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 have shaped you.
From Gatwick to Derngate
Gwen’s plane lands at Gatwick. With her sister Joyce in tow, she heads for the exit. Dragging their suitcases between them, Gwen and Joyce run to the bus which has already closed its doors and started moving. On seeing them in his rear-view mirror, the driver brings the vehicle to a halt. As he opens the doors, they scramble up the steps. Gwen trips as she pulls her suitcase into the bus. Her sister helps her up.
“You alright Gwen?”
Dusting her skirt off Gwen replies, “I’m fine.”
Their familiar accent pricks the bus driver’s ears and brings a smile to his face.
“Where you ladies heading?”
“The nearest post office. Does your route pass any?”
“Gwen,” Joyce interjects, “don’t you think we should find some place to stay first?”
“No, I want to send a letter to David as soon as possible so he knows I’m here.”
“You didn’t tell him you were coming?”
“No, it’s a surprise.”
“But where will you tell him you are staying? He won’t be able to reply to you since you won’t have a return address you know.”
“If you ladies need some beds, I know a woman from our country who owns a house in Camberwell. I’m sure she won’t mind renting to you.”
“See,” Gwen says to Joyce, “we’re staying in Camberwell, easy.”
“How will we get there?” Joyce retorts.
“This bus stops near Clapham Junction. You girls can take a train from there to Denmark Hill Station. Camberwell Road is only a short walk from there. Her name is Miss Uvetta Taylor, a fair skin, thick woman. I can’t remember the house number but it near a little fish and chips shop.”
“I guess two singles to Clapham then.”
The bus driver smiles.
Tucked away in the corner of Guildhall Road and Angel Street, stands a 29-year-old structure. It stretches five stories high, its brickwork alternating between burnt orange and pale beige. Inside this building, known as The Derngate, soft lights dance on the ceiling. Twisting and turning, they collide and greet each other along the way. They are the only source of illumination for the auditorium besides the hard spotlights on the stage. A slim, red-skinned woman stands centre stage with hair that is almost half her size. Its stiff, voluminous nature gives it away as a wig. She is wearing a long, silver sequin dress. Behind her, a band made up of saxophonists, pianists, guitarists and drummers groove to the melody they are creating.
The bodies in the audience sway to the rhythm, moving their arms fluidly through the air. In this audience is a couple of fifty-five years. The man, David, sits in a brown coat with his purple and green tie showing. On his feet are brown square-mouth shoes. He has a full head of hair even though the strands are lighter and thinner than they once were. His small eyes are dignified by an array of wrinkles and slightly wet from a build-up of tears. They are glued to the woman next to him, Gwen. She is his wife and the mother of his three daughters. A smile is drawn across her face. It is so big and radiant that even in the dimly lit auditorium its luminous nature is evident. Her plump body shakes under her purple coat. Her lips mumble the words; she knows them with precise clarity. Snapping her fingers, she shakes her head from left to right. She intentionally bumps her sister Joyce who is sitting to the other side of her. They bump shoulders to the beat.
Jade M. Gibbons is a writer and film-maker with a passion for telling stories that matter. To find out more visit https://www.jadegibbons246.com