There’s a group of them on the path in front –
five maybe six, it’s difficult to tell.
They are larking about – jostling, daring, pushing.
I’m worried: will I get past or have to go between?
They’re Asian, so they may have been radicalised –
there’s a lot about that in the papers.
Perhaps they’ll attack a poor, lone white man.
At least make him walk near the canal’s edge.
They stand back to let me pass.
‘All right, then, Governor?’ ‘He’s not
your governor; you should call him Sir.’
‘I’m not a Sir or a Governor.’
‘All right then, Mister?’ We all laugh.
I walk on, relieved and more than a bit ashamed.
The sun comes out from behind a cloud,
the Asians resume their jostling.
At their age our group from the Grammar
used to lark about in the park,
snatching each other’s satchels and throwing them
in a circle. We made a great deal of noise and got
rebuked. I think we said ‘Sorry, Mister or Missus.’
Maybe Sir, but never Governor. The best bit
was the silent laughter afterwards as the old geezer
walked off. ‘All right then, Mister?’
from Focus for Readers 1
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