The Citroën Saxo is a supermini produced by the French manufacturer Citroën (PSA) from 1996 to 2003. It was also sold in Japan as the Citroën Chanson. It shares many engine and body parts with the Peugeot 106 (which itself was a development of the Citroën AX), the major difference being interiors and body panels. It was replaced by the Citroën C2 in the autumn of 2003.
Mohammed rolls a spliff carefully, there isn’t much weed left, he needs to be sparing, not waste any. He sparks up, takes a deep drag and passes it onto Yahya.
Its early or late, cold, dark, middle of February, not a good night to sitting in a car, but this is what they do, night after night. Park up, not too near the estate, don’t want people to see them, tell their parents, pass judgement and not too far away, they don’t want to stick out, attract attention by being in the wrong part of town.
The car belongs to Mahad or more accurately, Mahads’ older brother, but he’s away at the moment, doing 6 months for the most inept burglaries in his on-going career of inept crime waves and in his absence, Mahad gets the car and gets to sit in the drivers’ seat, Mohammed gets the front passenger seat, because he brought the weed and Yahya is scrunched in the back, leaning forward, his face illuminated with a faint glow from the spliff end.
They are talking about their favorite subjects, cars, money and girls, they’ve been talking about nothing else really since Year 7, sometimes Mohammed thinks they’ll still be having the same conversation when they’re 60.
When they were 11 or 12 , they would have passionate arguments about sports cars, debates about the Porsche versus the Boxter, emotions would run high, normally settled by Mahad thumping Yahya until he gave in, nothing has really changed, Mahad is still in charge, the temporary ownership of the 14 year old car has simply re-enforced his status in their tiny crew.
And Mohammed has to admit that the car is useful, has widened their horizons, they don’t have to hang around the stairwells, the covered walkways anymore, keeping a watchful eye for the Feds and more importantly, the self styled community leaders, the devout, all of them quick to tell parents about infractions, real and imagined.
The car gives them some privacy, some status with the younger kids. When they have money, they buy a tenners worth of petrol, drive around the estate, music blasting, windows open wide, waving at younger brothers and sisters making their way home from Madrassa and then later, once mothers’ are busy with bedtimes and rounding up the smaller ones, they amble out with shouts of “later” and they are gone.
Tonight they are parked up at KFC, have already bought some chicken wings and two milk shakes and now as the weed kicks in, they are debating if they have enough money for another milk shake.
The car park is mostly deserted, just a National Express coach. The passengers have shambled out, grey faced, tired, heading towards the lights of the take away. Mahad is checking out the women, commenting loudly, his voice drops though when he sees a Somali woman carrying a baby, with two older children walking close beside her.
Mohammed scrolls through his I-Pod, trying to find a tune, he clicks on Cashtastic, its old, from last summer, but it will do and within seconds all three boys are singing along
“Lets talk about pain, lets talk about a struggle and a strain”
Cashtastic is cool, real, still street, still keeping it fresh. He is the the coolest Somali they know of.
There is nothing cool about being Somali in Leicester, nobody looks up to them, nobody wants to be them. All the boys knew what the teachers at school thought about them, not just them, even the good kids, the ones who worked hard, even them. Mohammed can remember one day, being outside the staff room, some detention, punishment and over hearing the teachers talking about Somalis, their big families, living off benefits, husbands all over the world. He could hear the disgust, the judgments in their voices. Looking back, it was the day he decided to stop trying at school.
The memory still makes him angry, puts a bitter taste in his mouth, he slurps on the dregs on the milk shake, trying to dislodge both the bitterness suddenly in his mouth and the memory itself.
What the fuck did they know?
Somali-born migrants have the lowest employment rate among all immigrants in the UK. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show high rates of economic inactivity and unemployment amongst Somali immigrants. In the three months to June 2008, 31.4 percent of Somali men and 84.2 percent of Somali women were economically inactive (the statistics include students, carers and the long-term sick, injured or disabled in this group). Of those who were economically active, 41.4 percent of the men and 39.1 percent of the women were unemployed. Employment rates were 40.1 percent for men and 9.6 percent for women. The male employment rate has, however, risen from 21.5 percent in 1998.
A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research attributes the low employment rate to the newness of the Somali community and to the fact that most immigrants came in search of asylum rather than through labor migration channels. Data suggests asylum seekers in general appear to have more difficulty accessing employment. This includes skilled professionals who, while constituting a high proportion of Somali immigrants, have not all been able to find work in their field. Many have struggled to get the qualifications that they have gained in Somalia recognised in the UK. According to the Warwickshire Police Force and a report by ELWa, asylum seekers are also not legally allowed to work for payment since the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) (now the UK Border Agency) administers their monetary benefits while their claim is being processed
Mahad is talking about money, Mahad is always talking about money, how to get some, what to spend it on, plans to get rich.
Get rich or die trying.
Mahad is mean to be a college, meant to be studying business, but Mohammed knows he hasn’t been since November and it will only be a matter of time before he follows his brother to Glen Parva, the young offenders prison.
Yahya is different, softer, he is the only one in the crew who still goes to Friday prayers, fasts, a bit, in Ramadan. he still thinks that something will work out for him, that he can make something of himself, be a man. Something changes in him though, when, once, twice a year, his dad arrives from Sweden, starts laying down the law, telling his sons what they should be doing. Then, Yahya folds in on himself, hands turn into fists, face darkens. Then he is likely to suggest mad angry plans, push the others into doing things that cannot go well.
Mohammed stares out of the window, watching the passengers file back onto the coach, there is a girl, pale, pretty, he watches her climb the stairs, wonders for a moment what it would be like to have a white girl friend, take her home to the house with eleven children and his mum.
The boys don’t know any white girls, there weren’t any at their school, there weren’t any white boys either, well only Scott, who had been dashed out of two other schools and who used to sit under his desk and bark at teachers who annoyed him.
Mahad, who is , Mohammed reflects, actually a proper bad boy, has a secret girlfriend, he talks to her on a mobile that no-one else has the number to, sometimes he vanishes for a few hours and comes back, a gangsta swagger, shit eating grin, but no details which tells Mohammed only that this girl is not Somali and nothing will come of this, its just game playing.
Yahyas’ father has started talking about marriage, mentioned a couple of suitable girls, Khadra went to school with them, loud, funny, she was a good laugh at school, but man, she is ugly and when Yahya mentions her name, his face tightens, closes down. The boys don’t, for once, rip the piss. They change the subject.
It’s three in the morning now, they’ve done girls, cars and money and there’s no weed left and no point in hunting in the car for loose change, KFC is closed.
Another night of marking time is over.