Walking through the Covent Garden area today we have stumbled upon the recently iconic London couple, the ginger cat named Bob and his master James. Unexpectedly, what we have seen has made me sad - quite an opposite effect comparing to the same encounters two or three years ago when they still used to sell The Big Issue near the Angel Tube station.
The cat was still adorable and calm sporting another colourful scarf, but this time James wasn't selling anything. Sitting on the pavement, he was just repeatedly asking the people crowding around them "to make a donation if they were taking pictures".
There might be a thousand explanations (charity fundraising comes to mind, for instance) and I could easily be too ignorant to notice some important details, but still that almost made me cringe inside. You see, James and Bob are known all over London for their story of honesty and persistence rewarded. Fighting their way out of the street, not begging but working, boasting their distinctive personalities, winning the hearts of Londoners and finally securing a book deal!
Now there were two thing that disappointed me. The first and "the easy" one: well, apparently the book deal and popularity weren't enough to provide for them. That's harsh, but that's also something you can at least try to correct by contributing.
But the second and the most important reason was that this time the whole thing looked much more like an undisguised exploitation of the original idea. Of course the cat was there first to boost sales and not just to cheer the public up (not a problem at all with that) - but today there were even no sales, so the simple fact of taking advantage of the once earned public image became uneasily obvious. And that was done in the simplest possible way, by asking (or should I rather say begging?) for change in a crowded spot. I mean, that ruins the whole story, doesn't it?
That really shouldn't have ended like this, so I do hope I got it all wrong.