“Oh blimey”, I thought, “another call to another bloody mosque”.
The woman had apparently collapsed, people do a lot of collapsing in churches and the like, and with the proliferation of mosques in my area it's only natural that some of them collapse a well.
We were met by lots of women in the full covering Niqab, eyes staring accusingly out at us.
They managed to find someone who spoke English (a miracle in itself) who told us that we weren't allowed to enter the mosque while wearing our boots. There was a bit of a Mexican stand-off when they realised the I was refusing to take them off.
Finally they decided to let me in, but I didn't need to speak Bengali to realise that they weren't happy about this, and the muttering continued.
The patient was laying on the floor, obviously she didn't speak English so we had to make do. One of the women was concerned that a man would be touching her – I soon let them know that it was too bad – I was the person that they had and they would best put up with it.
We got out of there as quickly as possible – there are lots of places in Newham where us non-muslims feel threatened. You never know what they are up to.
And that's enough fantasy – now for the reality of the call.
We were met by the women who welcomed us into the mosque, boots included. I've sometimes been asked if I can remove them, but as soon as I apologise and that say I can't do that for health and safety reasons I've been allowed in without a second word.
One of the ladies there was doing a sterling job of translating for us, she'd already jotted down the patient's details on a bit of paper for us. The ladies also helped us get the patient onto our carry chair.
As we were about to leave, they came to the ambulance and offered us some drinks and cakes, we declined as we'd just had a fry-up breakfast, but took a drink for the patient and her daughter.
At no point did I feel threatened, worried or out of place. The only thing I was worried about (besides my patient) was that they had a really nice carpet and I didn't want my size twelve boots getting it dirty. As they were welcoming to me I wanted to be as accommodating as possible.
There is a lot of huff and puff about offending people, of cultural sensitivity, but as long as you treat people like human beings I've found that you can't go far wrong.
(I'm now off to install Vista *shudder* on my Macbook for gaming purposes, I may be gone some time… A quick question though – is the UK dar al aman? Assuming I've spelt that right…)