Conversations from Calais #2

A weird couple of weeks. I’ve been slightly out of action due to slipping while carrying a gastro of curry and simultaneously badly burning my right arm and spraining my right hand – a really fun combination for bandaging up and for working in a kitchen… However, I’ve made myself as useful as I can and am healing up well, and it’s given me plenty of time to think about what’s next for me (but more on that in a future post). The past few weeks has also seen a surge in tensions around Calais and Dunkirk, and the fighting has made it to the UK news. There’s nowt more depressing in this work than when it is too unsafe to deliver aid, especially when it is for reasons that right-wing press will have a field day over. However, in the middle of it all, as always, are human beings caught in the storm – like M., a teenage boy from Iran who’s just trying to get to the UK to be reunited with his mum.


My friend, what happened? (Gesturing at my arm wrapped in a bandage).

Ah this, it’s fine. I slipped while carrying curry, and it, well… (mime curry splashing over my arm and face).

Ah, no good. I’m sorry. Look after yourself.

I will, thank you.


(After a while, M. returns for a second plate of food).

Hello again, very hungry.

No problem, food is good?

Yes, good, very good. You cook it?

Not today, but yes. Not right now because of the arm, of course.

It’s very good.

I’ll let the chefs know.

(After grabbing food and water, M. appears again, this time for a chat.)

My friend, what do you think of here?


Here. Like this. (Points at ear.)

Ear? What do I think of your ear?

No, sorry, my English, Ear- (points at ring on his finger).

Oh, earring! You want one?

Yes, I have one before, but people are not sure.

Earrings are good! You should get it again.

You think I would look good?

Yeah, look – Ben has an earring. He looks cool – you’d look like that.

Earrings are good in England?


(Shy laughter.) Ok, I will try. Mine has closed.

(Ben chirps in – I mean, if you have a needle we can do it here…)

How would I open it up though?

Not sure my friend, might not be safe.

No problem. But I will get one.

This rice is very good. What’s your favourite food?

(Mishearing him completely) I love cooking rice.

Ah so rice is your favourite food. (No time to correct him). What is your favourite sport? Basketball? (A classic height joke).

Ha, basketball, Yes, No, I-well-I’m not that sporty, but I really like water sports – kayaking, swimming…

Ah, kayaking! I was a rower. I rowed at national level for Iran! But now I’m here.

Oh cool, you have the perfect build for a rower. (Despite the basketball joke, he’s also really tall). I rowed a little when I was younger, and my mum is a rowing coach.

Your mum is a rowing coach! I love rowing, I love being in the water. Sometimes, I just fall asleep in my boat, and my coach an hour later is shouting “where is M.?” and I’ve been sleeping in the sun the whole time! Very easy to fall in though. Why do you not row anymore? You’re tall.

Ha, I know. I wasn’t very fast though.

Yeah it’s a hard sport. And Ergo. I hate Ergo. You push and push and then fall over and your coach is shouting at you to get back up and carry on. Ergo is horrible. But I love rowing outside in the sun.

Yeah, Ergos are awful.

Anyway, I have to go, but it was nice to meet you my friend. I will see you again.

Yes, for sure. Take care.



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