And this sort of thing was happening at a time when the English people starting to make rab about how too much West Indians coming to the country: this was a time, when any corner you turn, is ten to one you bound to bounce up a spade. In fact, the boys all over London, it ain’t have a place where you wouldn’t find them, and big discussion going on in Parliament about the situation, though the old Brit’n too diplomatic to clamp down on the boys or to do anything drastic like stop them from coming to the Mother Country. But big headlines in the papers every day, and whatever the newspaper and the radio say in this country, that is the people Bible. Like one time when newspapers say that the West Indians think that the streets of London paved with gold a Jamaican fellar went to the income tax office to find out something and first thing the clerk tell him is, “You people think the streets of London are paved with gold?”
For the old Waterloo is a place of arrival and departure, is a place where you see people crying goodbye and kissing welcome, and he hardly have time to sit down on a bench before this feeling of nostalgia hit him and he was surprise. It have some fellars who in Brit’n long, and yet they can’t get away from the habit of going Waterloo whenever a boat-train coming in with passengers from the West Indies. They like to see the familiar faces, they like to watch their countrymen coming off the train, and sometimes they might spot somebody they know[…].
But Moses, he never in this sort of slackness: the thought never occur to him to go to Waterloo just to see who coming up from the West Indies. Still, the station is that sort of place where you have a soft feeling. It was here that Moses did land when he come to London[…]. Perhaps he was thinking is time to go back to the tropics, that’s why he feeling sort of lonely and miserable.
It ain’t have no s— over here like “both of we is Trinidadians and we must help out one another.” You going to meet a lot of fellars from home who don’t even want to talk to you, because they have matters on the mind. So the sooner you get settled the better for you. London not like Port of Spain. Don’t ask plenty questions, and you will find out a lot. I don’t usually talk to fellars like this, but I take a fancy for you, my blood take you.
It have a kind of fellar who does never like people to think that they unaccustomed to anything, or that they are strangers in a place, or that they don’t know where they going. They would never ask you how to get to Linden Gardens or if number 49 does go down High Street Ken. From the very beginning they out to give you the impression that they hep, that they on the ball, that nobody could tie them up.
It ain’t have no place in the world that exactly like a place where a lot of men get together to look for work and draw money from the Welfare State while they ain’t working. Is a kind of place where hate and disgust and avarice and malice and sympathy and sorrow and pity all mix up. Is a place where everyone is your enemy and your friend. Even when you go to draw a little national assistance it don’t be so bad, because when you reach that stage is because you touch bottom. But in the world today, a job is all the security a man have. A job mean place to sleep, food to eat, cigarette to smoke. And even though it have the Welfare State in the background, when a man out of work he like a fish out of water gasping for breath. It have some men, if they lose their job it like the world end, and when two-three weeks go by and they still ain’t working, they get so desperate they would do anything.
It have some men in this world, they don’t do nothing at all, and you feel that they would dead from starvation, but day after day you meeting them and they looking hale, they laughing and they talking as if they have a million dollars, and in truth it look as if they would not only live longer than you but they would dead happier.
When Bart leave the hostel he get a clerical job and he hold on to it like if is gold, for he frighten if he have to go and work in factory—that is not for him at all. Many nights he think about how so many West Indians coming, and it give him more fear than it give the Englishman, for Bart frighten if they make things hard in Brit’n. If a fellar too black, Bart not companying him much, and he don’t like to be found in the company of the boys, he always have an embarrass air when he with them in public, he does look around as much as to say: “I here with these boys, but I not one of them, look at the colour of my skin.”
But a few door slam in Bart face, a few English people give him the old diplomacy, and Bart boil down and come like one of the boys.
It have people living in London who don’t know what happening in the room next to them, far more the street, or how other people living. London is a place like that. It divide up in little worlds, and you stay in the world you belong to and you don’t know anything about what happening in the other ones except what you read in the papers. Them rich people who does live in Belgravia and Knightsbridge and up in Hampstead and them other plush places, they would never believe what it like in a grim place like Harrow Road or Notting Hill. Them people who have car, who going to theatre and ballet in the West End, who attending premiere with the royal family, they don’t know nothing about hustling two pound of brussel sprout and half-pound potato, or queuing up for fish and chips in the smog. People don’t talk about things like that again, they come to kind of accept that is so the world is, that it bound to have rich and poor.
Jesus Christ, when he say “Charing Cross,” when he realize that is he, Sir Galahad, who going there, near that place that everybody in the world know about (it even have the name in the dictionary) he feel like a new man. It didn’t matter about the woman he going to meet, just to say he was going there made him feel big and important, and even if he was just going to coast a lime, to stand up and watch the white people, still, it would have been something.
Though it used to have times when he lay down there on the bed in the basement room in the Water, and all the experiences like that come to him, and he say “Lord, what it is we people do in this world that we have to suffer so? What it is we want that the white people and them find it so hard to give? A little work, a little food, a little place to sleep. We not asking for the sun, or the moon. We only want to get by, we don’t even want to get on.” And Galahad would take his hand from under the blanket […]. And Galahad watch the colour of his hand, and talk to it, saying, “Colour, is you that causing all this, you know. Why the hell you can’t be blue, or red or green, if you can’t be white? You know is you that cause a lot of misery in the world. Is not me, you know, is you! I ain’t do anything to infuriate the people and them, is you! Look at you, you so black and innocent, and this time so you causing misery all over the world!”
The cruder you are the more the girls like you you can’t put on any English accent for them or play ladeda or tell them you studying medicine in Oxford or try to be polite and civilize they don’t want that sort of thing at all they want you to live up to the films and stories they hear about black people living primitive in the jungles of the world that is why you will see so many of them African fellars in the city with their hair high up on the head like they ain’t had a trim for years and with scar on their face and a ferocious expression going about with some real sharp chicks the cruder you are the more they like you[…].
Sometimes I look back on all the years I spend in Brit’n, […] and I surprise that so many years gone by. Looking at things in general life really hard for the boys in London. This is a lonely miserable city, if it was that we didn’t get together now and then to talk about things back home, we would suffer like hell. Here is not like home where you have friends all about. In the beginning you would think that is a good thing, that nobody minding your business, but after a while you want to get in company, you want to go to somebody house and eat a meal, you want to go on excursion to the sea, you want to go and play football and cricket. Nobody in London does really accept you. They tolerate you, yes, but you can’t go in their house and eat or sit down and talk. It ain’t have no sort of family life for us here.
In the grimness of the winter, with your hand plying space like a blind man’s stick in the yellow fog, with ice on the ground and a coldness defying all effort to keep warm, the boys coming and going, working, eating, sleeping, going about the vast metropolis like veteran Londoners.
Sometimes he think he see some sort of profound realization in his life, as if all that happen to him was experience that make him a better man, as if now he could draw apart from any hustling and just sit down and watch other people fight to live. Under the kiff-kiff laughter, behind the ballad and the episode, the what-happening, the summer-is-hearts, he could see a great aimlessness, a great restless, swaying movement that leaving you standing in the same spot. As if a forlorn shadow of doom fall on all the spades in the country. As if he could see the black faces bobbing up and down in the millions of white, strained faces, everybody hustling along the Strand, the spades jostling in the crowd, bewildered, hopeless. As if, on the surface, things don’t look so bad, but when you go down a little, you bounce up a kind of misery and pathos and a frightening—what? He don’t know the right word, but he have the right feeling in his heart. As if the boys laughing, but they only laughing because they fraid to cry, they only laughing because to think so much about everything would be a big calamity—like how he here now, the thoughts so heavy like he unable to move his body.