The last time I bought a set of tyres in south London I came away not quite knowing whether I had just been asked to become a jihadi bride.
Of course, it was only the merest suspicion. If I had had hard evidence I might have gone to the police. Or I might not. These days, one is likely to get done for a hate crime if one complains about a member of the opposite religion. If I had gone to the police what would I have said?
‘Excuse me, I’ve just had a set of tyres fitted to my Volvo by a man who tried to persuade me that IS fighters don’t deserve the bad press.’
Would I have sounded hysterical, or delusional, or just plain prejudiced? And what was my suspicion based on? Not that much.
I thought about it a lot but really all I had was the fact that, as I sat in the waiting room with the spaniel as my tyres were fitted, a very handsome young man sitting at his desk beneath a huge gold-framed excerpt from the Koran told me I shouldn’t listen to ‘the hype’ about Isis, who weren’t the barbarians they were made out to be. He knew this, he said, because he was just back from a top-secret mission in the Middle East, which he couldn’t elaborate on.
He said I should consider converting and marrying a man like him because I would find that my life really took off at that point. I gulped and nodded. I thought it unlikely that going under the veil would make me happy but he had me in a bind.
I was sitting in his waiting room and my car was up on his ramp with no wheels. I could hardly shout, ‘Now look here, matey! I’m a Roman Catholic. Jesus saves! And while we’re at it, the suffragettes chained themselves to railings for my right to vote, and to tell you to naff off!’
I had to nod and say please and thank you and ‘oh, now that is interesting!’ The whole situation was complicated by the fact that his men went to the most enormous trouble to fit me the best set of affordable quality tyres I have ever had on my Volvo. Truly, within seconds of driving away it was obvious that the car was driving better than ever. Much better than the way it drove after the last set was fitted, when the builder boyfriend took it to one of his mates under the arches who whacked some retreads on it.
Life is terribly confusing at times like these. I realised that I could have a guy who was on the side of the angels fit deathtrap tyres to my car and not even balance them properly.
Or a guy who was cheerleading for the worst terror group in the history of mankind could fit four stupendously good-value Continentals.
What’s a girl to do?
I drove around pondering what evidence I should take to the police and eventually concluded that I would go with my mum’s old maxim: you have to take people how you find them. The guy in the tyre shop had been courteous, kind, patient, honest, trustworthy, efficient, skilful and reliable. He had done me a great service and an incredible deal.
He might have been an IS fighter just arrived back from jihad. Or he might have been shooting his mouth off to impress me. It is, after all, entirely possible that our country is in such a weird mess that boasting you’re connected to Isis has become a chat-up line to which increasing numbers of men are resorting to impress the ladies.
Also, considering the state we now find ourselves in, we cannot go crying to the police about every little IS sympathiser we come across on the high street. The system wouldn’t be able to cope.
What’s more, the Continentals have been very hard wearing. So now that I need a new front tyre because I hit a curb I have to weigh up hard choices: I can call the old BB and get his mate to fit a cheap retread badly. Or I can go to the man with the golden prayer.
As I drive along the A3 trying to make my decision, the steering dragging badly to one side, I realise a song is going round in my head.
With apologies to the late, great Kirsty MacColl, the song I am singing goes as follows:
‘There’s a guy works down the tyre shop swears he’s Isis/ Just like you swore to me that you’d be true/ There’s a guy works down the tyre shop swears he’s Isis/ But he’s a liar and I’m not sure about you.’
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