Monday, February 13, 2006

Multicultural mates & mutterings

Before I went to bed on Friday I had made my usual ‘things I have to do at the week end’ list. It is a vain attempt to stop me from wasting the week end away doing sweet ‘f’ all. It mostly fails, but at least I try.

Top of the list was to go to the demonstration against Islamophobia in Trafalgar Square. I wanted to go and stand with them and show solidarity. I wanted to talk to people and hear their views from their own mouths, rather than through the voice of the press.

In the end, I woke up on Saturday feeling tearful and miserable. A friend called and asked if I wanted to go dog walking and it just felt like an altogether better idea. Like many of my fellow passengers, I have become consumed with trying to understand why the bombings happened, it is always on my mind, always there. Sometimes, however, I just need to get away from it. So I went to take Homer & Hector for a long walk instead.

By Saturday evening I was feeling much better and drove across London for dinner at a friend’s. There were 8 of us in all, we regularly feast ourselves at this table, my friends are fantastic cooks. Not only do we eat, but drink ,smoke and debate into the early hours, I love these evenings.

Last time we were there it was the Garri Holness rape/compensation issue that stole the table. I was amazed at the strength of feeling that was unleashed, how strongly people felt, and how differing the views. We wrestled with this one for a good two hours, people were thinking, people were discussing, the energy in the room was fantastic.

It would have been only natural, this time, for the cartoon crisis to be the star of the show. We did have a chuckle at the Ann Summers ‘Mustafa shag’ sex doll story. I mean?! But, much to my relief, it fizzled out after that and I was glad to move on. I have been over and over it enough now, it has worn itself out for me, I know what I think.

Inexplicably it was the Kenneth Faulkner case that captured the conversation. Soon we were in full flow, on our finest form. I have to confess to being a bit of a stirrer on these occasions, but it is also something I feel strongly about. No-one has the right to kill anyone, in my mind. Certainly not for burglary for christ’s sake. I notched up a gear or two….’So you agree with the death penalty? Without even a trial by jury?.... Basically you’re saying that you or I have the right to decide whether someone deserves to die, just because they’re on our land?!’. Oh I was in my element.

Back and forth the opinions swung, but everybody had one. I love provoking discussion like this, drawing people out of themselves. Once it was sufficiently stirred I could sit back and watch it evolve. I smiled as I looked around the table and realized why I loved this multicultural city of ours. Only 3 of us could describe ourselves as British, 2 were Canadian, 1 Irish, 1 Jamaican and 1 Thai. London at it’s finest.

Then I started thinking about racial stereotyping, Muslims aren’t the only ones to have suffered this curse. It happens all over the world, and most prominently in Britain when a new wave of immigrants arrives. The Irish, the Jews the West Indians and more recently the Eastern Europeans. I couldn’t help laughing as I looked around at us all. The alcohol was flowing and the evil weed was in abundance. The only person not drinking was the Irish-man. The only person not smoking was the Jamaican. The Brits were doing both!