From Russia with love

Something of a washout today has been (constantly unrelenting rain) but it’s not been a bad day.

I woke around 8, mindful of the fact my handyman would be arriving sometime first thing so I needed to be in a somewhat presentable state or did I?. He arrived (I’d thrown on my red retro tracksuit bottoms) plus an old top.

I made coffee and we chewed the cud, shot the breeze etc. He’s a decent guy. Like in any city or in any society – life is made up of concentric circles. I inhabit that white-collar, ’30 something’ professional one, he inhabits the immigrant, blue-collar one. Such groups very rarely mix (in my experience of 10 years having lived in this city). But we get on really well.

He asks about my job. I explain. I gesticulate a lot (his English is good but he’s from the USSR as was). I spent a year teaching English in Japan. At the end of that time I had the knack of explaining things to non-native speakers down to an art-form. It’s a skill that still comes in handy.

After a long chat I had to leave him to get on with the job as I had lunch out, with an ex colleague who lives not so far from me (high flyer, decent person) and Sheridan tagged along (they’d been to the same university and are the same age, and have met before). A very nice lunch. I had coq au vin, washed down with a bottle of red which she and I shared. I asked Sheridan to do the driving back (I’d driven us there) which he agreed to. A delightful pudding we had too. Then coffee.

The place was one of those trendy Victorian boozers that have had the ‘gastro’ makeover. Lots of trendy young things but far too many toddlers in toe. God. I read the Time Out review of the place and it said exactly the same thing – wonderful food but young children running amok is just not conducive to a relaxing lunch. Turns out there is a child-free upstairs dining area which I didn’t see when we were there. Next time! We still really enjoyed ourselves.

After that, Sheridan and I drove off to close friends who have just bought a lovely Victorian house in the next borough over. They’ve only been in a week. Really pretty period features – fireplaces and suchlike. Three good sized bedrooms, three reception rooms, garden, etc. There’s me still living in a shoebox of a flat and this (gay) couple – who are some of my oldest friends – are over the moon with their new house, and I can see why. I was of course jealous, though happy for them. We were there for coffee only as they were having a dinner party tonight (they also had one last night!) and also have people over for Sunday lunch tomorrow. Total socialites.

Sheridan lives in a large three storey house (alone). He joked that he “doesn’t use the first floor in winter to conserve on the heating bill”. I told him he reminded me of Miss Havisham… We have talked around the edges before of me living there and renting out my place. Not sure how well that would work though. We’re close friends but have a habit of getting on one another’s nerves sometimes. We have much less in common than one might think; but do support one another and generally get on very well.

I returned home and P, my handyman, was finishing up. We had another long chat, about life the universe and everything. He asked if we could stay in touch when he finishes the job here (on Monday). If we could be friends. He is a blue-collar, immigrant, cash-in-hand manual labourer and I am the young professional, home owning, university educated, middle class native. It’s not a natural friendship…

And that’s what I like about it. I am so fed up of ‘people like me’. The tightness of the concentric circle (much of which is down to the British class system which wouldn’t really expect people like him and people like me to have anything more than a buyer/supplier relationship).

But strip all of that away and we’re human beings first and foremost and we like and enjoy one another’s company (it ain’t a gay thing, though I’ve joked a bit on my blog that it is. It’s actually not).

He’s taught me which side my bread is buttered. He and his wife can’t raise the money for a deposit on a flat. They don’t live in a very nice part of the city. He’s 27 years old and is also supporting his wife (who is degree educated but can’t really get a decent office job as people are inherently racist here, like everywhere).

Having become friendly with someone so unlike me has taught me to not take things for granted to the extent I generally do.

So we’ll see. It’s rare for me to interface with people quite like that but I felt a connection that was strong and quite innate. He’s here again tomorrow so no doubt we’ll be chatting then too. He’s done a fantastic job of my living room so far (really good attention to detail) so I’m pleased on that front also.

8 thoughts on “From Russia with love

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  1. I love making friends in unusual places. At the moment I’m talking to complete strangers every day and making new friends all over the show. It’s great fun!

  2. Sven – to me that is one of the very best things about being abroad / clean sheet of paper / new life which you are doing. You will meet sooooooooo many people!!

  3. This was a lovely entry. I’m glad you’ll stay in touch with him and see how it goes. And I love the title!

    It makes me think of my school, where I think 98% of the people here come from rich suburban households (I’m in the other 2%) and everyone is pretty much the same. And we are all on campus together, and don’t really have the option of seeing other types of people.

  4. I don’t believe in social strata. Some of the most interesting convos I’ve had in my life were with taxi drivers. The guy who worked on our sewage system in our last house turned out to be most talented trumpeter, who wanted another career… so, I fully agree with you.

  5. Enrico – your school sounds interesting!

    Lula – yeh, I don’t believe in it either. Can be suffocating.

    Hen – yeh, I’ve now met the wife…! Real stunner, was nice, very good English. Quite ‘girly’ and they met at high school…

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