Dunkerque Days


A couple of conversations from last week in the Grande-Synthe camp.

A – age 8.

“Can I help?”

“Yes of course, come in.”

“Today is my birthday. Look, my friends bought me this!”

A proudly shows off a Disney Frozen makeup set.

“Aw how lovely. Happy birthday! Help yourself to a present, we have some sweet bread left. Or fruit?”

“Thankyou. Can I have coffee? Coffee is good.”

“Sure, but why? Coffee’s not good for a bambino”.

“I don’t drink it.”

“Oh, ok. Coffee for your mama?”

“No no. You know control?”


“Yes, control.”

“Border control?”

“Control, yes. When we go control, we sprinkle coffee so that dogs don’t smell us. I show you.”

“That’s ok, please don’t sprinkle coffee over the shop. No dogs here.”

A proceeds to sprinkle coffee on the counter anyway, singing “Let it Go” from Frozen in the process. Attempts to steal a hat from a man we’re serving. The man steals her headband in response.

“Shit man! Ali baba!”


B – mid-thirties.

“You are from Scotland?”

“Yeah, beautiful country.”

“I know, I lived in Paisley for 3 years.”

“Oh really! That’s really near me. I spent a lot of my teenage years in Paisley.”

“Lovely place. Paisley. I worked as a security guard in the shopping centre there. I was very happy there. Never in my life did I think I’d end up here.”

Never in my life did I think I’d be reminiscing fondly in Northern France about the Piazza in Paisley, but there you go.

“You want to go back?”

“No. They kicked me out. I’ll try America next.”

“Good luck with that.”


C – late teens

“Look at this! Look at this!”

Flicking through photos on his phone. Stops at a standard vain gym selfie showing off muscular arms.

“This was me. Look at me now, so skinny. So much walking. We walked through Iran. I lost it all. Look, another one.”

This time a photo of his back.

“I was a boxer, back in Afghanistan. Very good. Now, so skinny. There is no gym here, I can’t work out. I have to sleep outside, there is nothing here.”


More conversations, no doubt, to come. Second, more informative blog post coming later this week about a fight and police intervention during our evening hot food distribution on Saturday.



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