Every generation lives a new manifestation of the experiences of the previous one. Often it is difficult for us to see how much we mirror the actions and ideologies of our forefathers. This four-part series aims to be both a mirror and a looking glass. As you, the reader, look at the lives of the Windrush generation, it is hoped that you will be able to see your reflection and gain an appreciation for how their courage and sacrifice has shaped you.
Arrival in England
Pillars of black and white smoke pollute the clear blue sky. The scent of fresh bass, mullet and mackerel permeates the air. A ship’s horn blares as it pulls off. Exiting the port is a group of young black men between the ages of 18 to 25. They look almost identical in their square suits and matching hats; some brown, some blue, some grey. With rucksacks and travel bags thrown over their shoulders, they exit the port and make their way to the train station.
They are a little bit disoriented and are following the one who they think knows the way. He is only leading because he’s too embarrassed to admit that he’s equally confused and lost. Their minds process the airbrushing their skin; to them, it feels like external air conditioning. Finally, turning the corner, they see the entrance to Southampton Central station. On entering the station, one by one they step up to the desk and buy their ticket to their destination.
“A single to Northampton Castle Station please,” says David.
* * *
He sits solitarily on the train in a table seat. His bags are facing him; his eyes gazing out the window at the countryside. Michaelmas daisies, milkweeds and bellflowers stretch their petals to the sky taking in their last rays of sunshine before the sun goes on its annual leave. A couple walks down the aisle of the carriage. The male has his arm thrown over the female’s shoulder. Stopping, they sit in the seats just in front of David. The female is wearing a pink dress with circles of blue and white flowers on it. His heart aches.
The train slows down before coming to a complete stop. Taking his bags, David begins to leave the train. Before stepping through the door, he glances back at the couple. As he exits the station, a loud pitch scream pierces the air.
Looking to the source of the sound, he sees a slim woman with brown hair in a buttoned-down white dress running towards him. He smiles as he waves and walks towards her. When she is in reaching distance of him, she stops and throws her arms around him.
“Hello! How are you? How was your trip?”
“It was good. I met some nice people on the ship; made some friends. How are you Gloria?”
Releasing him, Gloria smiles and looks him over.
“I’m good, happy you are here.” Gloria starts walking. David follows. “Elton is going to meet us at home. He’ll be finished work soon. You can only stay with us a few days. That’s as long as the landlord will allow but I’m going to help you find a place. It won’t be too hard. We just have to ask around a bit. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get you a room, if not then just a bed, maybe.”
They stop at a bus stop.
“How is mummy? She probably wasn’t too happy to see you go.”
“No, she wasn’t but mummy is mummy. She’s always going to be the same – over-protective. Daddy was for it; he really liked the idea, so he helped me convince her to be okay with it.”
“And Gwen? You must be missing her.”
Gloria stretches out her hand and the red double-decker bus approaching stops. Picking up his bags, David boards the bus.
Jade M. Gibbons is a writer and film-maker with a passion for telling stories that matter.
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Check Thursday’s e-paper for Windrush: from whence they came from (Part 4).