Dining across the divide: ‘I thought, bloody hell, this is ridiculous’

<span>Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Nickie, 68, Stockport


Occupation Setting up an astrology company, after a career in sales

Voting record Labour for the past 40 years or so, Tory before that

Amuse bouche Nickie is a keen ice skater; her son is appearing in Disney on Ice

Mike, 46, Stockport


Occupation Support worker in an NHS mental health crisis team, and in the final year of an MA in social work

Voting record Labour ever since he began voting, except in 2019, when he voted Lib Dem

Amuse bouche David used to compete in muay thai, the national sport of Thailand

For starters

Mike I was there 10 minutes early.

Nickie He was very respectable. You think younger blokes who are a bit smartly dressed are going to be quite rightwing. The views that he had, I would have expected longer hair.

Mike I’d expected a hippy, with dreadlocks, because of the astrology. But she looked very smart, a bit glam. She seemed quite vibrant, full of energy and inquisitive.

Nickie I had a mushroom pizza and we shared a bottle of red. We had a couple of cocktails as well.

Mike I had a gnocchi and prawn dish.

Mike and Nickie
Mike and Nickie

The big beef

Nickie We did disagree about immigration. I’m quite idealistic about it. When you look down at the Earth, you don’t see any borders, and that’s how I see the world. But he meets more people from different backgrounds than I do, and he says the problem is that there’s self-imposed segregation. My view is informed by the 60s and 70s, and it was different then. Muslim women didn’t cover up and there was much less emphasis on difference.

Mike It’s not like I want immigration to stop dead – I don’t. I work for an NHS crisis team. I go through all the poorest communities in Manchester. And I see the way communities group together, out of deprivation and difficulty, but that just makes the situation worse. I feel that without a government focus on improving conditions and access to opportunities, by allowing immigration we’re forcing people into a situation where life will be even harder.

Nickie We both agreed that that’s about poverty. If your back’s against the wall, you stick together. I could see his point of view, but I still think you can get people to mix in other ways.

Mike I see victims of torture, being forced to wait by the Home Office. They’re getting £37 or £38 a week to live on, in vouchers. What have they come to? They might be physically safe, but this isn’t psychological safety.

Mike and Nickie
Mike and Nickie

Sharing plate

Nickie I brought up LGBTQ+ issues and he’s very inclusive, as am I.

Mike I don’t know why she was so surprised. Maybe because I sound a bit traditional. I had a cardigan on, a button-up shirt, so maybe I look like someone who might not be in favour of trans rights. But I work with people in the trans community and they’re great. I know someone transitioning from male to female and hear about her struggles. I accept her fully as a woman.

Nickie We ended up agreeing on the royal family as well – that we had to have a head of state, but we could do without the pomp and ceremony.

Mike I actually felt I was more in favour of the royals than she was. William and Harry’s focus on mental health, on renewable energy – they’re not stuffy old kings, stuck in the past. To me, they feel really relevant.

Mike and Nickie
Mike and Nickie

For afters

Nickie We had one disagreement that surprised me. He thinks women are really different from men – that they’re not as competitive or career oriented. I thought: bloody hell, this is ridiculous. Clearly, the women he knows aren’t the same as the ones I know. I accept that men are physically stronger, and women give birth and men don’t. Anything else, I can’t see a difference.

Mike Nickie’s an outlier, and I am, to an extent. She was the breadwinner in her family, she had to fight her corner in sales. I’m in the care sector, a typically female profession. We don’t represent our genders. She felt all the differences between men and women are cultural, to do with socialisation. I think if you got rid of all those messages, we’d still be different.

Mike and Nickie
Mike and Nickie


Nickie I’m setting up an initial talk for my astrology business and I asked him to come, because I want to hear feedback from a sceptic. He agreed.

Mike She said the star signs you see in the paper are cod-astrology. Hers is more mathematical. But she guessed my star sign wrong. She thought it was Capricorn when actually I’m on the cusp of Cancer and Leo.

Mike and Nickie
Mike and Nickie

Additional reporting: Rachel Obordo

• Nickie and Mike ate at The Produce Hall, Stockport

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