Around the corner from where I live there's a refugee hostel in a converted church.
It provided the setting for some of the scenes in Trading Tatiana.
When I wrote the book, the system was very different from now.
In those days families would be housed there in flimsy adapted units for months at a time.
The children went to local schools, learned English, made friends ...
... and then disappeared without warning to be dispersed around the country or deported.
These days no one stays longer than a few days.
A fleet of mini-buses sits outside at all hours, moving lost and confused-looking people in and out like livestock.
I walked past yesterday.
3 guys were sitting on the steps outside talking quietly.
I looked into the eyes of a man who reminded me a bit of my brother and wondered what his story was.
What sights had he seen?
What had induced him to leave his home and seek refuge here?
I'd never seen him before.
He wouldn't have been there the previous day and he won't be there the next, when his place will be taken by another refugee with another story.
An elderly English couple was walking towards me.
'Just look at them hanging about,' the man grumbled. 'That's all they ever do. Just hang about ...'
Strange, isn't it?
We were looking in the same direction but seeing very different things.
I saw a fellow human being.
He saw a problem.
I saw a victim.
He saw a scrounger.
I wonder what that young man saw when he looked at us ...