Trevor Hughes by Fred Unwin
Taken from Gentle Tales of Old Cambridge
Trevor, an alcoholic, would laze at the bottom of the stone steps surrounding the conduit, market traders crossed his path, as they used the water from the font to freshen tired leave, or wash out various pots and pans. At the side of Trevor was an ever present commodity, which he utilised for refreshment, or to wash-out the residual of the previous day's guzzle- a large bottle of cider!
The market traders had mixed ideas of Trevor's usefulness in society. Some, mainly the fruit growers and market gardeners, saw in Trevor a crafty old layabout; while they, up at the crack of dawn, hurrying and scurrying in order to load up for six a.m. start. worked hard for a living; Trevor idled away the time in drinking himself into a stupor, during which he would toss out asides, such as; 'You b- fools!' I'm on holiday every day - you slog away all year, for just a couple weeks!'
College dignitaries, shuffling past Trevor, absorbed in the traditional aspect of a gargoyled City, smiled down at the little man, regarding him as a quaint old Cambridge character; no doubt praising themselves for showing such humility, and from the most learned elite of a flourishing City!
Trevor, as artful as a cart-load of monkey, regaled them with his very best repartee! - "God bless you, Sirs. It's been a fine day, in my young days I would have been placing bat against ball. But a fine lot of players you have this year, you'll have it over Oxford this time, mark my words, fine Sirs, mark my words!"
Rumour had it that Trevor, indeed, had once been a cricket coach up North. His special line of banter held him in good stead, when using college property for nightly accommodation! Social Security saw to it that Trevor received a weekly sum, which sufficed for paying for a room in which to sleep. But Trevor's grocery list outweighed that of accommodation purposes. Three or four bottles of cider, topped up with a small bottle of whisky, left very little for sleeping with a roof over his head.
Most Cambridge students regarded Trevor as a curiosity piece. Few, knowing the real intrinsic aspects of an alcoholic, kept him at arms length; but, the remainder, to Trevor's delight, looked upon him as a fellow down on his luck. One such, a tall gangling youth, accosted Trevor on this particular morning.
" The letter you wrote me from Bedford jail - I sent you five pounds, you promised that you would try for a job, I've watched you each morning from my study room, you never move away from this spot, how can you obtain employment, if you don't try?"
Taking a further drink, Trevor wiped his mouth with a dirty coat sleeve. Bedford jail, once could say, was the alcoholic's 'other' residence. Once a month, Trevor would be picked up by the police, usually drunk and disorderly, dirty, long matted hair, emaciated by lack of real food, untidy, and going from bad to worse.
After a month in Her Majesty's residence, Trevor would be dumped on Market Square, a new person shiny and bright in step and manner, ready to begin over again, his steady decline to an early death! But, during his prison sojourn, Trevor would 'tap' all the misguided college boys, ready for a priming against a plentiful supply of cider and spirits!
The student went on. "The Hostel Keeper's mad at you creeping in at night, your sleeping in the corridors is getting him a bad name. You urinate and defaecate where you lay, he says that you make the hostel smell from cellar to attic room!"
Trevor stared up at the young man! Shoppers, passing by, smiled at the 'beauty and the beast' aspect of the conversation. Elderly ladies beamed at the Cambridge character, but knowing nothing of the inside issue of Trevor's career, blessed the young man's attempt at lifting up Trevor from an abyss of shame.
"It's getting warmer, lad!" replied Trevor. "I've picked me out a nice spreading tree, runs alongside the Senate House and King's College, it'll take me through to autumn, by then, I'll ferret out another warren. Sorry about the fiver, boy, I did try for a job, but I reckon me record's going agin' me. When they ask about my last job, I can't say sewing mail bags in Bedford - Now can I?"
The student shrugged. "I don't believe that you have tried for a job for years. You've conned me, as you've conned many of my friends. The money given you by well intentioned fools, should be used for food - but you won't listen, what do you intend to do - carry on drinking yourself to death?"
It was Rag Day! Students were working up to a happy frenzy, milk floats, brewer's drays, gaily bedecked with all kinds of regalia in order to induce the town folk to give towards a chosen charity.
"Trevor Hughes for Prime Minister", sang out one poster, with Trevor bearded untidy face staring out above its caption - almost a replica of Fidel Castro!
|Trevor Hughes by Sarah Taylor|
Trevor rose from his stone seat, preparing for a visit to the International Stores, Money, tossed to him by
well-meaning fools, had piled up enough to bring him in a fresh bottle of cider. The manager, although a friendly man, eyed Trevor with suspicion, accentuated by the loss of an odd bottle of spirits, believingly tucked away into Trevor's voluminous out-coat. Trevor, with happy asides, such as "How are you, me old beauties?- Going to be a nice day", tried to allay such doubts on his intergrity, but most of the shop staff knew him well, giving little in the way of the counter laxity!
Some shopkeepers in the area, although aware of Trevor's waywardness, fully understood the alcoholic's tendency to omit food from his daily diet. Kind-heartedly, they would take over snippets from their trade: Sausage-rolls, cakes, fruit- in an effort to ensure that Trevor had a more staple diet - but this kindness would be thrown back at them, as Trevor, thinking not to be seen, would empty the gifts into the market dustbins! The man had a dogged determination to steep his over-worked liver with as much poison as possible!
Young children, oblivious to the real meaning of Trevor's inability to stand, viewed him as they might a kindly grandfather. With future confidence of the parents in mind, Trevor would exploit then to the full. His beaming red face, kindly pat on a curly head, followed by, "You are a pretty little dear!" endeared him to the hearts of many harassed mothers, whose description of Trevor, without basic knowledge, might well earn him an accolade of being 'a nice little man'!
Policemen, of course, had trying times with our hero! Of Trevor scores of convictions, most included violent behaviour, obscene language, and drunk and disorderly. Even then, friendly magistrates never having to deal with the cruder niceties of Trevor Hughes' method of living, found his cheeky asides, after being sentenced, a source of fun, which the local press quickly cottoned on to, thus building up a false-fronted picture of Trevor's potentiality towards being 'a real character'!
The Cyrene community had run the whole gamut of Trevor's unethical habits. Night accommodation had been afforded him, students had applied their slowly and ruthlessly, all this was tossed away by a man whose sole ambition seemed to be - to destroy himself!
Suddenly the market square was alive with rumour - Trevor was not at his post? He'd been rushed to Addenbrooke's? Had been arrested, yet again? And many suggested that he was dead! The truth of the matter was that, he had, indeed, been rushed to hospital - and was to undergo an operation for the culminating effects of alcohol - his liver was in a very bad condition!
The old adage that 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' took on a new meaning! The professors, the kindly old ladies, the doting parents, the inexperienced students, and indeed, the passing clergy, each saw in Trevor the parable of 'The Prodigal Son', and although Trevor had indeed been taking a daily swigging of all the cider which might legitimately be due to him over the course of a natural lifetime - was he not missing from the market environment?
Amazingly, Trevor's first day's absence coincided with a cutting in the Cambridge Evening News. It ran:-
" The day begins usually at nine a.m. A small patch of shrubs and roses, inside the railings of Great St. Mary's, becomes the meeting place! Sprawled on a hard bench, unkempt figures, with loud voices, discuss the 'score' of the previous evening, totting up what remains toward their first drink of the day.
Early morning workers, passing by, shout obscenities, or acknowledgement. The alcoholics, proud that someone has noticed them, shout back. Around nine-thirty a.m. business begins. A furtive glance, scurrying figures, a touch of the cap, and a bottle of cider becomes more than an early morning mirage. The church bells, strident and clear, punctuate these pleasantries. Tourists beam with pleasure at such quaint English custom, and from their desks at the nearby council chambers, councillors carry on their City administration.
A drunk stares whimsically up at the bell tower. The bells may well be crying out, " Turn yet again, Whittington!" But alas, for him, there is no other way to turn!
The day passes. The English weather drives most people home. The rain belts down relentlessly; it soaks the benches, soaks the grass, livens and stimulates scent from the roses, but above all , it saturates the clothes of the alcoholics!
Two figures lie huddled on the drenched grass. Gratuities have been good, kind passers-by have dug deep into their pockets - but not their consciences! As the darkness gathers, one sot helps another. Somehow they drag, cajole, piggy-back each other across the wet morass.
It is Friday night, strains from choir practice at Great St. Mary;s break out into the night air:
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me Saviour, or I die!'
A student from the Cyrene Community gazes down at Trevor who, worked on feverishly by an army of Addenbrooke's doctors, had returned to his former position at the bottom of the stone steps of the water fountain. Trevor looked pale and thin, his usual chirpy remarks had whittled down to an occasional nod. His cider-forte stood at his side, keeping with it's master's frail condition. A second student joined the other "Shouldn't be allowed, Trevor's not fit to be putting further poison into his system, the doctors have done a good job- now it'll be reversed!"
The first student nodded " He'll die, as sure as eggs are eggs! People will say 'Poor old Trevor', but I wonder what the nursing staff might say?"
"In the eyes of many, Trevor will go down as a man with no chance, a great character! But tucked away in the side streets, are men whose working days have long since gone, they die with pneumonia, bronchitis, with far less medical treatment than given that given to Trevor - But against that, you might say, two wrong don't make a right!" the second student replied.
A few weeks later, Trevor died. His way of living earned him a T.V. funeral, with a following of college dignitaries!
Trevor was enigmatic. He received all - gave nothing! After his death, an Alcoholic Anonymous worker pointed at Trevor's absent spot beside the conduit, "We've lost a very good reason for people not taking to drink!"
His friend replied, "Maybe Trevor did some good after all!"
The market traders turn now to the new arrivals on the drunk scene: they will watch out for the sudden isolation from the gang, the deterioration that will manifest a new Trevor Hughes. The hurly burly of market life goes on. No one will ever find the real answer, there are too many ever willing to call 'black-white'!
God in His wisdom knows the answer - we, on earth, must do what we can to help all such as Trevor - perhaps, even to see him off- at the end!
It was said that Trevor once had high hopes of retiring into the country - now, he was certain of a green corner in the cemetery! Trevor had been dying the last year, he fell lower and lower, dying of starvation a little every day. Tossed from one night haunt to another, he would lie on old sacking, with chatting teeth and frozen bones. Evidently, the world had no place for Trevor, death was to take him, little by little, dragging him to the end through the accursed existence had made for himself. The truth was that Trevor died of isolation, and the filth and hardship of his ruinous life. Over-drinking and dissoluteness killed off one of Cambridge's would -be characters!
Trevor sat beside the Fountain,
and watched the long, dark shade;
and as the shade grew longer still,
he did not feel afraid.
Trevor listened for a football,
and listened for a word;
but, the gurgle of sweet poison,
was the only thing he heard!
*- Above is Chapter One 'Trevor Hughes' from 'Gentle Tales of Old Cambridge' by Fred Unwin. Full credit is to Fred Unwin as author of the work above and a copy of the full book is available HERE along with other titles by the author.