By John Western
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Extra info for A Passage to England: Barbadian Londoners Speak of Home
There was a job on BR [British Railways]. Went down to the Kentish Town offices for the interview. Did well in the electrical test. Then I passed the medical. " It was at Cricklewood sheds. They all threatened to strike, I was the first black man there as an electrician. Cleaners were okay—but not an elec- 8 Transatlantic Homes trician. But the overseer didn't back down, and they did. And we gradually got to be mates, Alf, and Alan (he's dead now, poor chap). And they told me later they'd thought I'd be a savage.
There were two or three policemen outside. I was never so scared in all my life. 9 They was after him, not interested in me. The police was with us for a bit, got us through the thick crowd. Then they left us. My God, he ran and ran. I only found out later that he'd beaten them to his room and got the door closed. I wasn't so fast. They surrounded me [on the front steps of a house]. Then white people opened the door, the woman called me in, they called the police 999, they're good people, they saved me, I could've been robbed, gang-raped.
I tell my son there're good and bad things about being black. The bad I've told you enough of: the insults, the exclusion from dances, the "go back to where you belong," the fights. The good is the fun you can have. I'm the manager of my Tube station, but when people come to complain they come into the office and look around and see my white lineman or inspector or whatever and always talk to him. " and I'm 24 Transatlantic Homes deaf you see [with a wide, wicked grin] and they'll have to run after me!