‘I was born in Jamaica and came to England when I was 22 in April 1962.
I remember my flight took a whole week because the plane broke down… twice. After a breakdown at Kingston, we were grounded again in Canada while we waited for a spare part from a passenger plane from England.
The next morning, all the passengers refused to get back on the plane because we thought it was unsafe. The pilot and co-pilot had great difficulty convincing us but, eventually, we were off and finally landed at Heathrow on Friday morning.
I remember getting on the coach and looking out the window at London for the first time.
All the chimneys were belting out smoke from every house. I thought to myself, “What an earth is going on?” I’d never seen a coal fire burning before. It was quite a sight.
I had a fairly easy time compared to many people. My sister, who had come to London before me, had arranged my room and meals at a boarding house, so I was quite lucky to have a room to myself.
I worked in a factory for a few years before the foreman introduced me to night school, where I studied engineering.
I got married and became a self-employed builder – I’d been training as a carpenter in the West Indies before I came over here, so I had a lot of experience.
It was interesting work. I got to go to a new address every week - sometimes two or three in a day. I didn’t like working outside though. It was cold! We didn’t have this cold weather where I came from. But soon I realised there were garments you could buy to make yourself more comfortable.
It wasn’t just the weather that was different - it was a totally different way of life.
Totally different cultures. Here, it was a more serious way of life. Over there, everyone was a lot more friendly. Life was like a party every day.
You mustn't forget, we’d come from a World War where lots of people had died. People don’t realise how deeply war affects you and I think, for the two countries, this was just how each one expressed that experience.
There’s a big difference between England now and England then.
Back then, if you walked the streets of London at night you might have been accosted by Teddy Boys. If you were with friends, they may not trouble you. If you were alone, they might.
Some of the things that happened, like the Notting Hill riots and the Brixton race riots, they had a cause that led to them happening. It was similar to what's going on in the United States at the moment. Those causes have never really gone away. Really and truly, some of those feelings are still here too - just not as noticeable as they were back then.
I wasn’t actually meant to stay in London for this long.
My intention - like most Jamaicans at the time - was to spend five years in London, five years in Australia and five years in the States, before going back to the West Indies. But I’m still here!
Part of the reason I stayed was because I’d started a family. But mostly I stayed because an Englishman advised me not to go to Australia. He said that it wasn’t a wise thing to do. The racial biases there were a lot stronger than in England at the time, so I decided the best thing for my family was to stay here.
Politically, I think we’re at a crossroads as a country right now.
In 10 years’ time I think England will be a better place. Attitudes will have changed. We’re all individuals at the moment, but eventually we’ll all come together as one.
I may not be around then, but I think this will be the biggest positive change for this country.'
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