My husband and I were moving up to Glasgow from Luton. This was something we had dreamed about and something we were very much looking forward to. Everyone knows moving can be stressful and it can be particularly difficult moving such a great distance – trying to plan and time everything.
We had already done one trip up to Glasgow in which we went to viewings for several flats on a day when we were both off from work. We had managed to find one that we liked and paid the deposit for it. So a couple of weeks later we had to go and pick up the keys for our new flat. I had to drive up very early that morning so that we could pick up the keys, the sooner the better. So anyway the point of me writing about this day really is because of two things that really struck me about that particular journey to Glasgow.
Obviously it’s a rather long drive, around 6 hours not including any stops. One of our stops was at Lancaster services. I have travelled to many places around the country and several occasions up to Scotland. I had never noticed any services which provided a specific prayer room so I was very touched when I noticed one at this services. Perhaps I had just never noticed one before but it really warmed me being able to use this prayer room. My husband and I often struggled to find an appropriate and comfortable place to pray when stopping on our journeys. It was albeit a bit cold and damp in the prayer room (although it was also a particularly cold and wet day) however it had facilities to make wudhu; a prayer mat; and plenty of space. There was also a visitors signing book and I loved reading through the names and messages from people who had visited and appreciated this room as we did. It may sound like something very small and trivial but for some reason it really meant a lot to me. I also loved the fact that many of the names signed in this book were people from Glasgow and other towns in Scotland. I loved this because it encouraged me knowing of many Muslims in the area my husband and I were about to make our home.
A couple of hours later in the journey my husband and I needed to make another stop. By now we had crossed the border into Scotland. We only needed to make a very brief stop. I will now mention that we had packed the car to the very brim so that we could take as much as we could to the new flat. Therefore; I had no vision through the rear window and had to make do with the use of my wing mirrors. This hadn’t been a problem until this point. I pulled into the services and found a space and went in forwards, this is not my preferred method of parking. I’m much more of a reverse park girl. So I needed to straighten up in the space, reversed backwards and heard a sound I really did not like. I had gone into something with my boot (very slowly mind you). The car in the space opposite where I had parked was one of those real big American type cars which make you wonder how it possibly fits on our road. Anyway, it also had a tow bar sticking out which I hadn’t seen and that’s what I had gone into when I reversed. Now my little old banger was no match for this American, egotistical, what are you trying to make up for car. Before we even had a chance to get out of the car to have a look the owner of the car, much to my embarrassment and disdain, had been in his vehicle at the time and he got out and came directly to my window. He was a white gentleman, in his sixties perhaps. He gestured for me to open my window, which I did, and the first thing he said to me was, “do you understand English?”. My husband and I were both shocked. I was born in this country, I am British, but the fact that I was wearing my hijab made him assume that we could not speak English. I was so shocked that I did not respond initially and my husband replied with a laugh, “of course we understand English…” to which the chap then said “well I didn’t know, I was just asking”. His tone of voice and manner suggested that we were in fact very rude for being offended at his asking this question and that it must be a normal and expected question. If you’re wearing a hijab obviously. Anyway his tow bar was unblemished and it was my boot that now has a little dent in it but he still made me feel awful and a bit taken aback by his attitude.
I just wanted to share this experience and I hope that people share my view that it is not normal for the first utterance in a conversation with a stranger to be to establish whether they understand the English language.