In Manchester from Irlam to my hotel
Among the worst things that can happen to me during a cab conversation is when a driver starts spouting bigoted, racist or intolerant views. It’s not in my nature to argue or put them straight, but I hate feeling complicit. I usually try to subtly show disproval whilst deftly steering the conversation into safer territory. I didn’t have much luck with this one:
– so you come from London do you? Do you live right in the centre like?
– yes, South of the river, but pretty central
– how do you find it living with all those foreigners? Last time I was in London I couldn’t believe it when I was the only English-speaking white face on the tube
– errr, I quite like that it’s so multicultural
– do you? I wouldn’t, dunno if I would feel safe. Full of arabs it was…
He goes on, I won’t dignify it by typing up the rest. In the end I gave up, opened my book and pointedly ignored him for the rest of the journey.
Late night minicab from friend’s home in Earlsfied last night
We start by agreeing how quiet the roads are. My driver tells me “before Christmas it’s all busy, busy, busy. Now it is like ghost town”.
He asks how my Christmas was and I tell him it was “good, thanks” before enquiring about his. Christmas, he feels, is a time for family so it always makes him sad that only a small amount of his family are with him in the UK – just his wife, children and one brother. The rest are all in Afghanistan, a very big family with many, many people.
I confess my ignorance of Afghanistan, I only really know where Kabul is. He tells me his family all live in a village 60Km north of Kabul, so if I know where Kabul is I can imagine where his family live. We go quiet for a moment as I try (unsuccessfully) to do exactly that.
Next I ask whether his family have been affected by war in recent years. “Not so much” he replies, most of the fighting is elsewhere in the country, nobody is bothered with little villages like his.
I ask whether he misses his country and he says “I miss my family but not so much the place”. He has been in London for nearly 10 years, life is good here, but so busy. He will never get used to how busy this city is.