Across a busy road. It was cold. I had forgot my hat. I walked quickly, and swept into the kiosk, to se mr. (smily )keymaker, who hails from Pakistan, was listening to a tallish, 50s Caucasian man of the street, holding forth with some heat.
Mr. "I stayed"( I will call him this throughout) " here in England throughout 3 recessions, and I still have my job. I've worked bloody hard for what I have." he said. I sat down.
Silence. I looked up and there he was.Facing me. Cloth cap.Short grey needing a cut wiry hair. Bottle eye glasses, black bomber jacket, Mr. Istayed appeared to be agitated. His face had the appearance of being somewhat 'scrunched'....
I turned and looked around to my right and I observed my neighbour, sat opposite me ,so that we three made a triangle in the front of the kiosk, Mr.Keymaker behind the counter. I smiled. My neighbour smiled back. A gentle nod of the head. Silence...
"AND when EVER it gets tough over there, they ALL come over here! When Pakistan was in trouble, they all came over here. When Iran was in trouble they all came over here. When Somalia was in trouble, with terrorists, they all came over here. Bloody coming over here and settling in and doing well. Why can't they do as I, and bloody stay there and work it through?! Not run off to a welfare country!"
A moments silence.
I couldn't help myself.
"Yet THAT's not necessarily the full story, is it?" I said. "Can I get these keys cut, please?" to Mr.Keymaker, smiling. I handed over the keys. Mr.Keyman hovered near his key machine in the recess. Whirring. Grinding. Sparks.
I turned to Istayed, and continued to share my opinion..I raised my voice above the din of new keys being cut.
"I mean to say, with regard to Sudan, for example : we know that the US facilitated the arming of the violent paramilitary 'rebels' by providing weapons, cash, training and other aid to the countries contingent. Eritrea, Rwanda, Ethiopia. Those Governments passed arms to 'militia' that 'opposed' the Democratic muslim moderate social development administration in place. Those movements of social development models for economies, environment etc etc were seen as a threat by US and UK BUsiness Corporations. And thats why the wars happen- because we want to sell weapons as a business, Private Enterpise."
Mr. Istayed looked a bit confused. Mr Keymaker knew exactly what I was saying. Smily neighbour continued to smile and indicated comprehension. After a short pause, Istayeds confusion turned to resolution, smile smiled and I was addressed thus :
"You KNOW what the real problem is, don't ya?!" said my new Friend, he of tenacious spirit and patriotic fervour. Apparently he had decided to act is if I had indeed stayed mute, and said nothing. It didn't happen. Typical behaviour of a gainfully if mindmongingly educated and now successfully 'employed person'.
Not a scrounger nor a complainer. Not he.
I said "Well, if you ask me, and you have, our society is.....-" Istayed chugged. He had the answer.
I looked to my sudden friend, and stood up to brace myself for the soon to be revealed glistening pearl of wisdom. It came.
"We haven't had a proper war in 60 years. What we need is a real world war!" Said with the passion of a CEO selling aspartame to children, bereft in elegance, eloquently blunt, unable to hide behind artifice, devoid of spin.
"We've had no war on these islands for a long time, yes you can say that.... and - at the same time there's been non stop war since WWII. The west and china and others have all been supporting violent non-Democratic regimes for political and for business purposes for ages. Everyone knows that!"
"Well, nothing like the carpet bombing of Vietnam. That's war. Nothing like that" Mr. Istayed huffed dismissively.
"IRAQ! For SURE THEY'VE BOMBED IRAQ!" I squealed almost in delight!
"Well they used cruise missiles, direct to their targets, very little collateral damage, precision bombs." this whilst making his hand spear the air like a .... rocket. He stayed. sigh!
"Well they haven't being carpet bombing in Iraq!" added Mr. Keymaker, helpfully. Moving the conversation along is a skill he has to use from time to time in his profession capacity.
"They've been using planes to bomb in Iraq since 1991..... that's absurd" I retorted. Assertive, and polite, of course.
"Oh it is true,my friend, I assure you it is true! No B52 Carpet bombing in Iraq. Gunships, fighters and missiles - no B52 Bombers at all! Afghanistan, yes! Iraq - no!" He uttered these words with a certainty that was all but convincing.....
The new keys slammed to the counter surface. "CLACK!!"
Mr. Keymaker then chimed in with what I felt was the most surreal comment yet.
"What we need .......... is the Atom Bomb, thats what stopped the wars!" he said.
"Blow up Baghdad. Blow up Tehran. Blow up Afghanistan. Atomic bombs! destroy them all and they will surrender! All over! No more war!" He enthused!
Mr. Istayed heartily agreed with this, his demeanour relaxing a bit, perhaps relieved a little to be part of a team, to sense the reinforcements again, and unfortunately Mr. Smiley smiled his indicative smile, also in apparent agreement. He might have been smiling ironically, drawing the best out of the situation, with the delicacy of a laughing Buddha.....
At this I contemplated throwing all caution to the wind. And all too soon, Mr. Istayed, noting my accent deriving from this my nationality/ethnic back ground, said "You know what the problem is with the Irish? You do. Don't you?!" Loudly delivered and for all to hear.
to which I responded quite quickly that I felt that
"The Irish are, as a nation, a community of traumatised people, survivors of a a trauma that lasted many years, and whose resolution lies deep in the memories to heal, a people who have not been allowed to heal the wound.. but hey! are allowed to shop!"
"Nah!" Snorted Mr Istayed. "It's alcohol....."
".....and religion! Two greatest problems the Irish have, m8!"
I laughed. What could I possibly say?
I offered to pay for the keys. "2 keys, £6.50!" - I handed over the money, pocketing the keys. Satisfied with the transaction. I had bought keys here before and they always worked straight up!"
Jokingly I chided my limpet Englishman, and said "Now mate, that's all just plain silly! You're just repeating what you've read in the Daily Mail, the media - that's all propaganda!"
"Surely everyone knows that the authority of government to cause so much suffering is not invested by anyone else than our good selves? Willingly compliant?" I huffed.
"Do YOU trust the authority of the state?" I enquired.
"Of course I do!" he said. " I'm living in it, I am part of it!"
I had a set of keys, yet not THE KEY. Frustration. I braced myself.
"I do not!" I said
and I hurriedly left the kiosk and left behind that unresolved,surreal and somehow callous conversation and returned to the cold November air. I felt welcome in the wind. The day was early yet!
Do what you love, it's your gift to universe