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Saturday, 23 November 2013

ROH 3: The Full English Breakfats

 I acknowledge that this final installment on the ROH eventuates quite considerably after said vacation. Notwithstanding, and with all the usual excuses, I shall plunge onwards , if only for the sake of completeness.

As a recap, we are somewhere hot with a pool.............

It may just be that I lack the necessary perspicacity,  but I cannot tell, at a glance, that the locals of  somewhere-hot-with-a-pool (SHWAP) are lazy, at least not without the benefit of a good meal inside me. The subject of a good meal crops up in the following account but we are all driven by forces and emotions we cannot control - or at least the Racists later told me - and one of my driving fears, at least as far as these accounts go,  is that a true(ish) record unsequentially told may miss something vital, so I will start at how it started.

It is one am and I am drunk. This in itself is not unusual, but more unusual is the RHB is also drunk, ditto Skarra, who I have seldom.....correction never......seen so regularly blotto. Perhaps that's why we engaged in conversation with the Racists, but perhaps it was just the good mood engendered by sunshine, exercise under said sunshine and satisfying food. Much to my surprise, the couple that join us at the bar appear drunker than us if their attempts to mount the adjacent bar stools, resembling as they do  those of eager puppies trying to climb a smallish step. That they can have achieved a more drunken state that us is surprising, and frankly a little offensive, but not nearly as surprising and offensive as thei introductory remarks:

"Fucking Hell" shouts the female version "My fuckin oldest daughter's just spent two hours holding  her sister's fucking placenta. Those Fucking twats in the National Health Service."

The Racists are from Hull.

I look at our Greek host, a family man who own the bar and the apartment complex. He smiles, perhpas a little tentatively

"Hi Angela, what are you drinking?" he asks politely.

"I NEED a fucking drink" says the elderly lady "Gimme a gin. Double".

She then proceeds to describe the chaos that the "Fucking twats" in the National Health Service have caused by not turning up to her younger daughter's unexpected early delivery of progeny until called, including repeating a gynaecological description of the birth until we all understood that it was a messy affair. Having offended our host via an entirely culturally insensitive disregard for acceptable topics of conversation, she slumps exhausted at the bar with a final "Fucking.........twats".

"You're from Hull, arent you?" I ask.

"Born and bred" she says ignoring that breed isnt just the physical process of development but is usually considered to include some instruction in decorum as well.

"We live in Hull" I say brightly " its great"

This is all it took for the Racist to launch into a well rehearsed diatribe on how Hull used to be great but is now crap. Lnes of 'argument' include:

"They get all the housing - and I should know I am responsible for allocating public housing in the North End"

"I lock my car doors when I drive down Newland Avenue - its like driving through a foreign city"
[Note:  estimated BME population of Hull is about 8% of the total population and we live in Newland Avenue near the University where there are quite a few international students.]

"I'm terrified of them burkhas - you dont know whether there's a man under one with a gun or a knife"
(This said in relation to local bus services).

"Why did they have to come to Hull? Arent there enough crap places in their own country?"

"I'm not racist but (yes the male version  did actually say this or an anlaog of) unless they (?) stop them (?) there will be violence on the streets just like there used to be."
(The logic of this, and the historical accuracy escapes me but it was said in response to my objections to their comments.)

Now it should be noted that early in the diatribe, RHB and Skarra with drew from the conversation, on reflectoin a wise decision and an option which was open to me. I however was drunk enough to think that I could use reason and logic to persuade them, in a non-confronatational way, that not only were their words offensive and ill-chosen, but that their thoughts were also offensive and ill-chosen with the additional handicap of being wrong. And it should also be noted that while  I utterly failed in my attempt, I maintained a calm demeanour throughout, sensitive to maintaining the appearance of harmony in our host's establishment. Unfortunately, this tactic had the opposite effect, so much so that eventually the female Racist screamed at me and told  me I didnt know what I was talking about because I was an immigrant too and "as bad as all them".

In an act of conciliation, and further  in the interests of keeping our hosts' establishment peaceful, I offered and olive branch

 "Ok" I said "Let's agree to disagree and I dont think we're going to persuade eachother. I respect your viewpoints and I understand your fears" (I dont and I didnt) "Lets talk about this place... you know it quite well obviously " (they had talked about previous visits and how lovely "the locals" where, while presumably simlutaneously being grateful that he same locals were'nt in Hull)

The male racist agreed, and chummily slapped my arm "Fair enough" he said " You'll change when you've seen a few things. But I can tell you about this bar - best food on the island"

"Oh really" I said, grateful he'd picked up the lead "We love food - we're a bit 'foodie' I suppose! What's on the menu here?"

"I can tell you, my friend" the male Racist said, apprently to me "you can get the Full English Breakfast - thats' sausage, eggs, bacon, beans, toast, hash browns and tomatoes - here for only six Euros".

I must have looked a bit blank because he re-phrased:

"Sausage, eggs, bacon, tomatoes, hash browns, beans and toast for only six Euros. That would cost about seven in Cyprus".

I must have continued looking blank, because he re-re-phrased:

"In Hull, the full English Breakfast - that's bacon, eggs, hash browns, toast, sausage and tomatoes - would cost about six quid (seven Euros) and no cup of tea included. That's how good the food is here"

I have to admit, I felt like restarting the argument about immigration again but at that moment, RHB and Skarra announced that they were even drunker than previously so we headed back to our apartments.

The next day, I recounted the 'conversation' I had had with the Racists to both. As the holiday progressed, two themes emerged as a result of the conversation and my account of it. Frstly, Skarra started laboriously  listing every ingredient of every dish, or edible substance, at every opportunity. For example, if we were going to have coffee and a small pastry, he would say  "I will meet you for a snack - that's coffee, yeast, flour, sugar, milk and suitable flavourings - at eleven am".  The second theme that emerged was that it was obvious that the Racists, despite the apparent detante of the evening, had not forgotten and not forgien and that Not only I, but RHB and Skarra, had been tarred with the same shameful brush of  being tolerant and not-Fascist. When any of us went to the pool, either communally or individually, the Racists would sit glaring at us, sipping gin and beer and eating bacon butties, chunnering under their breath "there's the liberals, look at them with their offensive beliefs in the fundamental equality of human beings".

It got so bad that none of us felt comfortable going to the pool bar which was sad becasue the host was very nice and it was close enough to our aprtment that even very drunk you could still get home. Thereforeone night, I attempted a reconciliation, heroically seeking to take the burden of being labelled as socially divisive from my fellow do-gooders' shoulders so that they at least could get drunker near to home. I approached the Racists - who none of us had spoken to for two weeks- at the bar.

"Hey Guys" I ventured "Erm...."

I was about to say, in the interests of reconciliation,   that despite our introductory conversation,  were werent really all that tolerant and in fact were all suspicious of Klingons (an identifiable ethnic minority), which nearly made us Racists too. I have to confess that this was a bit of a lie - Skarra has declared his respect for Klingons and an interest in eating 'Ghaa' on more than one occasion - but what the heck, I thought, we are on holiday somewhere warm with a pool - you cant fight fascism every day.

The female rascist interrupted me. "Its ok" she said " We were a bit over the top the first night. We dont really hate immigrants - not all of them anyway-and I think we might have got off on the wrong foot......."

{The English love of euphemism needs to be commented on here:  'getting off on the wrong foot' implies a regrettable, but mutual misunderstanding between two people who, it is implied, largely share values. If I were being pedantic, I would say that we didnt get off on the wrong foot, rather, a racist met and anti-racist and had an argument. Wrong footedness had nothing to do with it, the basic problem was incompatible world view or weltenschauung. }

I realised I had not been listening and the racist was still droning on about how she wasnt racist it was just that she could'nt tell if  the five foot one inch tall person dressed in a burkha she had once seen was a female or a strapping male and as she was in a vulnerable place subject to terror threat (the No15 bus to Orchard Park)  her hatred of everyone in 'ethnic' clothes was hence justified  ".................but despite all that I think its fear rather than that I dont like them as people" she said.

I was temporarily staggered. I had just not-listened to the closest a biggot will come to admitting that the fault is not one of Other, but rather a trait that they themselves ought to 'deal' with . I remember thinking to myself that rapprochment would not get closer - at least not Somewhere warm with a pool. I bought them a drink and said something about 'well  that's good news' (at which female racist looked puzzled) and was enjoying the conversation dying as conversations do between people who have nothing to say to eachother, not even argument. The atmosphere reached a level of true tranquil serenity as the conversation breathed its last - it was so dead we may all have been utterly alone - then the female Racist said conversationally "Well, you know after all that fuss, we dont really know anything about you and your 'friends'...." she said (she and hubby harboured the idea that Large, self and Skarrat were in a menage a trois)  "...what do you all do , for work you know, and why did you come here?"   Despite the territoriality of the way she said "here' , the question was I believe well intentioned, the type of information she would need when describing to her friends back home the wierdos she had met. I answered for all of us, shorthand (and therefore I acknowledge not entirely accurately but I wanted to be back with my imagined lovers) :

"Oh we're academics, you know, RHB and Sk psychologists and I'm a kind of linguist..." I noticed a strange look developing on her face but  carried on   ".....and this isnt our type of holiday really... you know me and Sk usually go for a bike ride, last year we did coast to coast ..."

The explosion caught me somewhat by surprise "FUCKIN CYCLISTS !! AT THE  FUCKING UNIVERSITY !!! FUCKING .........................I HATE CYCLISYS.....FUCKING HI VIZ TWATS........FUCKIN UNIFUCKINVERSITY.....GET AREAL JOB......FUCKIN SNOBS..........."

I left shortly after and have not seen the World's Best racists since. The next day our trois (sans menage) flew home . One of the first things we did on arrival back in the UK was purchase a full English breakfast (vegetarian option).