You might remember the day. It was that Sunday in early May when we thought summer had arrived, the Sunday when the sun shone sizzling hot and endless.
Yes, that was the day that we, the Bath Refugee Welcome Team, agreed to work with Mohammed (not his real name), one of the recently arrived Syrian refugees in Bath, to clear his garden so he could plant his vegetables before Ramadan.
We tried not to grumble but the truth was, given the heat, we all
concluded that it would have been a more ‘enjoyable’ job had it been raining.
To keep our spirits up our translator ordered in ten tons of falafels in
wraps (and chips) for everyone who had turned up to help with the garden. Then
she headed off to the park with the children. There were axes and saws involved
in our labours. We figured that the park would be a safer place for the children to
spend the afternoon.
Those left behind, replete with falafel wraps, got on with it. It was hard,
hard work. Mohamad worked hardest of all – until the sweat ran off him. We all
lost track of the time as we dug deep and piled up rubble, and tore up the matted
roots of bamboo. Those roots were everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
I hadn’t noticed that Mohamad’s mobile was perched on the back wall.
Nor, I suspect, had anyone else.
In the midst of all our chopping and scraping, and sawing and snipping
there suddenly came the sound of the most beautiful music and haunting vocals.
We all stopped working. Someone looked toward the neighbouring house that
overlooked Mohamad’s house and they frowned thinking some neighbour was
trying to make a point. I spotted the phone. My immediate thought was that I’d
like a ring-tone like that. It was then that someone spoke up.
“Love that music. Really awesome and so thoughtful; entertainment while
we work. Thanks Mohamad.”
We all looked to Mohamad and smiled our gratitude then looked toward
his phone. He returned our smiles and although he did not understand our
words or know our thoughts I’m pretty sure that he could tell that we were
He wiped his hands on his trousers, picked up his phone and quietly said
in very unsure English, “Call to prayer.”
And he left us for just a short while.
Bernie Howley is one of the Refugee Welcome Team Leaders in Bath