The Israeli chef and I have become firm friends since he moved out of my flat. He has his own place now, and is trying to find a job.
I take him horse riding at the weekends. On the way down the A3 he asks me all sorts of questions about his new life in Britain and the things he is struggling to make sense of.
Like why he can’t get a work visa. He is very upset about this. ‘You have to understand,’ I explain, ‘that the mistake you made was to come here legally and apply to the system honestly and openly, stating clearly that you wanted to find work.’
I glanced at him as I drove, surveying his handsome baby face, dark skin, slightly curly black hair.
‘It may be too late now, but if you could pretend to be 12 and from Syria you would find our country a lot more welcoming. And I have to say, you look a lot more like a Syrian child than most of the ones I’ve seen in the paper. However, if you did that you might have to go to school on a sink estate for a bit.’
The Israeli chef knows all about sink estates because while he was staying with me on Airbnb, he went house-hunting on a Brixton estate because he had heard me boasting about spending the weekend on a friend’s shooting estate.
He traipsed back looking very despondent. ‘How did it go?’ I asked. ‘It was terrible. I went to an estate but it wasn’t nice, like the one you went to, with the lovely big house.’
So I had to explain that in England there are two kinds of estate, each one being the polar opposite of the other.