for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 27 September, 2020, antipathy.
Paul and Anna originally worked together at the charity RightWay, where Paul was a campaign organiser, as Anna was an intern, a law graduate helping the legal effort. The campaign which threw them together surrounded a particular aspect of the refugee crisis.
Thanks to successive wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, refugees were a fact of life in Europe, often crossing the Mediterranean Sea to gain entry. Favourite routes included Libya to Italy, and Turkey to Greece. Paul’s involvement stemmed from a disaster on 18th April 2015, when a boat laden with an estimated 700 refugees had capsized in Libyan waters, just over 100 miles short of the Italian coast. It was presumed that over 600 were drowned, and subsequent Italian efforts rescued only around fifty survivors. These survivors sparked Paul’s campaign. There would soon be a legal battle in the Italian courts surrounding the fate of these survivors, and therefore hard cash was required to fight the case.
The project came with its fair share of problems. In the UK, the Mediterranean was a long way away. It was a holiday destination, a whole airline flight away. Little did people know that those same refugees, just a few short years later, would be attempting to cross the sea once again, this time the English Channel, into the UK itself. But in 2015, the public’s reaction was apathy, if not antipathy -everybody had other problems without people trying to manufacture more.
The project required some late nights at work, as Paul looked for some ingenious way of generating public interest in the issue. The charity was small, and Paul usually worked alone, although tonight some new girl on the legal side had stayed behind to help. Paul had an embryonic idea for a campaign, but before he presented it to the trustees, he needed to finalise their own legal obligations.
Shortly after 7 o’clock, Paul stretched himself in his chair. He was stiff from being seated so long. He pushed his papers away and let out a sigh. “I’m absolutely knackered”, he complained, “do you mind if we take five minutes?”. Anna was feeling tired herself, so Paul’s request was music to her ears. They agreed on getting a takeaway, doing another hour, then resuming tomorrow. The office had an alcove, a tiny kitchen, where there were a few menus on the wall. The weather outside was quite drizzly so straight away, the takeaway which delivered stood out. They both went straight to the vegan section of the menu. Paul was surprised.
– Vegan? You going veggie tonight?
– I’m always veggie.
Paul was suddenly more aware.
– Really? There aren’t many of us about.
– Yeah, in fact not just vegetarian, I try to eat vegan too.
Of course, this became a subject of conversation while they took their break. By the time they began working again, Paul had decided that this girl was indeed interesting. He would really have to learn her name!
I did some fact-checking before I wrote this piece. The vessel capsizing is unfortunately true. Date, location, losses… all true. The story I constructed around that event is pure fiction. As this one is almost a prequel, it is probably good standalone. But if anybody is interested, I built backgrounds to these characters below.