Interview by Alex Waygood, Joanna Engle and Christopher Hill
“If I had their money, I’d buy an island and sit on it all day!
David Lloyd George, beloved amongst Oriel joggers, sits on a bench in the Christ Church meadows. We ask if he has time for a chat…
Go for it!
Are you from Oxford?
Yas, all my life. All of it. Love it! Outside of Oxford, there’s a weird world – they don’t talk properly! They’re thick – no offence! London’s got nothing on this.
What do you love about Oxford so much?
All of it! Everything. All the pubs are gone now though.You can’t get chip shops no more, no proper chips, it’s all in frozen packets. The only thing is, the structure itself doesn’t change here, it’s always the same… I’ve noticed the students are becoming more… uppity-buppity. See, before, I used to get on really well with all the students, all of them… Naah, see the infrastructure at Oxford stays the same, all the time, just like – they own it, they own everything, they’re very, very powerful people. So they think! [Laughs]
So, you reckon the students are getting less friendly?
They think they’re above the status. I think they’re really – “oh I’m… studying here so I’m above you”. But I’ve got more brains than they would know, just don’t use it. Just don’t need to do anything. I get on well with a lot of them, just some of them are a bit… snobby… unacceptable. We all know Oxford is at the top now as well. So, I don’t know what’s going on there…
Do you think that divide’s grown in recent years?
It’s been going on for a while… slowly. I’d say over the last… probably over the last, like, four or five years? Students have been getting a bit – seem to be locking themselves into colleges all the time, they don’t… See what I look at, I look at it straight, I do: if they don’t communicate with people like me, homeless people, who are – we really are poor people – then when they go into the real world, they won’t have a clue how to communicate, be stuck on their mobile phones, computers, haven’t got a clue how to communicate. So if I was a boss for a company ,and one of them came in for a job, he wouldn’t have a clue how to talk to me, wouldn’t even know I was the boss. So I’d just say – no chance! And there’s not a lotta work for students as there is anyway, that’s for definite. It’s wrong. They give them a shovel, I think, to pick their noses with. So they wouldn’t have a clue.
One thing I’ve noticed, as a jogger around here-
-I’m here! I’m here. Always here.
You’re always so great and supportive!
I think, a lot of people need that. ‘Specially students, I mean, cos – that’s what I mean! – some of them go jogging round here an’ completely ignore me, completely blank you, and I think – hang on, I’ve got more brains than you’ll ever have. Take that! Hey, it’s good to give encouragement and enthusiasm, because… first it can help you with your studies – definitely can, I know that for a fact. Secondly, you get to meet all sorts of different people an’ have a talk with them people – a lot of people won’t talk to me, they think, “aaah, he’s just a homeless drunk, he’s nothing”. They don’t give a conversation with you where you really know what you’re talking about. An’ then they think, aah, that’s where they think they’re above you, immediately. You’re still looking at that bar of chocolate, aren’t you! [Proffers bar of chocolate on the bench…]
I’m thinking about it…
Go for it! It’s free! It’s free! This is one thing in Oxford that’s free – swimming. An’ that chocolate. Everything else you’ve gotta pay for! Pretty much everything, here.
So, is the meadow one of your favourite spots in Oxford?
Oh yes! The meadow and the canals. The meadow here, because sometimes a lot of the time – even though there’s all the jogging –
[Passer-by: Hello Dave!]
Hello, how are you? You’re out drinking again, aren’t you?
[Are you not!?]
I am, got ‘em in there, got ‘em but I’m… [Points at plastic bag.] cos I’m just having a chat, aren’t I?
[Passer-by: And now you have disciples as well?]
Wouldn’t go that far!
That’d be fun!
[Alright, see you later!]
I’ll see you crawling back that way when you’re drunk!
So, it’s this and the canals – the canals, I like boats! Love just watching it drift by… but here, you’ve got everything in the middle o’ the city, and sometimes, a lot of people go jogging an’ that, go walking, a lot of students talk to me, a lot don’t, I’m not too bothered ‘bout things like that, and you can… well… here we are now, having a chinwag! Great fun. And there’s peace and quiet sometimes. Unless you get ten thousand billion tourists. Pretty regular. Pre-tty regular.
[Talk about moving to Oxford, how we found it]
I think – I noticed- a lot of students do say that it feels like a bubble here. Outside, there’s another world. It’s completely different.
Is it very strange during the holidays, when all the students are gone?
It’s worse – all the tourists take control. What they do, they rent out the rooms that the students are in, once the students have gone, they rent ‘em out to the tourists and and all that, for summer schools and all that sort of stuff. They’re always making money though they’re skint. It’s amazing that is. Amazing. All the money that they’ve got, and they’ve never got any money! Ahhh… boy, if I had their money, I’d buy an island and sit on it all day! Fire off fireworks all day. I’d open one pub. For me.
It’s the dream. […] Is there much of a community in Oxford?
Oh yes! Local community? Oh yes. Lots. It’s all over the place, but it’s… You’ve got to be Oxford to know ‘em, if you get my meaning. If I go to some pubs, I do, Christmas day, I go to a pub and everyone in there knows everybody… you know who they are, but you don’t say anything about anything, you just have a good ol’ chat and a good ol’ drink. And relax – everyone knows everybody in there, an’ I know that an’ all… But it’s a very closely knit, very secretive, weirdly… same as the colleges! You know, the colleges, what goes round in the college stays in the college, it’s college stuff. And here, with Oxford local people… not a lot, but some are very – secretive, so it’s the same sort of thing, you talk among yourselves, you ‘ave a natter, yup. An’ a drink!
What’s the general opinion of the Oxford community on the student body?
They like ‘em! They like the students, and the university, they like ‘em! There’s a mutual understanding between students and locals, it’s a mutual thing. Oh, there’s a lot of problems that go on, but you get that wherever you go – wherever you go! See, what a lot of us think: we don’t want the tourists here. We prefer the students! They’re more civilised, more refined, you have a better conversation out of ‘em, and [leans in conspiratorially] nearly all of ‘em speak English! It’s true. It’s much, much better.. And the balance is more or less stable – with all the tourists here, you just don’t know who’s who.
Go on, have a bit of chocolate. Go for it!
[After eating chocolate…] Do you mind if we take your picture?
Which way? [Poses, laughs] Oh my God… so everybody in Oriel College’ll know me, and they’ll throw me in the river? [General laughter] Great going, great going… I’ll be down t’ watch the rowing, down to watch the Summer Eights, and they’re gonna throw me in the river again! Afternoon, ladies!
[Several people walk past, ignore that David spoke to them]
I rest my case.
Let’s have that picture!
Go for it! Oh, yeah, which? – oh, I’ll just be myself. I’ll by myself. I haven’t got a fag – if I had a fag, I’d light it up.
[Talk about the lighting…] I don’t think any picture could be bad with this background
Not a chance – look at the colour of the trees, they’re fantastic!
Do you have a favourite season for Christ Church meadows?-
Don’t like the rain. Snow is easy, cold weather is easy… the wind an’ the rain are a nightmare. With rain, you can’t get out of it – you stick here, you’re stuck, you’ve had it.
So what’ve we got planned for the rest o’ the day!? Fireworks, fireworks, or fireworks?
I think the fireworks are a definite..
There you go! Fireworks. And then the pub. Then a club!
Go for it!
[Talk about rowing – none of us likes the idea of early get-ups much, prefer to work late and ‘wrestle ourselves out of bed in the morning’…]
That’s a bad idea. Stay in bed. Tell the tutors an’ that, ‘Ah, I’m not going today’, go in, stick your feet up on the desk and say: ‘I’m just gonna relax,’ and go to sleep. They’d probably throw you out.
They did that in Christ Church, a few years ago. I was talking to a few students – I thought they was going to a house party, or party of some sort, so I thought, ‘I’ll tag along’. Only having a bleedin’ lecture, didn’t they? Smack, bang into it! I didn’t know…
What was it on?
The human brain – that sorta stuff. Anyway… the lecturer said, ‘Should you be in here?’ and I said, ‘Well I thought they was goin’ to a pub’. Then I went over and I drank, probably a glass of champagne at the end of the lecture with ‘em, and then those – he turned round an’ he said, ‘Those who were invited, going to dinner,’ as if to say, ‘He know you – get out, you!’. How’s that!?
Ohh… love it! I haven’t been in Oriel College yet, though… should smuggle my way in. When’s your next ball?
Next year? (We think…)
I gatecrashed – got kicked out twice, in Christ Church. Got through the gate – I was already in the gate. ‘No way, David,’ took me out . So I went back round, climbed over the wall and went in! But he went and spotted me again, so I said, ‘how’d you spot me?’, and he was in a state, he said, ‘look at the way they’re dressed, compared to you!’.
[Jogger comes by.] Hello, there! Good luck!
…An’ after he threw me out again. I didn’t try again, cos I knew I wouldn’ get in. Didn’t even get a drink! No booze? Oh, never mind – that’s what we’re up to today! Are you going jogging tomorrow?
Maybe… a bit cold now. […] If you don’t mind us asking, how old are you?
Ah. My birthday, it’s in – next week! Fifty, fifty… fifty-three! I know, it’s an old age…
What day next week?
I can’t remember. One of ‘em!
Have a good birth-week, then!
Aw, I get the whole week drinking! Cooooool.
Thanks so much for talking with us.
To find out more about homelessness in Oxford, you can visit http://www.oxhop.org.uk