Magazine article The Spectator

A Sense of Mystery

Magazine article The Spectator

A Sense of Mystery

Article excerpt

The Indian travel writer I told you about a month ago finally came to stay. I went to Leicester station to collect him but arrived early and sat down to have a cup of cappuccino. Two years ago the staff at the cafe wouldn't have known what it was. Now people drink it every moment of every day - even after lunch. I hope, for the sake of our digestions, we'll soon get the hang of espresso. But meanwhile, there I was sipping at half a pint of froth and cocoa powder, when a dark-skinned gentleman sat down at the table beside me.

Our Indian guest's train hadn't arrived but the chap I was looking at didn't look as if he was one of the British Asians who comprise 25 per cent of the population of Leicester. I don't know why. It may have been his elegant jacket with its Nehru collar. Locals of every colour prefer those blouson numbers that went out of fashion with the Bay City Rollers, while those men who wear Nehru collars because Katharine Hamnett made them cool, simply never visit Leicester. Unsettled, I got up and ran around the station asking everyone I saw in uniform if the train had got in early. Of course it hadn't and I sat down again as uncomfortable as I was before.

I worried that if I approached the stranger he would turn out to be a very fierce Persian mullah who would put a fatwah on me for trying to pick him up. He had a fine beard, you see. But in the end I decided that to sit next to our guest until the London train had come and gone, without saying anything, would be more embarrassing than a death sentence. 'Er, excuse me,' I ventured. Lo - he was indeed our friend to be. He had arrived three hours earlier, thinking it would be nice to see something of the town. Unfortunately, he had missed the Jain temple and found the shopping precincts. After 15 minutes he was as exhausted as he was disappointed.

I wanted to say something in Leicester's defence, but we were in the car by this stage and every time I attempted this feat of the imagination, I veered towards the driver of another car. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.