Blog: David Menon

The crime author writes about his two experiences of homelessness with a forty year interval

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The first time I was homeless was back in 1973. I was brought up by my gran and she was turned out of the house she’d been renting because she was so behind with her rent. I was twelve. We went to stay with my uncle who lived down in Gloucestershire. His wife had never liked me. She made no secret of the fact that she “really liked” my stepfather who’d refused to take me on when he married my mother because I was mixed race. My father came from India. I never met him.

The tension built while we were staying with them until the atmosphere exploded after three weeks. It was a Saturday afternoon. They told us to leave. My youngest uncle, who’d still been living at “home” with me and Gran because he was still single at the time, and who’d become a sort of de facto older brother to me, stayed with a friend while he was working during the week and then joined us at weekends. He had to pile us and all our belongings once again into the back of his Mini and drive us first to my mother’s house back in Derby, where we stayed for one night. Then we went to a caravan on the Lincolnshire coast at Mablethorpe. We stayed there in a kind of limbo for almost a month until my older brother uncle managed to rent a house back in Derby that he, my gran and me could live in. My gran’s name was put on the council list, and she eventually got a house for us.

Forty-odd years later I had my own flat. I had a career where I earned good money. I then took voluntary redundancy to pursue a writing career. I had a partner of 20 years standing. He was married and had an “arrangement” with his lesbian wife. When he died, I got nothing in the will. His family left me high and dry even though they all knew me and how my life had been built around him.

I thought I’d be okay even though I was struggling both emotionally and financially.

I sold many of my personal belongings just to give me some temporary cash flow. I’d transferred my company pension into an investment scheme, but it turned out to be a scam and I lost it all. I took a temporary job, but I still had to sell most of my furniture and clothes. Then when my flat was repossessed, I went to stay with my cousin, but I’ve always felt like a stranger among my family and we soon fell out.

That’s when I became homeless for the second time in my life.

I tried to kill myself and on the day that I was discharged from hospital I slept rough that night.

I slept in friends’ spare rooms and borrowed way too much money from them. I stayed in budget hotels. Because my friends were split between north and south, I’d get the night coach to make the journey between them so that I wouldn’t have to think about where to stay that night.

I had a heart attack.

I was diagnosed with leukaemia.

I was homeless.

Friends I’d known for years started backing away. Their sofas were no longer available. They said their spare rooms were in “such a mess”. Well, not as much of a mess as the bus station I slept at some nights. The spare rooms of some “close” friends weren’t offered and that really hurt.

I was and remain a broken man.

But thanks to a local council I now have a flat and I’m concentrating on my health and on getting my writing career back on track.

My experiences have certainly informed my writing. Many of my characters are drawn from those who feel left behind and treated as if their feelings don’t matter. They have to deal with the absence of a father, a mother, and a normal family life. They have to deal with not feeling like they belong anywhere. Many are broken souls who feel they must be due a break.

David Menon’s new book, The Final Hours, the first in a new Detective Jason Farrell series, is out now

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