But obviously the … erm … sort of the oral family history you’ve heard about, the … the, the fire that sort of claimed my granddad’s life and … he was called Joseph and I’m actually named after him, I’m really proud to carry that name. Although I never met him, it’s really nice that my mum … she always said, ‘When I have my first boy, child, it’s going to be a boy,’ the first child was definitely going to be a boy, it wasn’t going to be a girl [Chuckles] and she would say, ‘I’m going to call him Joseph after my dad,’ because a fire broke out and he managed to save his whole sort of family. There was, I think there was … four children, I think one of the cousins was there, this, this, this is the thing with oral history, the story changes from time to time and actually if you look at a newspaper article or something, there’s this … I’ve got three or four different newspaper articles and the stories are all slightly different, even down to my nan’s name’s different in some of them. But he managed to get his, his whole family out, he, er, and save them. Unfortunately he sort of died a couple of days later in hospital due to the smoke inhalation. [Sighs] But it’s, it is just something that you really remember. And what I really like, when I’ve been … as an a, as an adult I’ve sort of seen the newspaper articles and really began to appreciate what they mean.
I grew up hearing stories about Missus Rawlins down the Street and the, the Dooleys who lived over the road, people I’ve never met, might not have met, but they all seem real to me because I’ve heard their names and, and when I read the newspaper articles I can see their names and it’s … it’s really, it’s just really nice.
When you used to go and visit your nan, did you play out on the street yourself at all?
I didn’t used to play on the street, no. I used to play in the garden, next-door-but-one. I can’t even remember the, the lad’s name, but it was a lad who was about my age. So my mum knew his mum and like they’d lived there a while, and we used to play sort of catch across their gardens, and we’d be playing, throwing like Frisbees and tennis balls to each other and we’d, we’d always look, look out for each other.
So can you describe your nan’s house for me?
Er, yeah, just a sort of terraced house, er, in, um, in the middle of quite a, a row of houses. When, when you go in there’s the, the front room and it’s a traditional Caribbean front room, in that you’re not allowed in there. [Laughs] All, all the ornaments are there that, I can remember the record player being in there, erm, traditional ornaments, sort of lots of photos of the family. Er, a sofa that nobody every sits on but still has the plastic cover on to keep it in pristine condition [Laughs]. When you walked in there was a plastic cover on the carpet, so the carpet didn’t get messed up. [Laughs] I remember when we were young she used to have a thing about doilies were in fashion, so there was lots of doilies, and, and, and, all over the, the s, the sofas. She had that, that wallpaper that’s, like a f, like a … I suppose you’d call it like woodchip wallpaper. And when, when it comes time to change it, yeah, y, it, it’s a real big workout getting it off the walls. Bright colours. [Laughs] Just a traditional Caribbean front room really.
And then into the main living room, it’s, that’s where it’s sort of where the, the TV was, a sofa, but she’d also, like it’d be used as a dining area as well. [Laughs] And it, it, it sounds silly but I loved the fact that her, it was a fold-away table and when it was time for dinner we could fold the table and take the… bit like the table I’ve got in here, you can fold the table out.
So it seems like your nan’s house was a big commun, community hub for your whole family?
Yeah, and ev, even now ‘cause obviously my nan’s sort of less mobile than she was, but he, eh, oh, every weekend there, there’s, there’s sort of four siblings and they all … kind of if three of them are there it’s a party! And they text the other one saying, ‘You’re missing out on the party!’ [Laughs] And they always like go, ‘Oh, it’s not a party if I’m not there.
But at my nan’s house it’s always music on or a … laughing and joking, taking the micky out of each other. There’s always banter [Chuckles]. And it’s j, just a nice time.
I was a, pretty much a good boy at, at when I went to visit my nan [Laughs] but there were times when boys will be boys and they’ll get into trouble, and sometimes when your mum and dad tell you off, that’s not fair! Any time my nan told me off, you know what? I mean you deserve it! [Laughs] She was right and I was wrong! I, I couldn’t hold any, any malice, any grudge, because to me my nan is just perfect!
To me my nan’s my hero.
Because the community’s changed so much, not just necessarily on your nan’s street but in, in that area as a whole, do you still feel it has that same feeling, the community spirit and that everybody will help everybody out?
I do, yeah. I think, I really do, because that’s the, I had the, the privilege to visit Hobmoor School recently, and Mr Tarry was showing me around and he was showing me what fantastic work they’re doing there at the community. Er, I went in and saw a, group of local sort of mums who were, were bettering themselves through sort of education, doing things sort of ranging from sort of GSCE courses all the way up to, I think it was foundation degree level. And when I, when I saw the building, I saw they were… it was, it wasn’t just a couple of people, it was, it was the whole, it was … there was 20, 30, 40 people rolled in that one, enrolled in that one class. And apparently it’s the same [Chuckles] day in, day out.
I don’t think the, the, the makeup of the community might have changed, but I think, I think it’s got that same sort of spirt, that same sort of essence, that same sort of community feel