Ana and I are sat at the back of the bus in full flow about cross-cultural relationships. As she reflects on her and Salif, she comes up with the (not too unexpected) conclusion that culture makes a difference and can’t just be ignored.
“I agree,” pipes up the woman in front of us, swivelling round to join in. “I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation,” she says unapologetically, then proceeds to tell us the ins and outs of her tumultuous relationship with a Jamaican-born Brit.
“I’m Italian but he is British and has no generosity or compassion, and it makes a big difference.” She goes on to prove the point with a whole bunch of examples.
“Perhaps some of that is down to his personality rather than his culture,” I suggest britishly, starting to feel a little bit affronted.
“No,” she replies categorically, “it’s British people. No generosity or compassion. I’m Italian and we are warm and generous and kind…” (She pontificates some more.)
“But us Latins,” Ana kindly interjects (having explained that she is Argentinian and thus qualified to speak on the matter), “we may be warm but we’re a bit much, aren’t we. A bit neurotic?”
[Suddenly the quiet 11ish-year-old next to the woman pipes up excitedly and points out the traditional-looking soldiers by the Buckingham Palace garden wall. This goes unnoticed while the woman continues her tirade and muses on the notion that her current relationship is probably not really going anywhere.]
“I’m 47 and he’s the same age. Divorced. Two children. Two years we’ve been together and look at the only thing he’s given me.” At this stage, she raises her arm and jangles her charm bracelet in our faces. “Two years and only this. Ask my daughter. She is my witness.”
She turns to the ignored child at her side to back up her story. The child looks up at us with a face that combines slight embarrassment with resignation, implying that this is not the first time she’s been called in to testify. She smiles placidly, nodding awkwardly and apologetically.
“You see,” the woman sits back decisively. “This British man. I think it’s all hopeless really.” She sums up the situation with a distinct lack of the Latin generosity and compassion she’s just waxed lyrical about.
Fortunately, our bus stop comes at just the right time. We get off before I can respond to her ramblings. Probably a good thing as my (somewhat surprising) irritation at her anti-British rant would just prove her point. Come on Emily – stiff upper lip, and all that.