South Park Self

prease contact me

You find them in your postbox quite often: those little slips of paper, carefully trimmed off an A4 sheet, and inscribed in the painstaking, erratic print of someone whose literacy is fairly marginal. The writer advertises themselves as "Malawian gardener" or "Malawian lady", trading on, one imagines, the popular Southern African stereotype of Malawians as cheerful, honest and magical with gardens. (We had a Malawian gardener when I was a kid. He was, if I remember correctly, rather taciturn, but he used to feed us bits of the mealies he roasted for himself on the boiler fire, and he grew amazing vegetables). They ask for a job as a gardener, as a housekeeper, or in today's example, as a child minder.

These slips are often hand-written individually rather than being photocopied; they give a cell phone number, and in some cases the cell phone number of a reference. They are carefully polite and unassuming, a modest request quietly left rather than an intrusive in-person appeal. They are quintessentially humble. They represent, I think, in many cases the absolute desperation of someone who is in a foreign country, almost certainly without money or support, attempting to construct a life for themselves in an environment which is, while probably more rife with opportunity than their home country, neither easy nor welcoming. They are the last-ditch attempt of someone who is too proud to beg.

They break my heart.