Wednesday, 25 October 2006
Country Notes: India
Alex Horne – 25th October 2006
I've got a washing machine that not only washes my clothes but also dries them. I think it's called a Washerdryer but that sounds like a name made up by a four year old, not a moniker suitable for something that can take the place of scrubbing, rinsing, and draping.
But my washing machine that also dries is also broken.
So on the second day of the World In One City Project I was forced to stay in between the hours of noon and 6pm so that I could let an engineer into my house and pay him to look at my machine and tell me it was broken. Not what you need when you're trying to find someone from every country in the world living in Greater London.
Except that my contraption that makes clothes as good as new had also broken the week before and if the wash-doctor was the same man again, I was fairly sure that I was in luck. Because this man, called Ronny, was almost definitely from India. What's more, we'd got on fairly well the previous Wednesday because I'd given him a parking permit and then we'd joked about how bad I was at DIY.
And so I didn't even care that I'd wasted four and a half hours of my life when the doorbell rang during Deal Or No Deal and it was indeed a smiling Ronny who'd made the noise. "It's broken again?" Yes Ronny, it is, but I really don't mind because you could be my Indian Representative.
First, of course, we went through the rigmarole of getting out the bulky white cube, opening it up then digging around inside like robot surgeons. Ronny muttered and tutted, I scratched my head and tried to judge when best to bring up the project.
At last, Ronny smiled and the machine was fixed (a fan had come loose so it kept getting even hotter than is necessary to dry clothes so the clothes started to burn so the machine automatically killed itself) and we both had to sit and wait while the ten minute test took place. And at last, I brought out my World In One City Folder (with FIVE nationalities now in place) and explained my quest.
Ronny smiled again. I think it's his face's natural resting state – mine's more of a worried expression with mouth very slightly open. "That's a good project", he said, smiling. "I'm from India". Yes! For once my preconceptions were correct. But then the killer blow. "However, I now live in Stevenage".
You what, Ronny? You live in Stevenage? How could you? The strict rules of the game clearly state that representatives found must live within the borders of the city and, try as I might, I can't bend the boundary rules as far as Stevenage. What's worse, Ronny moved from Colindale – well within Greater London – just a few weeks previously and now has to commute for three hours every day of the week. Poor Ronny. And poor me.
I could barely hold myself together as we watched the 'test trousers' getting just warm enough to remove any excess moisture as they tumbled round the drum.
Later that night I had to do a gig in a lovely club called the Comedy Bunker in the less than promising sounding Ruislip Golf Centre. It's been going for ten years and is just what a comedy club should be – well run, well attended and in a golf club (except for the golf club bit). In the first minute I told a joke about seeing a cowboy in the carpark (he was driving a german car, I said Audi, not a truly great joke but you've got to say something). An old man in the third row with a clear voice shouted "it's not the cowboys that are the problem, it's the F***ing Indians".
Thankfully, the only reaction in the room was one of shock and silence. I'm ashamed to say that although I did highlight the blatant and disgusting racism so boldly uttered I didn't do what the brilliant Adam Bloom did after me and call the man a c***.