If you know Leicester fairly well, you will be aware that, like most places, there are areas which are OK and others that are rather less so. One such area is the appalling Highfields. Situated near the city centre, just north of London Road and not far from Evington, Highfields is truly the public lavatory of Leicester, where ‘society’s victims’ are cruelly dumped like a drunk’s rancid turd in a battered bus shelter.
Casting the mind back to my student days is proving quite a painful experience as the memories of drug-addicts, violent drunks, screeching prostitutes, pimps, trashed cars and vomit-spattered pavements are dredged back out of the mental depths to which they were so mercifully consigned.
In few other places are you likely to be solicited by a haggard, desperate forty-five year-old prostitute at 8:30 on a Saturday morning on your way to work. For five quid.
In few other places do you hear arguments that contain such sinister, frenzied exchanges such as ‘I’ll get you the f***ing money, you bastard, I’ll sell the stuff soon – I’m dying, I’m dying!’ ‘You’ll die a lot f***ing sooner if you don’t, you f***ing bitch – you f***ing owe me’ – and such like, accompanied by the din of random destruction.
In few other places do you see huddles of gaunt-faced drug-addicts exchanging needles and substances in the many seedy alleyways, and tooled-up dealers touting their deadly wares, ravenous for their next sale, openly and without fear of prosecution.
I few other places would you come home to find a drug-crazed maniac on your doorstep, threatening you with a used syringe if you deny him entry, believing it to be his hostel.
The grimness of the local population is perhaps reflected in the state of the architecture. What were once probably very nice, spacious and substantial terraced houses have been allowed to decay into crumbling, graffiti-ridden half-ruins. Where once the sturdy shoes of the honest citizen made their way to work along the well-swept pavements, now the stolen trainers of the unemployable chav scuff their way to the drug den among the joint butts, car-window glass and old nappies that are liberally scattered over the cracked concrete.
I was bloody glad when I graduated.