I do like driving. And with long distance driving it does instil a sense of adventure or even expedition in me. It was raining heavily on the M1, when it’s all just a white mist with blurred-out edges and potentially quite precarious. How much we actually see and how much we make up – fill in the gaps – is quite remarkable really. Just being able to make out the edge of the lane or road is useful to keep on track; a car ahead is even better.
As I approached London the rain eased off and the sky even brightened a little. I parked up in East Finchley, a nice north London suburb. I was stopping over with Geetha and Matt here later that night. I made my way down the familiar High Road towards the tube station.
I took the Northern line tube, deep into south London towards the end of the line. I was welcomed by a heavy downpour, with a heavy bag and a feeble red umbrella; yes, I still use my Arts Council Decibel umbrella when necessary. It was quite windy but just manageable. There was an elderly middle-eastern man with walking stick propped against the corner of a street with his daughter (I suppose) trying to shield themselves against the storm. Across the road from them I too revolved on the spot trying to get my bearings with iphone in one hand, brolly in other attempting to read our consistently irregularly placed road signs.
I managed to find the home and was welcomed into the dry warmth; it was nice to get out of the rain. We started by relaxing, which I think is very useful prompt to calm down; to find a steady ‘normal’ pace before starting an interview. My host very kindly offered a slice of Victoria sponge cake with a pot of tea.
Viraj was a natural storyteller. I don’t think I even asked him many questions. I’d ask one and he would answer in great sequential chapters of life. He said that he didn’t realise that he “was Sri Lankan until the age of 7 when he moved to Oxfordshire.” There the family experienced sustained racism in a ‘middle England’ town as there were very few people of colour. Not only was this experienced by Viraj and his sister, which I might have anticipated to a degree, but also their parents, when they were out together as a family. This I found shocking!
Viraj was captivating and highly entertaining in his life’s exposition. He is someone who is very self-aware and analytical; and was very bright from an early age. I asked if he had any teenage crushes. Initially he said “not really” and then after a little pondering talked about an older guy in the final year at school who was aged 15-16, whilst he was 13. He recounted, “He was blonde, he was like a Greek god, with a great body…though, I couldn’t fancy him because he wasn’t very clever and actually, even a bit dull.”
The interview lasted just under two hours; it was intriguing. As interviewer it felt quite effortless; his wit and dry humour often revealing something quite profound. I look forward to listening to it again.