Walthamstow. London. Know it?
Well, it was May. The sun was out, the sky was blue and I was in trouble as usual from my Wicked Witch of the West step mother. Or, step barbarian savage I should say. She would would tie me to a chair and beat me as well as use a shovel or a pick handle as a beater.
Now, I knew it was May because I had just had my 7th birthday. And I remember the sunshine because I was balancing on the edge of the shadows as I walked down the street.
And then! as if from nowhere appeared this man. No! I mean, this wasn’t just any man. This man was a giant. He reached to the clouds and his face was BLACK! I mean BLACK. It was as black as the creme of a tin of ZEBO and as smooth and shiny as a polished glass.
‘KLUNK’ my jaw dropped. In fact it didn’t just drop, it fell as wide open as was possible. I distinctly remember the gaping hole in my head as my jaw sunk as low as it could. WHITE! The man had huge white eyes. They were like golf balls bulging from their sockets and NO! The teeth. The teeth were as white as white could be hanging from pink gums with smoke from his cigarette billowing forth. I RAN…………….
Since then I have seen many children, with smiling faces looking at me with wide open mouths and gasping ‘He’s White!‘ You didn’t get much whiter than me. The sun never had the chance to kiss my body. No tan, nothing Just a pure white, sack of pathetic skin and bones.
Such was my first encounter with people from afar. My second was just around the corner. My father, (retired West Yorkshire Regiment officer) struggling to make ends meet, just after the war took on a lodger. I never saw much of him, except that he was black, always in a hurry and GONE!! He was escorted away by the local policeman having tried to rape the Wicked Witch of the West.
Life returned to normal and I was free to kick the dust and play with the thread from the holes in my pockets. As a beat up, skinny 4’8 3/4″ runt I bounced in and out of black eyes, grazed skin & I built a whole wardrobe of scars. Both internally and externally.
My next encounter with coloured folk wasn’t until 1963 when I joined the all arms P company Course in Aldershot. I was no longer a skinny 4′ 8 3/4″ runt. I was 5’8″ and still growing. I was super fit and my mind was crystal clear.
Fijians, Wow! They were good. No! They weren’t just good they were tremendous guys. I was just so proud of them and could look up to something good for the first time in my life.
I had changed. I was a man. Dad died and the whole family, some 60+ people from Grandfathers down, emigrated to Australia. The Wicked Witch of the West sold the house and was gone. I was alone. The War Department was now my father and the Corps of Royal Engineers my Mother. That was my life as an ‘over privileged’ white kid. I had nothing and nobody. And yet! I had everything. I had me! AND! I was now 5’10 1/2″. I hated being so white, and to cap it all I had a mop of stupid yellow stuff that fell from my head.