a few beers, thought he was being funny as hell demeaning and belittling someone simply trying to get through another day.
Lives are fragile. They can be damaged and broken beyond repair in a matter of minutes. I hope he never ends up living on a park bench with his entire world stuffed into a bunch of carrier bags.
But if he did I know most folk would afford him the basic human decency of a quid or a nod - and not a mouthful of abuse.