You know those times when you have a really horrible task to do? The anticipation of it is making you feel a bit, or maybe even, a lot sick. And then something happens that makes it OK?
This morning I had an appointment at the Council buildings, to apply for help with my council tax. I was feeling a lot like Oliver and felt that any minute some official would shout “MORE?”. (Or even “MOORE”) I had a bag full of documents to prove my eligibility, and heart full of shame and sorrow.
The officer though was a very nice young man. As well as putting me at my ease, and helping me fill in the forms, we also discussed the origin of names (my son’s being Irish and impossible for English speakers to pronounce or spell). He got to telling me how originally his family are from Suffolk. He didn’t look much like his ancestors are East Anglians, so I probed a bit more. The Suffolk branch of the family had emigrated to India in the time of the Raj. One of them had married an Indian. Then a century later, his family had “returned” to England. There was also Irish in his antecedents somewhere too.
I liked his story. We discussed the stupidity of hatred towards “immigrants”, when in fact most of us probably are descended from immigrants. We touched on the spectre of Donald Trump and hoped for a victory for Hillary Clinton.
A couple of forms and a pile of photocopying later, we touched on Hinduism and vegetarianism and the irony that he’s the meat-eating Hindu and I’m the atheist vegetarian. We swapped a couple of recipes for dahl, and discussed the merits of Leeds Markets. He told me his salary is pretty paltry and so he spends a lot of time bargain hunting.
I bemoaned the fact that I lived so far from interesting shops. We agreed that we were both proud to come from inner-city multicultural estates and didn’t like the stereotypes about certain areas of our city. We completed the paperwork.
I didn’t feel like Oliver any more. I felt like a human being.