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Dining across the divide: ‘I was expecting someone more confrontational, but he was so sweet’

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Dining across the divider Shamus
Dining across the divider Shamus

Shamus, 55, London

Occupation CEO of an AI company

Voting record Labour, Liberal, Green

Amuse bouche When he was 19, for a dare, Shamus streaked along Whitehall from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square wearing only shoes and socks

Dining across the divider Marcio
Dining across the divider Marcio

Marcio, 41, London

Occupation Marketing campaign manager

Voting record Conservative in the last election

Amuse bouche Marcio was an extra in the London Underground chase scene in the James Bond film Skyfall

For starters

Marcio All I knew about the person I was meeting was his name – Shamus. I thought it was a non-British name, that it would be someone from Afghanistan, or Africa.

Shamus We started the conversation in a very open way – there were no narrow, closed questions. Neither of us is a testosterone-fuelled aggressor.

Marcio I was expecting someone more confrontational, radical, someone more like Greta Thunberg. But he was so sweet – even when he disagreed, he did it as a very polite British person, as if he was agreeing.

Shamus The differences tended to be about my macro view of the world while he was being micro pragmatic.

Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2
Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2

The big beef

Marcio On immigration, I’m against opening the gates for the sake of it – let everyone come in because it looks good on Instagram, we’re cool. Where are we going to put the people? There is already a housing problem – we are not even building enough houses for the people already here. People who are British born and bred can’t afford a deposit. Opening up more would overwhelm the health system and impact education.

Related: Dining across the divide: ‘She didn’t call me an insensitive buffoon – but I was armed and ready’

Shamus I totally empathise with that. My question would be: how do we solve the problem? We can still have our principles and our values, we just need to solve the problem.

Marcio People are put in hotels – they have no prospect of getting a job, they’re not integrated into society, it’s not dignified. I am an immigrant, and I would not want that for myself. When I first came here I was living with other Brazilians in a very closed community. I spoke Portuguese all the time, which I regret. It was only after a year, when I moved into a house with two British people, that I started to speak English. I’ve had citizenship since 2009 and I feel more British now. I’ve got all the traits, trying to be on time, saying sorry for everything.

Shamus We talked about immigration driven by environmental needs – Bangladesh is going to be in trouble, for example. That is something the rich countries have been responsible for creating, but they don’t seem to want to accept the consequences.

Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2
Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2

Sharing plate

Shamus We are brought up in this bubble where we think British history is brilliant and great for the world, and actually we haven’t been that brilliant at all. We have got the wealth and infrastructure, so why aren’t we helping where we have a moral debt?

Marcio I voted against Brexit. We should have a great relationship with everyone, not become an isolated island.

Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2
Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2

For afters

Shamus No one understood what we were doing to the environment initially, but the lack of action since then has been embarrassing. We have carried on polluting, flying round the world, buying too much.

Marcio There is a pressing issue with global warming, but groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain are actually turning people against them. I think they’re right, but the way they are doing it – blocking roads – that’s what gets people angry. Global warming has to be looked at, but I still have to get to my work, have bills and a mortgage to pay.

This article comes from Saturday, the new print magazine from the Guardian which combines the best features, culture, lifestyle and travel writing in one beautiful package. Available now in the UK and ROI.

Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2
Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2

Takeaways

Marcio He has lived in different counties, has so much experience – he was so grown-up, flexible and easy to talk to. It felt as if we had known each other for ages.

Shamus Meeting someone completely random and having a proper conversation with them is very worthwhile. We met at 12.30, left at 3pm. We shared lots of stories about life and how we got where we are. You change between your 40s and 50s – get into this “next stage of life” thinking, which is depressing, but you don’t care as much. It was a good lunch – we had a riot.

Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2
Dining across the dividers Shamus and Marcio at Bisushima, London WC2

Additional reporting: Rachel Obordo

• Shamus and Marcio ate at Bisushima, London WC2

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