Pubs and football, a writer's raw material

I've been thinking of writing a play about Reggie, but when I get those thoughts I feel guilty. Whet

Met up with my brother Carl this week to check out a West Indian restaurant that we are booking for my mum's 80th birthday on 17 March (St Patrick's Day). Despite us both being diehard Londoners, with fierce cockney accents, we still got lost when we came out of Farringdon Station, which reminded me how enormous London is. On the way back, we stopped off in a pub for a drink, and ended chatting to a couple of old white men. My brother has always had a knack of making friends easily wherever he goes. I am less trusting of strangers - I always have been, I'm not quite sure why. Anyhow, I just sat back, let the writer in me take over and listened as Carl and these two old men chewed over Ken Livingstone, Mohamed Al Fayed, and footie.

Carl always loves to tell a story about what happened to me when I was in Wigan with an ex-girlfriend a few years back. We were drinking in a working men's club, and the guy behind the bar refused to serve me a pint of shandy. At first I thought it was some kind of racist thing as I was the only black person in the place, and he was looking at me like I had just burgled his house. But he went on to insist that a shandy was a "bloody girl's drink", and there was no way he was serving one to me in his bar. "Have a man's drink, you southern fairy," said his friends, as he force-fed me a pint of Guinness. I didn't think it was funny at the time, but my brother has a way of telling stories that had everyone in the pub in stitches, including myself. I keep telling him he should be a writer.

Things became a little uncomfortable when the conversation turned to immigration. The two old geezers, who until then had been charming and polite, mutated into a couple of ignorant old bigots, blaming everything on Muslims and Eastern Europeans, although they were very careful not to have a pop at us West Indians, at least not to our faces. It always depresses me when I hear the white working class becoming so stupid.

Whatever happened to . . . ?

There is a guy who lives in my neighbourhood called Reggie, a crackhead, always high, babbling to himself, asking for money. He went to the same school as my brother and always calls me Junior, which is what only my family and oldest friends call me. He looks worse whenever I see him. I know I shouldn't, but I always give him a quid or something. He used to be quite a football player in the Eighties, on the verge of signing for a big club, but something happened, I don't know what. I've been thinking of writing a play about him, but when I get those thoughts I always feel guilty. Whether we like it or not, we writers get our best ideas from the suffering of real people.

Game, match and set

I was chuffed to bits when both Man Utd and Chelsea were dumped out of the FA Cup, but I was even more pleased when my beloved QPR managed another win. Looks like we're safe from relegation. My mates laugh when I try to convince them that Rangers are the richest club in Britain thanks to Bernie Ecclestone and his wealthy Italian partners. We've bought our success, and I am not quite comfortable with that. I'd have preferred making do with what we've got and slowly climbing our way back up the league. The heroic way. Sadly, that is not the world we live in any more, if it ever was.

I've just moved in with my girlfriend, and I'm already making plans to replace her tiny telly with a 32-inch HD-ready flat-screen TV, so I can watch Premier League football. She hates it, but I say, "Love me, love my footie."

Which Democrat?

I am hesitant about supporting Obama, mostly because I know it's only because he is black. But whoever it is, him or Hillary, I hope to God they win the presidency. The world has become pretty complacent. We are still fighting illegal wars, Africa is still poor. I think we are due for a serious turning point. I know all politicians lie, and it probably won't make a blind bit of difference who wins in November, but it would be great, if only for a moment, to see history being made this year.

The RSC's production of "Days of Significance" by Roy Williams runs at the Tricycle Theatre, London NW6, from 12-29 March

This article first appeared in the 24 March 2008 issue of the New Statesman, The truth about Tibet