Lev is an economic migrant from an un-named post-Soviet society. He rattles around London- with an excursion to the asparagus fields of Suffolk- picking up skills, making the right friends, loving the wrong people. It's a book I'd recommend to anyone wanting to get a feel for the realities of England in the Nineties and Noughties- multicultural, battered, full of aspiration- and if it doesn't manage to bag itself a niche in the canon of so-called classics there's little justice in the literary world.
Samina asked us round to celebrate Zayam's birthday. Apart from us it was all family. Nakisha was playing One Direction vids. She kept pausing the one where they're in a hall of memory hung with photos of their past lives to tell us, "Now this is really moving." Which it is. There was a wonderful birthday cake in the shape a cartoon character I didn't recognize which came not with candles but with a miniature firework that threw out golden rain. Zayam got just the one present- an i-pad, which Nakisha took off him and set up with a screen-saver of super heroes. As we were leaving Shiraz regaled us with stories of break-ins and stabbings and rapes and how we've got to watch out because the Roma are coming.