I once met some Vietnamese Boat People. It would be around end-2009, early 2010. In Shoreditch in East London.
Reading The Sympathiser recently [see review above] reminded me of the occasion.
I had become quite close to a young and very up-and coming architect called Scott Kyson. I haven’t looked at his profile in years but I see that it is now jammed full of awards for his work. We did much-garlanded Lau Sun House in Hackney for him and various other projects some of which were not due to start on site until mid-2010, by which time I was long gone into early retirement in Italy.
One of Scott’s clients was a Vietnamese restaurateur; sorry I have forgotten his name and I am not sure what building he was involved in either but the guy lived in Shoreditch in a tiny house with a back garden with his wife and two young kids: one was a baby as I recall. The wife was a good deal younger than he was. Stick-thin with little English, he was one of those Asians that work 24/7 to try to better himself. As I have said before on this blog, I have zero racist tendencies so I was perfectly capable of working with him. I didn’t know anything of his backstory, he was just a client of Scott’s and Scott mentioned in passing only that he had been one of the Boat People.
He had bought a set of heavy, glazed redwood folding doors so that the family could access the garden and provide a sense of inside-outside space on mild summer evenings. But they didn’t work: they were far too heavy and dropped immediately you tried to fold them open. His joinery contractor didn’t want to know; he had been paid and then had washed his hands of them. Very bad, I felt. He must have worked out that a Vietnamese would want, ‘no trouble’ in South-east London and that he could get away with it.
Well, lucky them. They got me. Probably the most knowledgeable single individual in the UK on doors and their problems at that time. Anyone else with even half my knowledge wouldn’t be arsed to travel into the boondocks to assist a Vietnamese, a wog; especially for a £500.00 order. But I would. Scott Kyson was my client, not this guy and it was Scott that I was in for the long-haul with.
So I told him what had to be done; even got a small sale out of it. He asked me to go back when the work was completed which I did, albeit not on a special trip from Newcastle. He was beaming, so that was allright. Best mates now. Seriously, as an immigrant, I don’t think he was used to being treated even-handedly by white people, as his joinery contractor had demonstrated.
That’s all. My encounter with the persecuted third world.