I had visited Welsh Harp Reservoir in Brent, London, a couple of times before but never with a camera. I went back with my camera because it felt like an interesting place, right next to the North Circular. Having wandered around, I decided that there was nothing particularly photogenic there and was about to head back home when I heard voices in the trees and bushes on the north side.
Just back from the reservoir I encountered this Roma family from Romania. They were having a picnic. They had a small fire going and were cooking some meat on it by skewering the meat on some green branches suspended over the fire. They were very welcoming and when I asked if I could take a photo of them they were more than happy to oblige but firstly they offered me a freshly cooked piece of meat from the fire. I sat down with them and ate the meat. It was a bit grizzly but I persisted because it would have seemed impolite not to accept there kind offer. Because neither of us spoke the other’s language, our communications were all mimed.
I have communicated like this many times whilst travelling and I’m quite good at it thanks to my performing background. It’s amazing how much information can be exchanged this way. It also injects humour into these situations, especially as I tend to send myself up whilst doing it. I discovered that they were refugees and were currently being housed in 2 rooms in a hotel in N.Kensington. Two rooms for all of them! What I found incredible about this whole situation, was that they, the refugees, were entertaining me in my country and not the other way round. After about 20 mins or so, I got their address from them and said I would send them prints of the photo’s…which I did.
That’s it really. I’ve never forgotten this rather magical encounter and I just hope that they were found better accommodation. I just wish I had been able to offer them something more but we English are not the most hospitable culture and maybe we could learn something from the refugees that, despite all they’ve been through, can still show generosity to others.