Today I walked the length of Radford Road in Nottingham for the first time, ten o'clock on a blustery morning and lots of businesses still shuttered up. A man with a cut above his eye and a dirty white baseball cap spoke to me in Polish, wanting a light. I knew he wanted a light because he wiggled his thumb, miming lighting a fag. His grin - a boozy, slightly conspiratorial grin - vanished and he looked momentarily embarrassed when he realised I was not Polish.
In my day job as an English teacher I speak to Poles, Kurds, Afghans, Congolese, Romanians, Iranians... But they all come to me. In college I have a prescribed role and function. But out there this morning I had no such thing. Looking into the Nawrooz Restaurant at a young lad intently slicing up kebab meat with a huge knife, I hesitated at going in for a glass of tea and decided to walk on. I want to find out about his life and the lives of others like him who live and work on this ordinary, extraordinary road, but to do so I'll have to get over this feeling of being a tourist or an infiltrator. They're roles I'm not comfortable with.
Maybe I should carry a lighter.