Malcolm Applegate worked as a gardener for most of his life, and enjoyed tending to people’s gardens. It wasn’t until he got married, about thirteen years ago, that his life took a turn for the worse. He claims that in the beginning, he and his wife got on pretty well, but as he became increasingly busy with work, she became more controlling, to the point where he had to cut his hours just to please her. At one point, all the arguments and his wife’s nagging got too much for Malcolm, so he just packed up his things and left her. But instead of moving to a friend’s house and filing for divorce, he just disappeared.
“I was married to her for three years, but unfortunately it got too much,” Applegate said. “For three years it was alright, we got on with one another and the gardening got too much for her. I just upped and left, I got fed up with her because we used to get so many arguments.”
The man planned to ride his bike all the way to London, but while in Oxford, he forgot to lock up his bike and it got stolen, so he had to make the journey on foot, which took him about three weeks. He finally settled in a thick forest near Kingston, south west London, camping there during the night, and working on the garden of a community center during the day.
“There were three of us camping,” Malcolm recently wrote. “They were just camping around with me because at the time I was working in the center and we used to go there for a wash and a shower. No one knew we were there. It’s not well known – nobody would go in there.”
Malcolm Applegate camped in the woods for five long years before finally moving into Emmaus Greenwich center, a shelter for the homeless in Greenwich, south London, five years ago.
The man’s desire to get away from his wife was so great that he never even contacted his family to let them know that he was a alive. He only recently reached out to his sister, who had apparently searched for him for years before finally reconciling with the fact that he was most likely dead.
“It had been a decade years since I’d last seen her, and in that time she had been to all of the Salvation Army hostels in the south trying to find me,” Malcolm said. I think she assumed I was dead. I wrote her a letter once I was settled in Greenwich and she phoned me up, in floods of tears. We now have a great relationship again.”
The 62-year-old claims that living in a homeless shelter is not as bad as everyone thinks, but, then again, everyone hasn’t camped in thick woodland for five years. He has a clean room, can work on the gardens and has an active social life. “I love it here, my life is officially back on track,” he said.
Malcolm’s plan to get away from his wife is a bit too extreme for my taste, but at least in worked.