Monday, April 21, 2008

Bigotry, chips and peas

A combination of starvation and hangover last Saturday saw us heading into the fine greasy spoon/chip shop "Buttons" for a grease and cholestrol injection, stat.

We were queueing when an individual in a baseball cap, overweight and late thirties, barged in front of us, thrust a tenner into the managers hand and said "Get me some food to eat and a diet coke. I'm diabetic" and then proceeded to go and sit himself down.

Upon ordering our food (pie, chips and mushy peas - I'm not proud) we went to sit down to find ourselves in the same room as Mister Baseball cap. Upon receiving his meal and diet coke (thats DIET coke, you understand, he was quite vocal about this to the whole room) he announced to the table next to him that he was diabetic. Not the traditional opening gambit used as a greeting, but different strokes for different folks.

The couple on the table next to him consisted of an old dear and her quiet husband, both munching away on fish and chips.

The three of them then spent the next twenty minutes putting the world to rights. We tried to have our own conversation, we really did, but the urge to listen in was too strong.

Drug use amongst teens was first on the political agenda (the overall opinion was that they weren't keen). Social behavioural issues were briefly touched upon in that store detectives must be reluctant to chase after shoplifters because you never know who is carrying a knife. The chairmans diabetes were briefly touched upon again, almost as an aside. Immigration issues were tackled forcefully (too many Eastern Europeans, and they all look swarthy). The thorny issue of global warming was hit head on ("I don't recycle. That Global warming is a con"). Policing issues were briefly touched upon from Mister Diabetic. His black friend (yes, BLACK friend - repeated out loud for those in the room who hadn't heard) had stolen 30 grand from him some years back.

Two highlights stood out for me.

The old lady in the group bemoaned the fact that Prime Minister George (Oh yes, "George") Brown was taking so much money off her she couldn't even afford to eat. The irony was that this sentence was punctuated by at least three gaps so she could continue to shovel fish and chips down her throat.

The second highlight was when they briefly touched upon charity. The diabetics mother had died some time back, and one of her final instructions was to "throw away everything she owned. She didn't want charity getting hold of any of it. All the people who run charities, they're all skimming off the top".

Incredible. It was like a Daily Mail editorial had magically come to live. Perhaps it was an avant-garde performance art piece with the unlikely venue of a Chip Shop in Coventry.

I wish I was braver. I wish I could summon up the courage to lean over and say, "Actually, you're talking bollocks". I wish Tara had done what she wanted to and poured sugar into the diabetics throat. One overwhelming thing, however, stopped me. One thing stopped me standing up and making myself heard and damn it, making a stand.

Those diabetics sometimes carry knives.

Oh, and my television highlight of the week.

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