The doctor examined me and found no venereal disease but told me that I was pregnant.
Sitting in the doctor’s office, listening to what he had said, connecting this now with what had happened, I felt sick to my stomach I felt my bottom drop out. My husband was a tight-fisted, mean man and without a little bit of sex even now and then between us, what chance did I have for a happy life with him? At 21, my marriage had become like my parents’.
It was a difficult situation for me to face because it seemed like a repeat of my childhood. My parents had separated and my own upbringing was painful to bear. It was then I vowed never to leave my children causing them to suffer the way I did.
Coming from Jamaica, on a big ship taking me and my sons to England, we were met by my husband at South Hampton. Traveling with him on the train to his apartment in Wimbledon I looked out the window and saw smoke coming from the rooftops. I wondered “where were the homes?” I had taken them all to be factories. In Jamaica, chimney smoke came only from factories, not homes. I was new to London and it was new to me.
Even the food was strange to me. The fish, for example, was so different from the ones I was used to eating or seeing in Jamaica. People’s front doors and windows were always closed while they watched you from behind lace curtains. One incident that took me by surprise was you needed to have your ticket to hand to the train conductor who would be waiting at the rail. My husband had our tickets and was in front of me. When I approached the man and saw him with his hand outstretched, I shook it. He laughed. I had thought he was there to shake hands, not realizing he was there to collect my ticket. New world, new customs to learn and adjust to.
There was no money on trees. When it snowed it was a beautiful sight, an excitable experience. Some homes were built without bathrooms. Their toilets were way at the back and some went to the bathhouse on weekends. In Jamaica, we had a bath daily but perhaps the climate in both countries made the difference.
There was plenty of rain and with no sunshine to follow. When the sun did come out and I put clothes on the line to dry, they became stiff because the water was still in them. London, its people and its customer were all new experiences for me to learn.
I’ll give it five years and no more, I thought.
My husband was the main earner for the home and we rented out rooms in the house which added to our income until we paid off the furniture.
During those days it was hard for a black person or family to find accommodation in a white person’s home. This situation forced many blacks to buy their own homes. It was easy to find renters, whether it was for a room or a flat.
There were the Africans and the West Indians who needed places to live. They were lovely people to get to know to mingle with and learn from. It was an eye-opening experience learning about them and their ways of preparing their food. It helped me to see variety as the spice of life.
In my marriage I felt trapped, helpless, stuck in the situation I had feared from childhood. Lucky for me my neighbours were the Morris family from Jamaica. I would go across to Mrs Morris to share my feelings.