Dining across the divide: ‘I got the distinct impression she was implying I was racist’


Cat, 41, Worthing

Cat

Occupation Runs a youth charity

Voting record Always voted Labour. Has now left the Labour party and is struggling with what to do next

Amuse bouche Dropped out of university in her early 20s and spent her student loan on a surfboard and a ticket to Nicaragua


Stephen, 67, West Sussex

Stephen

Occupation Postman

Voting record Has only ever voted Labour or Liberal Democrat

Amuse bouche He used to be a diplomat who travelled the world, and once worked at the British embassy in Kyiv


For starters

Cat I had the scallops with a lovely sauce – it was delicious.

Stephen I think we felt comfortable together straight away.

Cat We started with a little background, how neither of us has kids, and he said he didn’t agree with people who have loads of kids and live off the system.

Stephen I’m a postman, I see a lot, and I’m convinced there are some cases of people who choose this as a lifestyle.

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Cat I felt that what with the council houses having been sold off and everybody lumped together in really poor conditions on council estates, there are people who are not able to find their way out of poverty and so do not see any future for themselves other than having children.

Stephen I agree there’s a need for housing. But she was dead against the fact that people have been allowed to buy council houses, whereas I felt people who’d been given the right to buy have had an economic step up in life because they’ve become property owners. That was anathema to her.

Stephen and Cat

The big beef

Cat The Ukraine war came up. We’re going all out to invite Ukrainian refugees, which is great, but I don’t see why it should be OK for people from Ukraine and not people from Syria and many other places where there’s been utter destruction.

Stephen Ukrainians are from another European nation, close neighbours, so it’s natural that we feel more empathic towards them. I worked in Ukraine, so I feel very attached to the people. But I also think they will probably assimilate into our culture; they are highly educated and are more likely to come here and start speaking English.

Cat He said there’s a family of Syrian refugees in his village who have made no effort to integrate. I said obviously they’ve had a lot of trauma and are probably the only people of colour in the village – what’s stopping him from going and talking to them?

Stephen I got the distinct impression that she was implying I was being racist. I can fully understand they’re coming from a different culture, but in this specific context with my neighbours, they don’t speak any English, which creates a barrier. I’m open to everyone, but I think it’s a two-way process.

Stephen and Cat

Sharing plate

Cat I voted remain. Stephen said he had voted leave and regretted that decision for the economic implications.

Stephen I didn’t like the way they were trying to build up a superstate with the EU. But I regret having voted for Brexit because of the economic problems and this issue with Northern Ireland. We agreed that we can’t stand the Tories and we hate Boris. But she probably called me a namby-pamby liberal or something like that.

Cat I’m a socialist; I would describe him as having rightwing views.

Stephen I have never, ever in my life voted Tory. I would never vote Tory.

Stephen and Cat

For afters

Cat When I said I wasn’t vaccinated, he put up his napkin as a shield between us. Half-jokingly, but many a truth is told in jest.

Stephen She said she wasn’t an anti-vaxxer, she just didn’t want the vaccine for herself.

Cat I was doing IVF so I didn’t have the vaccine at first, and later, when I could take it, I just had this feeling in my stomach – it felt like we were being coerced into having it. Vaccinations are really important, but it needs to be your own choice; it’s your own body.

Stephen and Cat

Takeaways

Cat We came from quite different places. I now wonder whether I challenged him enough, but I hope the conversation has sparked a positive change.

Stephen She and I will never see eye to eye. She was extremely dogmatic. But she loves chocolate, and I gave her some tips about where she can get some really nice dark chocolate – it’s the cooking aisle.

Stephen and Cat

Cat and Stephen ate at Indigo at the Ardington Hotel, Worthing, West Sussex

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