"it's ok, he ain't one of those niggers, he's a West Indian"

This is a very hard thing to think about, not write about.

My parents met in the sixties in London it was a new time but you would have to be a brave person to have a mixed race relationship. Well that’s what my parents did.

My mother had been married before she met my father, she was living in the East End of London on the Mile End Road with her eleven children and her Maltese husband, she met my father and ran away with him leaving all her children and husband behind. Scandal.

They moved to South East London, where they began a respectable new life in the suburbs of leafy Sydenham.

My father was single and had no children, he was from Grenada in the West Indies and had arrived in London via Virginia USA, where he picked veg. He said he had a wonderful time in America, for him to have a wonderful time doing anything in my mind was unbelievable because he was so strict. He told a story of being taken out one evening by some men from the building their shared, he didn’t really want to go as he didn’t drink or smoke, or really have any bad habits. Anyway he went with them and as they drove along they were stopped by the police. All the men in the car jumped out and ran, leaving my father alone. Lucky for him being from the West Indies helped him, one of the Policemen on finding out he wasn’t American declared “Oh it’s alright, he aint a nigger, he’s one of those West Indians” I get it.

They dropped him off in town at the local brothel and warned him to stay away from those men he was mixing with. He wasn’t mixing with them and I know he didn’t because he was a very private, strict, man who didn’t have any close friends. I was terrified of him and if I confess probably still am.

He hardly ever smiled, sometimes he might come home early from work, that was very rare, but he never declared his presence in the house and as we were really latch key kids, they never normally got home until gone six and would be gone by seven in the morning. it would be a shock for me to see him coming out of the back room where he had been sitting listening to me and my brother having a laugh and being loud, something we weren’t we he was around. He would not acknowledge us. It was a terrifying experience. It was a very tense childhood with lots of being moaned at and hit. He would store things up and you didn’t have a clue. one day I was walking down the road with him, Burghill Road to be precise. and I was chatting away to him, it was strange though because I never went anywhere with him, he was always at work and the time he was at home I certainly didn’t want to spend it with him. I know that it sounds odd that I was chatting away but I hated his silences and I would chat away to try and get him to open up a bit, maybe laugh. I was quite a funny kid, I could make people laugh. I couldn’t make my father laugh. When we got home he hit me with a belt for some terrible crime I had committed. Just awful I hated him.

My mother Margaret was a bitch. She was downright horrible and I loved her. she was small and blond, she had a very bad temper and no patience whatsoever. Once she asked me to help her water the plants in the back garden, we got the hose out and she watered all the lovely flowers, they had beautiful flowers, Roses, and other big beautiful flowers with blooms as big as my little brown head. Well she told me to hold the hose for a moment I was so happy, I held it and accidentally splashed her, she went mental, she grabbed the hose and absolutely drenched me. I was dripping and crying next thing she grabbed me, dragged me shouting at me all the time. changed my wet clothes and then cuddled me and laughed. I loved her at moments like that, but they were few and far between and not when she called me a nigger. You see I knew the real Margaret, she loved my father beyond anything else and he loved her the same way they had no time for us, if my father wasn’t around she would be herself , she would smoke cigarettes, he didn’t know she smoked. She would swear, he didn’t know she swore. She would say the most horrible things, but she never hit me, much. I might have got the odd plate smashed over my head, but that was alright, better than the belt of my father. It did make me cry though I always felt humiliated.

Thank God they kicked us out the house as often as possible, I realize now they just wanted to be alone. Read (my childhood best friends) she had had eleven children and as she said to me “I only had you and your brother because your father didn’t have any children” Nice. I didn’t take it personally, I just didn’t know any different. I don’t think they should have bothered having any children because they certainly couldn’t wait to get rid of us, at the age of sixteen and seventeen, my brother and I were abandoned, my mother and father emigrated back to my fathers Island, we were not invited.

I was pleased to see the back of them

As she had cut all ties with her own family after the scandal of running off with my father and my father had no relatives in this country, we were alone in the truest sense. I have no Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents. How we survived I don’t know but we did.

I’m like them both they were adventurers. I’m adventurous. but in everything else I’m not. I’m not cruel and cold, I knew they were wrong when I was a little girl because I was clever, Like my mother. I’m quiet and serious sometimes, like my father but unlike him I can be lifted up and laughing in a moment. I’m a survivor, just like my mother, but I didn’t hurt anyone whilst surviving.

And finally when I had children of my own I made sure I loved them and had a laugh with them, unlike my parents.

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