Magazine article The Spectator

Right of Passage

Magazine article The Spectator

Right of Passage

Article excerpt

I realise that I have for some time been approaching my life with all the flexibility of an Orangeman. Every day I march my traditional route to a well-known sandwich shop. I buy the same sandwich and march back. Anyone who gets in my way is treated with the sort of courtesy that a member of the Orange Lodge might muster to deal with a group of Catholic residents on the Garvaghy Road. 'Stand aside, I must walk over this precise piece of pavement because that is the way it has always been.' Tourists taking photographs are given particularly short shrift -- I must figure in literally thousands of smiling holiday snaps as I fulfil my lunch requirements with the grim determination of an Apprentice Boy of Londonderry.

The other day my route required me to force my way past a Russian government security team which was attempting to protect a Muscovite minister as he got into his car. 'Please wait for a moment, young lady, ' said the tall streak of menace with wires protruding from every area of his ruthlessly sharp Armani suit. To my astonishment I heard myself declaring, 'I certainly will not.

Let me pass immediately or I shall report you to the relevant authorities for obstructing a public highway.' Like many of those anachronisms who march to protect ideals and scream 'No Surrender!', I have never been entirely certain in my own mind exactly why I feel so strongly about my right to make my way unmolested to a particular sandwich chain and purchase the same ham and cheese combination. I just always knew it was somehow central to the very essence of who I am.

The other day, however, things came to a head. The shop where I buy my traditional sandwich suddenly changed their bread.

I did not realise the full horror of what had happened until I had left the shop and arrived back at my desk. Upon opening the package it became clear that the bread was no longer wholemeal, but granary. I paraded back to the shop with full ceremony and demanded to see the manager. A long standoff ensued. The bread had been changed six months ago, he claimed. It was now too late to campaign for the original bread to be reinstated. It could be argued that the new bread was now traditional. I tried to explain that my life had effectively been ruined. …

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