I had spotted that the Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford’s oldest cinema, was showing an Iranian film, “No Bears”, and had offered a tri to see it to the Iranian students in the class. In the end, however, Azi either could not or did not want to go, but Aisha was desperate to go, so she was included with Hamid and Frishta. As it was on very late in Oxford, this would mean an overnight stay, so I asked Aisha and Frishta to arrange this with the hotel.
The travel arrangements all worked fine, but we found ourselves in Oxford just after dark. We took a short walk as far as Magdalen College, but then turned back – it was so dark that we could barely see anything. Instead, we wandered a little along the Cowley Road; in retrospect, despite the dark, we should have seen more of the High Street, as we soon found ourselves having exhausted what there was to see.
One of the aims had been to find a Persian restaurant. Hamed was convinced Oxford would not have such a thing, so it was a particular triumph when it was one of the first restaurants we came across. And eventually, like I say after a short walk, that was where we went for a meal. We had rather too much time before the film began, but in fact it turned out well.
One of my aims had been for Hamed and Frishta to choose the food, and this they did splendidly – a yogurt drink for all, a shared platter of dips, and then four separate dishes. I had selected a Persian stew, but it was a bit too rich for me. One of the highlights of the meal was the pot of tea, along with sugar lollies, that finished the meal.
Val joined us for the cinema trip. At first, I thought we would be the only people there, but actually quite a few turned up just before it began. I had trouble, I must confess, staying awake, and the fact that the film was rather strange did not help. It was all rather self-referential, with the director playing a major part, as a dire4ctor trying to direct a film. But most important of all, Hamid and Frishta were obviously deeply affected, as they could identify very closely with the setting, the events, the heartache.
We returned to Ickford, and spent a little time chatting, drinking tea (builders’, on this occasion) and taking a little air in the dark. Hamed was a little nervous of this; he told Val that, on his journey across Europe, he had once spent three days, alone, in a Bosnian forest.