Dining across the divide: âShe didnât call me an insensitive buffoon â but I was armed and readyâ
Abby, 45, London
Occupation Head of client services, recently made redundant. Army officer for six years, and second in command of a field hospital in Iraq.
Voting record Conservative. Voted leave in the Brexit referendum.
Amuse bouche Abbyâs hobby is flamenco dancing.
Laura, 45, London
Occupation Head of play services at a hospital.
Voting record Labour. Voted remain.
Amuse bouche Laura has dabbled in the trapeze.
Laura I am in a caring and creative profession. I am an empathic individual who is aware of peopleâs basic needs. I hold socialist views. The disparity of the distribution of resources in society is stark.
Abby I voted Conservative in the last election, but I would not now. Since this pandemic, I think the government is abhorrent, an absolute shambles and liars. Thereâs no opposition. The Labour party are like, âOh, we wouldnât have done it like thatâ â but thereâs no one opposing, nowhere for me to go. Maybe itâs the Reform party.
Laura Abby seemed lovely â really well-presented with amazing posture. I thought we should start with our commonalities, so we relaxed and ordered some expensive wine.
Abby I worried I would meet someone who would say, âNo, you are wrong because bla-di-blah per centâ or, âLook at these examplesâ, but straight away we were comfortable in each otherâs company. We established we were the same age, talked about our parents and living with our partners in lockdown.
The big beef
Laura I was wearing a mask when we walked in. I took it off at the table, and put it on to go to the loo. I work in a hospital â I am far removed from somebody who doesnât think masks are effective.
Abby How can wearing what is basically pants on your face do anything? Where do people think their breath goes? Itâs a control measure, to make people feel as if they are going through something together. Laura didnât say, âOh, you insensitive buffoonâ â but I was ready. If she felt I was vile, it didnât come across.
Laura I have friends who say masks donât work, so we just donât go there. Thereâs a load of stuff Abby and I just didnât talk about. Iâve been double-vaccinated, Iâve worked through the pandemic and itâs no joke â the anxiety and fear. It was one of the most stressful times of my life.
Abby I was annoyed that the Queen said we should all get vaccinated. I like the Queen; I used to be in the army â I could have been blown to smithereens in her name. Itâs up to the individual whether they get vaccinated, and nobody elseâs business.Quick Guide
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Laura I voted remain, because itâs valuable to have cultural cross-pollination â for young people to have the chance to live and work in other places. I hate the idea of being cut off.
Abby For me, it was about the economy. Immigration was irrelevant. At the time I voted leave, I had a Polish boyfriend. Now I have an Italian one. Iâm not against immigration.
Laura I listed all these things â shortage of nurses, resources and other stuff. Actually, Abby was like: oh, I think youâve got a point.
Abby We are both big fans of critical thinking and love to discuss the issues of society. It never came down to left-right, Labour-Conservative â that didnât seem relevant.
Laura Being able to converse with people who have different views is important. We can get pushed into echo chambers because itâs uncomfortable to hear things we donât agree with. I donât think discomfort is a bad thing.
Laura It has reinforced my belief that people are generally nice. We had different life experiences, but were able to find some resonance with each other. I donât think itâs hard to find common ground and have a nice time with a person supposed to be completely different.
Abby Donât be afraid to talk about divisive issues. Donât accept labels in the easy binary divisions that are presented to us. It was a lovely evening.
Additional reporting: Rachel Obordo
Abby and Laura ate at The Culpeper, London E1
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