This was the original beginning to my novel, “Muslamic Ray Gun”, but I felt that it seemed distant from the rest of the plot, and ultimately didn’t seem to have the voice of the main protagonist, Andy Huxtable. Perhaps it is more a description of the reality of my home town, Peterborough, seen through the eyes of a right-wing conservative. As such, it’s intriguing to read it all this time later, and wonder whether it could’ve been adapted to fit in with the rest of the novel. I don’t think it would be possible. Also, I think the opening sentence in the published novel, “Kick him in the fucking head!” is much more of a lure for readers.
This is my walk to work.
From the bus station, I walk down a wide road where only buses are supposed to travel, but there are always a few other cars which use it. Cars with foreign number plates. On the right side of the street there are shops, some of them attached to the city’s shopping centre. There is a pub next to the bus station. Then John Lewis. A bank. A Maplins store. A Savers. Some poncy hairdressers. There’s even a Wimpy.
I walk on the right side.
On the left side of the road there are two takeaways selling foreign food. One of them looks so dirty on the outside you wouldn’t even feed your dog on the shit they sell. There’s an old church, not one with a steeple. This is probably some kind of Methodist chapel. At least, it used to be. Now it’s a mosque. Next to the mosque is one of those places where you can wire money to someone living in a different country. There’s a shop that sells second-hand phones. They’ll also unlock the phone for you. A sign in the window advertises Lebara Mobile. There’s a community centre. The writing on the sign, it’s not in English. I only know it’s a community centre because someone I work with told me. Next to that is a pharmacy. The sign above it reads Khan’s. On the corner is a newsagents. The things it doesn’t sell are porno mags, alcohol or cigarettes. The sign above says the shop is Mohammed’s.
I don’t walk on the left side of the road when I go to work. I don’t do it because I want to arrive at work moderately relaxed.
I cross the road near Mohammed’s newsagents and then I walk down a much narrower street. There used to be two pubs down this street. They aren’t there anymore. Two houses have been turned into a mosque. Their once rectangular windows are now fancy Arabic arches. There are terraced houses on either side of this mosque. On the other side of the street there is an office offering legal advice on employment, benefits and immigration. Alongside it is a grocer’s. I’ve had a glance inside. The boxes and jars of food they sell, the labels aren’t in English. Next to the grocer’s is what looks to be a clothes shop, only this one seems to specialize in niqabs, hijabs, all of that kind of stuff. A few houses lie between that shop and an office for a taxi firm. Private hire. Parked outside there are always a few cabs.
At the end of this road is a T-junction. To the left you can see one of two large mosques in the city. The green dome looms over rows and rows of terraced houses. It’s a nightmare to drive or walk up that road on a Friday. Better to take a two-mile diversion to avoid the area. To the right is a street full of offices. Solicitors, accountants, conveyancers, temp agencies. The temp agencies, two of them at this end of the street, they advertise factory work. Shifts. The pay is just above the minimum wage but less than £7 per hour. There are always people milling around outside. None of them are British. They don’t speak English and they dress like Eastern Europeans. Tracksuits, cheap fashion labels, fashion that’s a couple of years out of date. They don’t queue. They don’t move out of the way as I pass. They have no manners. These people, they work hard, so they tell me, but they will never be a part of Britain.
I pass a Wetherspoon’s which is already open. In less than thirty minutes it will be serving its first pint of the day to some raging alcoholic or someone just finishing a night shift. Sometimes I stop for a diet Coke before work. I see a regular bunch in there. Old gadgies waiting for that first pint. The dole dossers desperate to eradicate the day from their minds before it’s even begun.
My office, it’s perhaps a hundred yards away. There is a small car park to the rear but that’s reserved for one or two lucky members of staff. The plebs don’t get the opportunity for city centre parking. Not without paying a premium. It’s a bone of contention for most of my colleagues. Me, I don’t mind getting the bus. I generally don’t work from the office. The sign outside the office says Lawson Lettings. I deal with irate tenants and irate landlords. Occasionally I will do property inspections, usually on unruly tenants. I’m not afraid of people shouting at me. I also deal with the evictions’ paperwork. I don’t care if people hate me. I view hatred as a healthy emotion, an outlet for people to rid themselves of toxic thoughts.
This is my day job. This what brings in the money I need to support myself. To many people, this is what defines me. A manager in a lettings agency. That’s all some people see me as. In a way, that’s good. The people who define me like this, they don’t know my past. They also don’t know the real me.
My name is Andrew Huxtable, and if truth be known I’m not a nice person. It’s true that I’m a manager in a lettings agency, but there is more to me than that. A lot more.
Fortunately I’m able to hide things very well. My true feelings for a start. Does that make me hypocritical or just cautious? I prefer to think that it makes me the latter. There are just some things you don’t discuss in the workplace.
Politics, religion, they are definitely not up for discussion. I work with these people. I have a pretty good working relationship with each of them. It’s how our office continues to run effectively and efficiently.
It wouldn’t be that way if I shared my views, my opinions, my history, with the people I work with. I suppose that makes me a professional, the fact that I am able to separate the real me, the person I truly am, from the persona I adopt at work.
I wasn’t always this way.