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Dining across the divide: ‘He’s under no illusions about the origins of meat’

<span>Photograph: Gary Calton/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Gary Calton/The Guardian

John, 71, Pickering, North Yorkshire


Occupation Retired engineer
Voting record Votes for the candidate, not the party, and currently supports the Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, “a very good man, in with the wrong gang at the moment”
Amuse bouche Keeps four bullocks, though being five months old, they are properly called stirks

Linda, 59, Scarborough, North Yorkshire


Occupation Semi-retired university tutor
Voting record Brought up in a Tory household, cast her first vote for Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Since then has floated between Lib Dems, Greens and, predominantly, Labour
Amuse bouche Recently played a Paraguayan millionaire in an amateur production of 1920s musical Mr Cinders

For starters

Linda He arrived first – he looked sweet and approachable, not at all like a scary fascist.

John Linda seemed very friendly, very amicable, very lighthearted – a lovely kind of woman.

Linda I had a risotto – I’m pescatarian – then an amazing ice-cream with creme brulee.

John I had beef pie with square chips, triple-thingy-ed.

Linda I think he’s one of the most charming men that I’ve met. Apart from my husband, obviously.

John She’s kind, forgiving. She doesn’t like what I do or how I live.

John and Linda
John and Linda

The big beef

Linda In a rich country like the UK, there’s no need to eat meat. There’s so much choice. Why bother having something killed to eat a corpse? John likes to have livestock. He said he had too many cockerels at one point, so had them dispatched and then ate them. I just thought, there’s millions of other things you could eat, why not just leave the poor buggers alone? But the most shocking thing was his Christmas present for his kids this year. He personally selects a sheep and then takes it to the abattoir to be butchered, then gives it to them in a box. He did it last year. I said: “Did they like it?” And he said: “They didn’t say, so I’m doing it again this year.”

John I think her idea of animals is you keep them until they get old and die. But Linda likes fish. I pointed out to her that fish go through an awful trauma to end up on our plates. She didn’t think that was the case, until I explained to her that, if I’m a fish 300ft deep in water, and I go from there to surface in the time it takes to winch a net up, my swim bladder would blow up inside me. I’d rather be a sheep and have somebody pop me off quickly than go through that.

Linda One thing I will say for him is that he’s under no illusions about the origins of meat. And he knew much more about deep-sea fishing than I do.

John I could see it clonking in her head: “I’ve never thought of that.”

John and Linda
John and Linda

Sharing plate

Linda We had this massive similarity – I’m half-Polish and his wife is of Polish Jewish extraction. He’s been to Poland loads of times, and actually knows more about the country than I do, because my dad was traumatised by the war and never talked about it.

John They are wonderful people. You find connection in Poland, because that’s just the way it is.

Linda One thing I’m very sad about is the far-right Polish government, and Lukashenko in Belarus, shipping those poor refugees to the border where they’ll find no sanctuary.

John We agreed about immigration. People have to experience it for themselves before they can be critical of migrants. We both agreed that Priti Patel is a pretty nasty piece of work. And we understood mutually what you go through, what your parents’ generation might have gone through. So we were very connected.

John and Linda
John and Linda

For afters

Linda We were both utterly condemnatory about Prince Andrew. We both thought it was disgusting that Boris Johnson said the royals were “beyond reproach”.

John But I think Prince Charles has a lot to be praised for. We’re all talking about eco-this and conservation-that. He’s been doing it for 50-odd years.

John and Linda
John and Linda


John She wrote her number on a piece of paper, with one of those pencils you girls use to paint your eyes with. The kind of thing you do on a first date. It was a lovely, not-to-be forgotten evening.

Linda I said: “If you’re ever in Scarborough, give me a call.”

John and Linda
John and Linda

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

• John and Linda ate at Ox Pasture Hall, Scarborough

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