Swindon… My brother, Nick, contemplates his experiences working there as a dentist…..
I’m in Swindon. It has a bad reputation but I think it is great.
Right next door is an Italian Deli where we get our coffee. A few doors down is an Afghan shop full of unidentifiable things. I went in there for a nosey snoop and felt I ought to buy at least something. I picked up a block of jaggery and asked if it was good in tea (One of my sons had given me masala chai sweetened with jaggery). The hollow-cheeked, and rather rmelancholy, young man said, “Yes, you have it in green tea. You know green tea? Come, I show you.” He showed me green tea and I found myself buying that too. He explained that you put one spoon in a cup, with a green cardamom pod cut in half, and let it brew for a few minutes. “You know green cardamom? Come, I show you.” So now I had some of that too and I asked him if then you added the jaggery? “No, no no. Jaggery makes it horrible.”
I find this sort of encounter delightful and funny.
A few doors down in the other direction is an Afro-Carribean shop and I went for a snoop in there too. “Excuse me?” I asked the plump young woman. Everything about her seemed round: round face, round cheeks, round tummy. “What’s this Fufu?” “You don’t know fufu?” she asked me with that lovely Jamaican accent, the word fufu is just made for it. She explained that you mix the powder with water to make a dough. “Oh, it’s a kind of bread?” “No. No it isn’t bread. You mix it with water to make a dough and roll it into a ball. “Ah, like a dumpling?” “No. NOT like a dumpling. You mix it with water to make a dough, you roll it into a ball.” At that point another customer came into the shop and interrupted. I left, thinking about the mystery of fufu, but a few days later I went back and tried again. She gave me the impression that I was somehow not a suitable person to make fufu. That I wasn’t qualified, somehow. But I bought some and cooked it, and realised she was right.
One night I wanted supper and the nearest place was a kebab shop, so I walked in there and tripped over the doorstep. The guy wasn’t very friendly. In fact he was rather abrupt. “Did I want large or small?” I didn’t know. “Are you hungry?” Well, I wasn’t by that time. “OK, small.” As I was about to leave, he leaned across his glass counter top and in a confiding voice explained that if you aren’t really hungry you don’t taste the food properly and it is better to have small and not to waste the food. I was surprised by this rough-hewn philosophy and left, tripping over the doorstep again. The next time I went in there he greeted me like an old friend and held out his hot greasy hand for me to shake. The time after that he wanted to know where the hell I had been. So, Swindon is filled with interest and delight. And I get home at weekends.