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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, March 20, 2005
    Homeless and rooted
     
    Fascinating to read in The Observer Magazine an extensive biography of a tramp called Bronco John. Fascinating for all sorts of reasons - primarily because this hobo played a part in so many people's lives, for so long, in posh Hampstead village, and the story illustrates the effect he had on them.

    Fascinating also because it shows how homelessness doesn't necessarily mean rootlessness - although he failed to get a room of his own, Bronco John belonged in many other people's Hampstead rooms, generous folk who gave him a settee some nights, restauranteurs who gave him a table and told sniffy guests to move theirs if they were uncomfortable. Bronco John was one of those people known by everybody around, one of those people who give a community common ground.

    Of course, it's likely he's only in the Observer because it's Hampstead, and that connects him to celebrity, "a gentleman of the road who took tea with Peter Cook and dinner with Peter Sellers," etc etc. But there's a good sort of fascination in that too. Bronco John lived close to the ground and kept others' feet planted there, people who otherwise might have lost their humanness in a haze of fame and fortune.