Tuesday 26 June 2012

South Bank Vignette

I've always believed that getting into conversations with strangers is one of life's great pleasures.  It's a view I inherited from my late father who, though naturally a very shy man, would always try to engage in some way with everyone he met.  It had some odd lasting consequences - he liked to eat avocados with rum and brown sugar, the result of a recommendation from a bus conductor he once got chatting with.  Among his effects we found scribbled notes from many chance encounters, things like a recipe for the illicit Irish drink pocheen, written on the back of a beermat.

A few days ago, I was walking back from the National Theatre after a rather disappointing outdoor show that had - a point in its favour - a spectacular firework display as its climax.  As I headed towards the station, I was accosted by a man in his late fifties, with a goatee, a raincoat and a half-drunk can of beer.  His accent suggested a Northern upbringing, maybe Liverpool.  He carried two large plastic bags, and might have been homeless.

He asked me what he'd missed with the fireworks.  I mentioned that it was part of a show, and that he could see it again if he was there at the same time the next day.

'I won't be here tomorrow.  I only just got back from Holland.'

He said that his name was Kinder, and offered a hand.  I told him my name, and he said that he was also a David, and that we were taking over the world.  We agreed that the Prime Minister was letting the side down, but that otherwise David was a fine name.  I mentioned that it was the Hebrew for 'beloved', which it turned out he already knew.  He translated his full name - David Walter Kinder - as a beloved conquering child.  I said that mine breaks down as a curly-haired beloved owner of a cottage.

Once we'd bonded over our names, he told me his big idea - that for one day a year, everybody should be called David Walter Kinder.

"Imagine you meet someone and say 'My name's David Walter Kinder' and he says 'So's mine'.  Well, you wouldn't be able to do that person any harm, would you?  Try to shoot someone with your name, you can't do it; it'd be 'Let's have some cheese on toast.'.  Just for one day a year, everybody's David Walter Kinder.'

He followed this up with a second idea - that everyone should at birth have a mirror implanted next to their left eye. The thinking is similar  - you wouldn't be able to hurt someone if you could see yourself in their eyes.  He told me I should write a play based on this image - 'You're the brainbox, you're the one with the connections.'

I said - truthfully - that it had been inspiring to talk to him - and started walking towards the station.  He mimed throwing a ball and I caught it.  He said 'Your name's David Walter Kinder - shout it out.' .  And I did.

When I got home I googled his name and couldn't find anything.  (There's a Dr. David Kinder who slightly resembled him at an American university, which led me briefly to construct an elaborate fantasy of a brilliant career ruined by alcohol.)  I'll almost certainly never meet the man again, but he's given me two images that'll stay with me till I die.  It's unlikely that I'll ever write the play, but he deserves memorialising, so I hope this blog post will do.


  1. What a fantastic character. You must certainly write the play.

  2. I, too, just had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful person by the name of David Walter Kinder. I was wondering past the burger stand next to Waterloo station after a night shift on the railways, modern day navvy that I am, and saw a scuffy looking old man, who I quicky dismissed as an old homeless man, but we got talking, as I fancied a chicken burger but changed my mind.
    What a fascinating man this Beloved conquering child is. He told me he had been telling Yannis , the burger stand worker, his life story and how he was waiting for his wife to open her flower stall on the south bank. He also told me to look out for his autobiography "The warrior, the poet, the man" I must say also he bought me a cup of tea. An absoute Gent! I left for my 243 bus home and thought let me Google this guy,which has lead me here to this blog and thought I'd share my story of meeting Mr David Walter Kinder.
    If everone thought like this Man we would be in a better world for sure.
    Let's have a David Walter Kinder day!
    Never.....Never ......NEVER! Judge a book by it's cover!

  3. This play needs to be written. Whoever he was, or wasn't - the spirit of the idea suggests a golden intellect. You should be the person to write it in all probability, as a nod to your father. You may not have had the conversation with David Walter Kinder otherwise. If I try to write it, it won't work - because I'm not a playwright : /

  4. JAHHH, THANK YOU, i mean this guy ive just had the honour and pleasure of sitting with this man, hes a g! We sat and he opened me up by making me shout my introductions to him, i often cycle around london, if i have a bag of food i find people to give to and share time with. David Walter Kinder so happened to drop a whole heap of knowledge on life, his plans & history and his grievances, it was epic. We laughed hugged and smoked a spliff together. Never before had i heard of such careful consideration to the affect of another, he is a wordsmith. - to those that care: he has been mugged broken jaw and robbed of almost £300, he mentioned some deep stuff about his time in the army and his four wives.. he buried his past. I mean, this guy has lived! holding him with a hug and handshake had never felt warmer. At one point he stood up and said 'the women and children are behind me protecting and defending them with my two rifles and three handguns' - he was absolutely devastated about carrying around the burden of the soldiers that had/ve come after him killing the innocent under the rule of our modern government.. i also gave him a load of food he so kindly refused. i mean how much more legit can a man be, its not just a book or play he needs but an entire media marketing advertisement mainstream underground everytingggg! - p.s. he left me feel his war scars!

  5. I was visiting London last week.. 25th October and was sat outside a cafe which sold noodles not far from Waterloo Sation, I was sat on a bench smoking a cig, a rather mysterious unassuming chap walk by slow, I e mate sit down, he instantly sat and we got talking. We had an imstant connection. We chatted about where we used to play more or less in the same street when we were kids, he mentioned Hill street Just along the Dock Road to Dingle in Liverpool where my Nan lived I too had served in the Army, we chewed the fat and vocally righted all the wrongs in the world. You can imagine the murderous scouse wit... two scallies from the same neck of the woods recounting Our Army days reliving the scrapes we got through. I felt his pain as he did mine, then there was an few moments of silence a mutual silence, without any prompt we sat thinking not a word being spoken. After a few minutes he reached into one of his two carrier bags and offered a can of beer to me. We continued to chat as if we had known each other for years or were long lost Brothers.. we were Brothers really.. Brothers In Arms divided by nothing but sharing our tracks of life. When life kicks you..let it kick you forward. I said to David some days there won’t be a song in your heart, so sing anyway, instantly without a rehearsal we both broke into a song, a kind of hushed song about Father Abraham who has seven sons etc. We sang for a couple of minutes more then we both roared with laughter. We continued talking about our Army days and how some people, not all, don’t understand the ways of the world, about respect and are to busy hurrying about filling their lives with nonsense. Veterans don’t pray for an easy life. They pray for the strength to endure a difficult life. It reminds me of a saying... Always remember that, no matter how useless you sometimes feel, you’re someone’s reason to smile. David and I smiled a lot during out 40 minute encounter. It was certainly clear that not all wounds bleed. We parted company, both shouting after each other as we got further apart, he called me back... so I returned, he stood and we hugged for what seemed an eternity a tear in his eye as well as mine. David said go’ed lad off ya go and mind yaself lad.

    I woke the next morning thinking of our meeting and wondered who will have the pleasure of his company today. God Bless you David ...wherever you are remember there are those whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.

    Steve S Catterick Garrsion, North Yorkshire