I am a lazy bugger who doesn’t like making his own sandwiches. Fortunately my new job is in the centre of Birmingham, and so, come lunchtime, I am spoilt for choice.
On this occasion I am trying out the baked-potato-purveyor parked outside the office, manned by what may politely be described as a “colourful local character”. Definitely indigenous. I don’t know his real name; around work he is known only as CMOT Dibbler.
As I approach, I note that he already has a customer. But as I get closer it becomes clear that he isn’t a customer, but a mate that Dibbler knows from the pub. They’re just chatting.
I place my order for spud-plus-anaemic-coleslaw, and the conversation continues as I wait.
Dibbler speaks: “Know my brother-in-law, Paul?”
“Paul the wanker?”
Dibbler nods. “Just come back from a holiday in Australia. Says to me: ‘You’ll never believe it, but in Oz they have summink called sweet potato. It’s f__king amazing! It’s like normal potato, but sweet. You should sell it here!’.”
Gordon (he looked like a Gordon) gasps in disbelief, as if someone had told Dibbler to go and bugger his granny.
Dibbler continues. “I told him: ‘We can get it here, you know. I’ve seen it in some of them Jamaican markets. But none of my customers would buy it!’ But he wouldn’t f__king listen.”
Gordon shakes his head in a horrified ‘this-country-is-going-to-the-dogs’ manner. Feeling compelled to contribute, he says: “I had it once – in a roast, fer christ’s sake! Not right.”
Thankfully, the Portable-Food Thinktank of Birmingham does not seek my input, so I take my spud and depart. Were I to admit to eating such forbidden fruit on most weekends (in a roast, no less!) I suspect my immediate future would involve a large Wicker effigy and a lot of screaming.
So different to the high-brow conversations I used to hear in Cambridge.