In search of a Local Community meets meat information exchange to overcome dialogical ineptitude
We arrive at a nearby kebab/chicken proprietor having decided against the town centre because it was cold and far away. There are two men in white hats and aprons standing cross-armed behind the counter. We enter. One of the men has a thick moustache, while the other answers the questions.
Hi could we ask you a few questions about your business? It’s for a paper we’re doing to find out more about the local area…
We just want to ask a few questions about your business. It’s for a project we’re doing to find out more about the local area…it won’t take long.
How long has this business been here?
And have you been working here since the beginning?
Me? No…3 months.
Another man enters to the right, smiling. He is younger than the other two men. It is clear that he is the man to ask when it comes to questions.
Hi could we ask you a few questions about your business?
Of course, of course.
Thanks. So, how long have you been working here?
A year, yes.
What are the biggest problems faced in a business like this?
(Laughing) People wanting to go home.
Home as in around here?
No, abroad. I’m from Afghanistan. He is from Kazakhstan (indicates toward man with moustache). Are you from around here?
Us? No, I’m from Bristol.
Uhm, and I’m from Kent originally, but lived in and around London for a while before coming here.... So did you move to Britain with the intention of starting a business like this?
Yes. Nothing else. Nothing else. I went to study in college for 2 years, but I quit.
Oh, why did you quit?
The teacher made some racist remarks so I left, yes.
Really?! That’s terrible, so have you not considered doing another course since?
And did you come up with the name, The Olive Tree?
Yes the olive tree is very big where we come from. Olives come from Arab countries. They provide a livelihood in our Country and symbolise peace.
I didn't know that. But there are quite a few kebab places like this on the street. Are you concerned with your competitors or are you friends with them?
What do you do when you’re not working in here?
Go home and watch TV. That’s it really. I play football too.
No every Thursday. Just with friends, I like cricket myself.
Really? I’ve never got into cricket.
Yes, it can go on a bit long.
So, what football team do you support then?
Liverpool. It’s nice I think. They have some good players.
Yeah, Gerrard. So, what time you finishing tonight?
We finish early. 1am. Well, not early but other places close at 6 or 7am.
Can I ask one more question?
What’s the most popular food you sell? Chicken or kebab?
Probably kebab. The mince meat is nice also.
Oh also, do you have any regulars, or do any of your friends come in to chat?
No, no one.
Sincere thank you’s are exchanged and it’s the street again. We loiter outside another kebab house, almost adjacent to the Olive Tree. There’s a man inside, tending to the fryer. We enter with a view to asking more questions and buying something to eat as this might also be a good way of initiating verbal exchange.
Hi there. Can I just have some chips please?
Just chips? Sure.
Man gets the chips.
Also, we’re currently asking around about businesses in the local area…
…and wondered it we could ask a few questions?
Do you have any papers? ID?
No it’s not funded by anybody. It’s a small independent publication…
What sauce do you want?
Oh ketchup please. Yeah, we want to learn more about the community, and we just want to ask a few questions, if that’s ok…
How many questions? We’re quite busy you see.
He indicates a young man leaning on the counter.
Two or three questions and that’s it. We don’t need much.
He nods once and serves the customer. Another staff member comes behind the counter to load the rotating spit with frozen kebab meat. We eat the chips. Six or seven young men then enter the store and greet the man at the counter. It’s suddenly busy, and we decide to leave it at that.
On the way home we enter a discount store to buy an apple and throw away the remaining chips. An acquaintance walks past. He greets us.
Alright guys? Where have you been?
We've just come from that store down the road. Bought an apple. What about you?
Oh nice one, that’s where I’m going.
Getting anything in particular?
Uh, maybe chips.
above image: 'Star Chicken'