This is England

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. I continued to look at the front page of the paper for a while longer, then risked a glance up. Paula wasn’t looking at me, she was cutting the ends off the sausage rolls and popping them in her mouth like they were grapes “I can’t believe it, it’s terrible,” I said.

I was standing at the bread reading the paper which was unusual for me. It was hard reading the paper while standing up and holding it. I don’t know how people in trench-coats on train platforms in films do it. I opened the paper. Some adverts fell out but that was good as I hoped it would draw attention to me. I picked up the adverts but then there was too much to hold so I closed the paper again. It didn’t fold closed as neatly as I’d hoped. It bulged. I hate that. “Oh, God!” I cried but when I looked up Paula still wasn’t noticing me. She was moving energetically to a song in her head. I took three steps forward so I was at Paula’s counter and placed the paper on the counter, ignoring the crumbs. “Look at that,” I said shaking my head.

“The girl?”

“Yeah,” I tutted. “I hope they find her okay but…”

“She might be…”

“Nah,” I told her.

“It’s terrible,” she agreed.

“That must make you think twice about moving to England? You want kids with Wellington don’t you?”

“Well…”

“Crazy to put them in danger, no? Almost selfish.”

“That’s in Wales.”

“It’s the same thing, Paula!”

“No it’s not.”

“Where are you…?”

“Brighton.”

“Oh God.” I chuckled. “No, really, where are you thinking of moving to?” Her first answer was a great joke but now it was time to be serious.

“Brighton.”

“Brighton?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s where all the gays live.”

“So?”

“Well… your kid.”

“What?”

“You know?”

“What if I have a girl?”

“Well…” I tapped the front of the paper.

“That’s in Wales.”

“Well, as a parent I wouldn’t risk it, but, you know, maybe you’ll feel different when you stop aborting yours.”

“Me-me-me-me-me-me-me aborting yours,” replied Paula mocking me with a mealy-mouthed mouth. I sighed and tutted again, turning the page in the paper. A famous sex offender was there.

“He’ll slap your vagina,” I told her pointing at the wretched hairy bumpkin’s face and we both laughed. I didn’t want to. I wanted to be serious. I turned the page. “Hope your new place is on a hill or it’ll probably get flooded.”

“They don’t have floods in Brighton.”

“Sure they do, the river Bright bursts its banks once a year, at least.” I went to turn the page.

“Is there a river Bright?”

“I don’t know,” I said shaking my head and we both laughed again. “Probably. Bright on, on the Bright.” It wasn’t going well. I flicked through the rest of the paper with increasing speed. Hello? That racist footballer had scored a goal giving me more ammo. “They’re all racist in England,” I said. Paula raised her eyebrows. “Yeah, even the blacks, they hate the whites. You’ll be getting it in the neck from both sides. Not to mention the riots.”

“Hmmm,” said Paula.

“You have to pay tax and the doctors can’t speak English. Enrique would be a top doctor in England, for real.”

“We’re still going.”

“They don’t have beaches.”

“They do.”

“Well, on your head be it.” I picked up the paper and shook the crumbs off it but it was fucked now because of the grease. I again tutted at the now semi-transparent front page and then folded it. “I bet you don’t go,” I told her. She didn’t reply. Enrique appeared. “When are you moving your shit out of my garage?” I asked.

“End of month,” he said looking at the counter with a puzzled expression. “Where de ends?” He asked Paula.

“Ooh, I ate them all,” she said with a shocked face like the one I had when I couldn’t find the dog one morning and then remembered I hadn’t seen it since taking it for a walk the night before. I’d left it in the car, for 14 hours. Luckily it wasn’t hot. Enrique tutted.

“It’s just I’m going to get some weights so the sooner the better,” I told Enrique.

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