04 January 2005

About me 1

When I started this blog I was clueless, couldn't tell HTML from gobbledygook and just wanted somewhere to be occasionally silly, stretch the creative doodas and just get into the habit of writing.

Nosing around, I followed links and copied stuff and found myself resisting the urge to fill my basic single side column here with everything from a blogpet to a weather icon, just because I realised I could.

Now I'm getting into the swing of things, or at least edging my way towards understanding the basic sense of community on here and on the various supporting sites like blogexplosion ( see button) and starting to feel brave enough to leave comments at the nicer/funnier places I've found, it seems time (mostly for fear of return visits!) to paint myself into the scheme of things.

Born in Southall, West London, in a two-up two-down cottage with an outdoor loo and a tin bath hung on the wall in the back yard, I was there when Middlesex existed, when Southall wasn't part of Ealing and had its own town hall, and most of all before the rush of 'Asian' British citizens. To be honest, although it must have seemed like a mad and sudden influx to the adult population, one day I just had friends of different colours, same as I already had friends with different builds and different hair.

The Council moved us in 1967 when I was six so they could demolish the cottages, and granny came to live with us. She had only ever been just around the corner in the first place, and I thought her cottage was nicer than ours as it had an old cooking range and the outdoor toilet was built on, instead of being in the shed at the bottom of the yard like ours. Hers had a beautiful huge orange flowering of mould, the most exotic thing I had ever seen and I was only ever allowed to her toilet with a head full of dire warnings not to touch it, even though that seemed grossly unfair to a four or five year old. The adults kept removing, but to my delight it just kept coming back.

Ours had a load of scary wooden shelves filled with unspecific things, and spiders.

The new house had a back garden, 100 foot long and desperately overgrown. Instead of living across the road from Southall Park and the market, now we were quite literally across the road from the Grand Union Canal. There was only a steep drop and a towpath the other side of the tarmac road out front and for that we never had the power cuts that hit the rest of Southall in the seventies, because our electricity was on the same circuit as the essential street lights that stopped people accidentally driving into the filthy water.

Mum started work again once my youngest brother was born, and got a job with the IWA, the Indian Workers Association, doing the typing and correcting the English grammar as she went. Even though she was one of the most open minded people of her generation, I do seem to recall her feeling that one should speak slowly and clearly, as a sign of respect, if talking to someone who might not have a full grasp of the language. "Have - you - had - a - nice - day - dear - ?". Speaking clearly, it seemed, also meant upping the volume by a notch or two.

Its only now, looking back, that I realise my mother must have been obliged to defend her decisions, sometimes. For example, because of her work I ended up playing with two very nice girls who had clipped and proper English accents to rival that of the Royal Family, to be blunt, to my mind, they sounded like Ovalitinies, or the lady on the radio who did Listen With Mother. I remember one of them sobbing her heart out whilst I looked on helplessly, because she had been taunted and called a filthy wog, when she didn't even know what the word meant. "I looked it up in the dictionary, and it means Egyptian! Do they think I'm Egyptian?" I couldn't help, I heard of it, but didn't have the first clue what it meant.

I can't remember her name now, which shames me, but I can remember that she and her sister were "good intelligent girls, their father's a Doctor, and they have better manners and spoken English than the white children these days". As I say, my mother must have had to defend sending me to play with them. I didn't give a hoot whose dad did what, so that comment had stuck with me, as it had seemed important.

I still don't know the politics behind Southall becoming an asian enclave; maybe Ealing Council was in force by then and decided to shove their quota 'all in one place' and as near as possible to the next Borough, Hounslow, where the airport was, or to put it another way as close to 'not really being in Ealing at all' as it was possible to manage. Most whites that could, moved out. My mother complained, when another family tried to hide their airs and graces behind a veil of false reluctance at having to leave, that if they didn't want the town to fill up with asians, then why were they leaving? Why go, if you know it means that an asian family will have your old home? She wasn't so much angry at the airy fairy excuses used to mask fear, or feelings of insecurity, so much as browbeaten by it. It was like watching her lose people she had honestly thought more of than that, watching her faith in other people's good hearts and common sense take a proper knocking. Finally her attitude hardened; if they wanted to go they could jolly well get on with it, we, and Southall and life in general would be better off without them.

This is going to be longer than I realised, and the telly beckons, so more another time, perhaps.


Anonymous said...

First, welcome to the blog world!

While reading your post about Asians moving in and some of the residents leaving, I couldn't help but think about those things going on over here in the USA. Wow, we have more in common than we think.

I'm enjoying your blog.

Tiffani by way of BE.

Candace said...

Wonderful post! I, too, look forward to more.