Do you remember Wandering Scribe?
Wandering Scribe was the blogger who was homeless and living in her car in a laneway in a wood.
Here's how she described herself:
"Feb, 2006. For the past five months I have been living alone in a car at the edge of the woods — jobless and homeless and totally unable to find a way out of it. I can't sing, I can't dance, I can't scream loudly enough, all I can do is write. So here I am laying down tracks...hopefully the start of an online paper trail out of here."
The thing that grabbed me first about her blog was not her situation (although that seemed remarkable enough) - I was grabbed by the writing. I don't think I have seen any other blog with such a high and sustained level of quality. I was absolutely gripped by it and the way that the author managed to hang onto her dignity in some of the most difficult of circumstances. I particularly remember her description of how she found somewhere to have a shower in the bowels of a faceless hospital. The way she is certain that she looks out of place and will be caught and thrown out, the way she describes the feeling as the hot water cleans her body and helps wash some of the kinks and aches out of her muscles. The way she is completely thrown by a stranger's small talk..... it's desperate stuff, and very moving.
"Parked car in hospital carpark and hurried the long way round, around the back, into the toilets, where had a long, hot shower and hairwash. Been going there to wash for months now. Most days it's easy to slip in unseen among all the patients and visitors and doctors and nurses hurrying urgently about up and down the corridors. It's like a small city, with its own laws and rules, all those smells and sounds. In my head I try to imagine I am rushing in there to visit someone who has just been rushed in — which could account for my just-jumped-out-of-the-wrong-side-of-bed look. People seem to make allowances for that in a hospital, don't stare so much, or judge.
I weave in and out among all the moving trolleys and wheelchairs and stunned-looking patients in dressing gowns shuffling about attached to drips. Make my way, fox-like, down to the toilets with the showers in — threading my way through the crowd, head down, the way I see the foxes do at night, slinking in wet through the trees. Some mornings it is busier than others, often it's like walking into an episode of Casualty. Would be easy to imagine myself as an extra, part of the crowd scene. But don't allow myself to think like that, slipping off into fantasies — dangerous thinking.
Though it's getting more and more difficult to merge into the crowd unnoticed these days. Lots of the staff seem to recognise me now, and must know I'm not working or visiting — walking in there creased and unwashed first thing in the morning — or at least every other morning — dishevelled, disorientated, more and more down at hill. Nowadays they give me very hostile, cold looks, or the two black security men who tower above most of the others follow me with cold, suspicious eyes, which makes me want to break down and cry. Which is what everybody seems to want to do, break me down, get me into a loony bin. But I won't be broken, I am not mad, and I will not be made to go mad."
Wandering Scribe was "discovered" by the media and was featured in a number of high profile places like the BBC News website (here and here)and the New York Times. Inevitably, the trolls soon appeared and seemed to make it their mission to crush her. I have never seen such a sustained campaign of hatred against anyone on the internet. They took this to sometimes extraordinary lengths and seemed hellbent on destruction. It was horrible to watch, but I felt powerless to help. Maybe she was a fraud, but even if she was, would she deserve all that vitriol?
I left supportive comments and sent the odd email of solidarity, but it really didn't feel like much, and before long she seemed to be drawn back into her shell. Updates to the blog became less frequent and comments were disabled.
I was worried, but Wandering Scribe's life was changing. There was a book deal and enough money to move away from the laneway and into a flat. There was a story to write.
Well, that story was published yesterday.
...and bless her heart, it turns out that my occasional comments and my ridiculous profile picture cheered her up from time to time. She emailed me to tell me that she's sending me a copy of her book. It's a lovely gesture, but I would have gone out to go and buy it anyway. This girl is talented and she has a story to tell.
Well done Anya. Here's to the next chapter.
The slow walk home
3 days ago