When summer arrives, Galahad is cold. “I don’t know why I hot in the winter and cold in the summer,” he says to Moses, who pokes fun at his friend. Nonetheless, things are going well for Galahad, who takes great delight in living in London and “using the names of the places like they mean big romance, as if to say ‘I was in Oxford Street’ have more prestige than if he just say ‘I was up the road.’” Indeed, when he says something like, “She waiting for me by Charing Cross Station,” he “feel like a new man.” Likewise, he loves going to the Piccadilly Tube Station to marvel at its large clock and to watch the people passing through the station. Moses says he was like that when he first came to London, but all those places mean nothing to him now.
The difference between Moses and Galahad is apparent in this moment, especially when Moses says that the places that so entice Galahad mean nothing to him now that he’s been in London for so long. Galahad, on the other hand, finds “big romance” in merely uttering the names of well-known landmarks, as if these words are majestic in and of themselves. Indeed, the thrill he derives from existing in London makes him feel “like a new man,” a fact that illustrates just how much immigration can impact a person’s sense of self.
Because Galahad works the nightshift, he walks through the streets tired and dirty every morning, passing people he’s barely able to greet due to his intense fatigue. In the evenings, though, he puts on his best clothes and strolls around, saying hello to everybody and thinking, “This is London, this is life oh lord, to walk like a king with money in your pocket, not a worry in the world.” While walking like this one evening, he passes a white woman and her daughter, who says, “Mummy, look at that black man!” Instantly, the mother says, “You mustn’t say that, dear!” but Galahad stoops and gives the child an affectionate pat on the cheek, saying, “What a sweet child!” as the youngster begins to cry. “What’s your name?” he asks, but the mother quickly becomes uncomfortable and backs away, leaving Galahad alone on the sidewalk.
By telling her daughter to not remark upon Galahad’s race, this mother tacitly frames blackness as something to be ashamed of, acting like her daughter has just insulted Galahad when, in reality, all she’s done is notice the color of his skin. This is most likely why Galahad is unperturbed by the comment, though when he pats the little girl on the cheek, she backs away, solidifying the idea that her remark was, in fact, an expression of fear, as it becomes obvious that blackness bears negative connotations for her.
Regarding Galahad’s interaction with the white woman and her child on the sidewalk, the narrator writes: “If that episode did happen around the first time when he land up in London, oh Lord! he would have run to the boys, telling them he have a big ballad.” Now, though, Galahad simply smiles at the racist mother as she inches away. Nonetheless, he sometimes lies on his bed and thinks, “What it is we want that the white people and them find it so hard to give?” Looking at his hand, he says, “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. […] I ain’t do anything to infuriate the people and them, is you!”
Galahad’s thoughts about color underline just how arbitrary racism is. Stepping back to think about it, he’s confounded that people treat him so badly simply because of the color of his skin, which has nothing to do with who he is or how he behaves. This understanding of the utter stupidity of racism is perhaps what helps him cope with his unfortunate interaction with this mother and her daughter—knowing that such discrimination is petty and ridiculous, he doesn’t feel the need to run to his friends and tell them this story (and after all, this tale wouldn’t strike them as noteworthy, as they’ve all been through similar instances).