Racial encounter

My best friend and flat mate Helga worked for CBC radio as a journalist in the early 70s. Amongst her good friends was a young woman called Carol Francis of Jamaican parentage but born in North London. After Helga left London to work for CBC in Toronto, Carol and I became firm friends.

I engineered an introduction to her first white lover Hewson, while she got a job as a radio broadcaster at the BBC with the Caribbean cultural and news department. I always favoured the exotic and never thought about whether she was black or white. She was Carol, my friend.

One late afternoon after work I was travelling to meet her on the central line when I got chatted up by a handsome dark skinned Mexican tourist. When I asked his name it was Pedro plus an unpronounceable Jewish surname of Polish origin. I empathised explaining I was also of Polish Jewish heritage too. He was travelling with a Mexican friend from the capital, Mexico City and staying in a hotel in Bayswater. Would I like to join him for dinner that evening? I explained in Spanish I was meeting my girlfriend for a drink in 'The Swan' on the Bayswater Road which happened to be near his hotel.

     'Why don't we four meet for drinks?' Pedro proposed enthusiastically.
     'Good idea!' I agreed.

We arranged to meet in his hotel in the reception lounge at 7.00 pm. With that I took his room number writing down his surname.

Carol and I met as arranged at my local at 6.00 pm and I told her about our date.

     'Are they black or white?' She asked surprising me by her question.
     'White, but I only met one of them'.
     'Did he ask my colour?' She insisted.
     'No, why would he?' I answered innocently.

Her questions stopped. We had never discussed race, colour or religion. We then talked about our day at work. I was teaching English at St Giles on Oxford Street quite near Bush House where she worked at 'The Beeb'. We discussed where we would eat after the drinks just in case we didn't hit it off. Who would be with who for example and all that jazz.

Time to go. We arrived at the hotel on the English stroke of 7.00 pm. The reception rang the room number while we sat down comfortably in the lounge and waited.

Pedro's friend Juan arrived with the room key which he placed on the low coffee table. He seemed hesitant not knowing whether to sit down or not or move to the bar or not. He picked the key up nervously and fumbled with the chain as if it was a Komboloi not knowing what to say.  His English was not good and Carol did not speak Spanish, already a sign for disaster.

     'I left my jacket in the room.' He apologised and walked off towards the lift.

 Carol raised an eyebrow but said nothing. She knew. He never returned and Pedro never appeared. We waited like lemons for a good while. Nada! After 15 minutes we silently left without a comment and, as originally agreed, went to the nearby Kensington 'Spaghetti House' for dinner. We spoke of mice and men not Mexican opinions on black and white.

Written on the flight from Malaga to London 27/5/17. Reading time 3 minutes 50 seconds.


Google - The Swan in Bayswater near Queensway underground.
Google - Spaghetti House
Wikipedia - Komboloi 

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