Letter: Choose your beggar

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Sir: Monica Hall's reminder (letter, 2 December) that giving money to beggars in the Tube is "naive" because "the women who regularly work in the Victoria and Piccadilly Lines are professional beggars" raises an intriguing question.

What is an amateur beggar exactly, as opposed to a professional? The professional beggar begs full-time in order to survive; that is pretty obvious. The amateur beggar must be one who begs only for a hobby, having found that a little light begging constitutes a relaxing and fulfilling leisure activity out of office hours.

Chacun a son gout. There are those of us who take up hang-gliding, those who collect stamps or wine-labels, and those who are into spare-time begging, buying the latest trendy begging gear and up-to-date accessories by mail- order and subscribing to the monthly Amateur Beggary, and it is they, by the logic of Monica Hall's significant distinction, who must be more worthy of our charity than the professional beggars who beg because they have no other choice or hope in life.

But the problem remains: how does one tell them apart? As the rockets bang and the Champagne pops to celebrate 2,000 years of the Christian ethic, the poor, as the founder of the faith reminded us, are with us always. We must beware of being conned by the undeserving professional poor pretending to be deserving amateurs.


London N4