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Voices of Windrush

Anguila, Antigua & Jamaica

Because they had fourteen children my parents always grew their own fruits and vegetables. They also grew eggplant. As a child, I saw all those things growing but when I went to see my friend, they were having rice, macaroni and cheese but I had to live on vegetables. I wanted to eat what my friends were eating. Back home in Antigua, all I could smell was vegetables and I was alwary because we were poor and all we ate was vegetables. My mother use to say that God was going to bless us. When I look back and see what she did for us, I understand it now and I am glad for the vegetables. - Gwen Joseph

In Jamaica I studied farming for two years at the agricultural college in Hope Garden. This is one of the biggest agricultural school in the world and its attended by people from different countries. As a farmer, my work involved cultivating the land, selecting and preparing the seeds because some seeds you plant and some you sow. The seeds that you sow you can transplant but the seeds from pumpkins and mellow is planted and left to grow. Tomato, pepper, cabbage and carrot are some of the vegetables that we sow. I use to prepare the seeds for drying and this is part of the process. When preparing the seeds you have to put them in a container of water. The healthy seed that are suitable for planting will sink to the bottom and the ones that are not good will float to the top. - Revearse Barnes

Jackfruit meat & Chips

The jackfruit had a strong sweet taste and normally back home in Jamaica, they put it in salt water which brought out the natural flavour. To avoid staining your hands they would beat the fresh jackfruit in the middle before cutting it. Drop and spread is when the jackfruit is ripe and the pulp inside is very soft. My great grandmother and grandmother use to stew the young jackfruit and ate it as meat. Jackfruit and jackfruit chips is now a popular vegetarian dish. You can now buy it in the tin but it smells and taste different from the fresh one. The very strong smell of the fresh jackfruit is one of the reasons why some people in Jamaica are afraid to keep it in the house because they do not want to attract duppy. - Reaverse Barnes

Carry mi Ackee go a Linstead Market …

In Jamaica, when my cousins and I use to climb the trees for oranges

& mangoes we could hear the birds singing and the cocks crowing as well as chickens clucking as they scratch in the dirt for food. If anyone visited neighbours who had dogs, before they entered the yard they would shout “hold daag!” “Mi ah come!” At my home in Jamaica, my dad was a farmer and we had acres of land with lots of fruit trees, yams, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, pimentoes plus oranges which we exported to England. - Novea Foster

I remember when I was small my older cousin use to push me up on the roof top so she could pick the ackee - Grace Manning

The Puppy & the Pattoo

When my uncle died, at around 4 o’clock in the morning his wife called to say, “‘Sam Sam, Wilfred dead.” I can remember one night we had some puppies and the pattoo (owl) dived down to take one out…I lived near a river and I could hear the sound of the water going over the rocks and whenever there was heavy rainfall, especially further up the hill, the water came down and the river rose bank to bank. After the heavy rain, the river would wash down the coconuts and we would put a spike on the bamboo to get the coconuts out of the water. - Marcia Griffiths

“Serve! … Serve!”

I was born in Britain. Mum came to England in 1962 and as a toddler, I remember being in a place where mum had to leave me in order to go to work. I was in a room with four other young children, age about three. We were left alone for most of the time. People came in to feed us. I remember there was a bare mattress but there were no toys or any adults to talk to or play with us. It was a traumatic experience. I remember crying for hours. Because my mum had to go to work there was a time when she had to leave me with another tenant. I sat in the chair crying but no one comforted me.

My brother and I went to Jamaica to live in 1972. For me, it was a culture shock. I remember going into a shop and no one was present. Another person came in and called out, “Serve! Serve!” Someone came out and served this person and everybody else that came in after me and said, “serve serve” but I was ignored. I remember everyone had nicknames or what we sometimes called ‘pet names’.

There was also this man whose pet name was ‘Judge’ because he made ill-fitting suits based simply on his judgment of people’s size. I also remember hearing Jim Reeves playing every Sunday morning as we cleaned the house. The house was full of the smell of fried chicken and fresh thyme and coconut cream from the rice and peas which was being cooked for Sunday dinner. - Bev Thomas

Arriving in England – “up and down the hill”

When I arrived in England on the 25th of March 1955 I did not see anyone to talk to. The lady that was supposed to meet me did not materialise. I found out later that she had been at work.

Although I was only 18, I had to think and fend for myself.

A coach took me to Victoria Station and I got the train from there to Sheffield.

In Sheffield at that time of the year, it was cold and icy. I struggled up the hill with my two large full suitcases and slid back down again.

The first thing I remember seeing was the chimneys puffing out grey-black smoke.

Like everyone else from the Caribbean, I thought they were factories. I couldn’t imagine that people could live in houses like those.

When I got to the house where I was supposed to be staying a white lady, the landlady, opened the door. She must have seen how cold I was and felt sorry for me because she rushed me into the house in front of the coal fire. - Novea Foster


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