Diary - Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

I don't have a beard, a hijab or a rucksack, yet my first-class train ticket is checked five times.

I bumped into Gordon Brown at the Independent Labour conference party. He always smiles wickedly, his eyes sparkle, he teases, even though he knows I detest much of what his government does and increasingly so. Like Bill Clinton, he makes you believe you matter terribly. How different from the quivering rage directed at dissident journalists by the Maoist apparatchiks of 10 Downing Street. Mature politician, born leader, I go away thinking, sucker that I am. His charm will quieten my words the next time he arouses my fury. And he knows it.

My beloved mother, Jena, 85 now, wants to hasten her departure and has stopped eating. At the weekend I cook her favourite dishes, spicy fish and chips and okra with eggs - she sticks the stuff in the fridge, and there it will turn purple and black, pulsing with happy bacteria. Half her body weight has gone. I warn her she will have to go into residential care if she doesn't stop this mortal diet. "Do you know what they do there? They sell your blood to rich Arabs and then they kill you with a big injection." "So you don't want to die? That's good." "Yes, I want to die, but my way." Then she announces she likes the Tory boy David Cameron, his clean looks and clear words. Labour all her voting life, she abstained in the May election. "I will be dead soon, otherwise he is surely getting my vote." What do I say to that?

On my way to Harrogate to speak at a conference on hospice care, I am late, so rush on without a ticket. Standard class is packed and, with a column to write for the Evening Standard en route, I decide to go first class.

As I sit down, I can feel some passengers staring at me. I don't have a beard, a hijab or a rucksack. Yet five times staff ask for proof that I am entitled to be there. I inquire politely why the others aren't having to produce their tickets. "Madam, I am doing my job. These are regular customers."

On the way back, it happens again, with one uniformed harridan asking sternly if I am sure the written ticket I hand over is first class. She demands to see my MasterCard slip. Then the card itself. There is no other black or Asian passenger in these coaches - just an observation. Perhaps Trevor Phillips would say I wasn't trying hard enough to integrate. The humiliation cost me £248. Thank you, Northern Rail, for a lesson I will not forget. I should know my place.

I decide to dine on the train; proper dinner, with elegant place settings. Partly to show them I am worth it. The bastards have got to me. A portly gent with grey hair sits opposite me. The guinea fowl takes time to come, so we start to talk. He is a rich Scots entrepreneur, dreadful right-winger on taxes, libertarian, too, anti-regulation and an enthusiastic bore about golf, but a great conversationalist. He shares his cheese platter with me and orders expensive champagne. Suddenly the staff are licking our boots, plying us with free chocs and smiles. Maybe I do belong, after all.

Mike Leigh's perceptive new play, Two Thousand Years at the National Theatre, is about a contented north London secular Jewish family that is unsettled when the son, Josh, a brooding man in his late twenties, unexpectedly exchanges safe cultural Jewishness for devout Judaism. In any number of middle-class Muslim homes, exactly the same panic breaks out as their young suddenly embrace "true" Islam, get into costume (puce hijabs, white caps) and douse the house with blessed orders and deadly sanctimony.

I have also seen the Tara Arts production of The Merchant of Venice, which is directed by the talented Jatinder Verma. In his hands, Shylock becomes a man agonised. Reviled by supremacist Christians, Shylock is driven to destructive vengeance - again, a state of mind that modern-day Muslims understand exactly.

In so many ways, Muslims and Jews are cultural siblings, but the Muslim Council of Britain doesn't understand these deep connections. It wants to scrap Holocaust Memorial Day, an abysmal call, even by its own low standards. I have a far better idea: dim, obtuse and agents of division, let's scrap the MCB instead.

As for the fuss Austria made over Turkey's membership of the European Union, never forget the superhero that country gave to the world, and I don't mean Mozart. Even now there are shrines to the Fuhrer near Salzburg with fresh flowers. I have seen them myself. Perhaps the EU needs to ask whether Austria deserves to be in the club of the enlightened.

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