I see that Cat Stevens, or Yusaf Islam as he chose to call himself when he abandoned music in 1979, auctioned his guitars and decided to devote himself to philanthropic and educational causes in the Muslim community, is back with a new album. While not his first since he returned to music ten years ago or so one track 'Blackness of the Night,' on the new album, 'The Laughing Apple,' is destined to join so many others from his pen as music of our time.
While listening to it earlier, the events of late last Sunday evening came flooding back. I was standing on a damp pavement outside a hotel in Doncaster with a friend, catching some fresh air after drinking 'just one more.' We were heading to a young persons funeral the next morning and Sunday evening was a time to seek emotional catharsis or sanctuary, or perhaps both, before what would be a very tough day ahead.
Alcohol though can both suppress and amplify emotion and we were both feeling pretty maudlin when we met Simon who shuffled toward us through the light drizzle. He asked if we could help with some 'spare change.' Happy to take our minds of other matters we made some enquiries of Simon, not least because he had two massive black eyes. It transpired he had taken quite a kicking a day or two before. He was he said, walking to Gainsbourgh. Gainsbourgh is a long way from Doncaster. Simon, was in a bit of a mess. A discreet enquiry about room availability at the hotel brought the night manager out who, as a boxer in his spare time, said, 'No way, he looks concussed,' and called an ambulance, which was absolutely the right thing to do.
While we were waiting for the ambulance I slipped Simon a couple of notes for breakfast and a bus fare and we chatted on. "Why are you helping me,' he asked. 'Because we're ex soldiers and we don't leave people behind,' I said which was a touch theatrical. The truth is we were helping ourselves feel better about life. Simon burst into tears. I didn't expect that. We forget sometimes, how far a little kindness can go and what a rare commodity it is for many.