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Having returned to England our family moved to Croydon. The area was not the most salubrious of locations but was ideally located near a school, nursery and a Hospital where my Mother worked as a nurse.
Following the Second World War, Britain had experienced a period of high immigration as people from the Commonwealth, and particularly from the West Indies, had been encouraged by the British Government to come and work in the UK.
Many of these people endured extreme prejudice and intolerance from sectors of the indigenous British society and early African-Caribbean immigrants found private employment and housing denied to them on the basis of race. It was so bad that even the Trade unions would often refuse to help African-Caribbean workers.
Throughout the 1950’s there had been a number of Riots and racially motivated violence was common place right into the early 60’s.
It is against this background and the fact that my parents were returning from overseas tours where they had been part of the British expatriate community that in the late 60's I became best friends with a young West Indian lad called Steven.
This poem, based on memory and discussions with my mother, describes how two kids from different racial backgrounds became best friends and remained completely oblivious to the racial tension which our parents must have been so conscious of. I just wish that such friendships would replace intolerance and racism all over the world.
I hope you like this poem;
Early Memories – UK I
Mum had said Steven could come and play
but only if his mother said OK.
So when I saw them in a shop
I dragged my mum toward them.
‘This is Steven and his mum’ I said.
I didn’t see our mums’ surprise
as I looked at them with pleading eyes;
for whilst Steven was West Indian
he’d lived his life in England,
but a product of the Empire I was expat born and bred.
Our parents were of an age
Where race and colour like a cage
trapped them with convention
which today it’s taboo to mention.
Our mothers shone that day
As they pushed the barriers away
and let their boys play together;
Two best friends who saw each other
as if we each had gained a brother.
John Carré Buchanan
27 January 2012