Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Irish move to London

Micky set sail in 1968. I was full of beans, full of excitement and energy and dreams. I was ready to discover what was on the other side of the water, and explore it until I knew it like the back of my hand. I wanted to work, I wanted to earn money and save up. I wanted to save up and go to the bank every friday and pay my money into my account. I wanted to thumb lifts, meet people, buy a camper van and travel to my hearts´Ż┤ content. I was full of hope and dreams, strong and ready for the challenge that lay ahead.

It all happened so fast, the first few months, years. They all rolled into one another, quietly, without me noticing so that one day all the years crept up on me and surprised me with a heavy hand over the head. I arrived on a wednesday and the next monday I was working and getting up at six in the morning. Within a month I was in a flat and out of Allan´s sister´s front room and sleeping back to back with Allan, and I actually had a bit of a life going. When you´re getting up that early and working a physical job all day, you don´t have much energy left but for going home, having some dinner and watching a bit of television. I got into a bit of a routine and it wasn´t bad at all. Then, after about six months a job came up for a carpenter and I started working at the woodwork. That was even better. This wasn´t proving to be too hard, after all, I thought to myself one night as I was lying on the sofa falling asleep, my half finished dinner on the coffee table.

Some of the others didn´t take to it as well as I did. I took it all in my rhythm, I put my head down, worked hard, took my wages to the bank every friday evening as I had promised myself, and wrote a letter home on the weekend, and tried to get to know the city a little. The only part of London I really knew was Kilburn, in particular, Kilburn High Road, my flat, the route to work, and the supermarket. There was a little cafe that was nicer than the others that I went to sometimes for a cup of tea, or breakfast on the weekend, and to read the paper. It´s funny the way you find your place so quickly within a society. I got to know the few places that interested me, got to know the faces behind them, and sometimes the names behind the faces. Sometimes they knew mine too. I liked that. I hate to be no-body, an other body that passes through an establishment every day but that no-one knows anything about. The idea makes me sad, and because it scares me a little I always made an effort to make friends with these people I saw, so that if I didn´t happen to go one day, they would ask themselves, what ever happened to Micky? I like having an impact on people´s lives, no matter how insignificant it may seem. I called a man I had worked with years ago, once. I had thought of him several times, even though I didn´t know him so well, but we had got on really well. So I called his mobile. There was no answer and then a few minutes later the number called me back. "Hello, Sir," I said, "How are you doing?" It was a voice I didn´t know. His son. He asked who I was. I told him and I told him I had worked with his dad.
"My father died", he said. "He told me about you, he spoke very well of you."
I welled up. My throat tightened as I fought back the tears. "I´m sorry," I said. I didn´t know what else to say. I hate saying sorry to these kind of things; it seems one of the single most inane things you could say, but I can never think of anything better.

Allan found it tough. He took it badly when, on the first friday we received our wages, we went to go to the pub to celebrate over a pint. We chose a pub and went to the front door on the corner, where there was a sign at eye level. It read: "No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish". It made him physically sick. He turned and got sick on the road. I patted his back. He was angry, so angry. He was angry at himself for having turned to the road to be sick, instead of doing it in the doorway. It hurt him real bad, he said. He also took it badly when we would hear someone at work or on the street, say, "Fresh off the boat." He said he felt like a bull that had been shipped over in a cage. He´d get mad and hit back, swearing at them and telling them to go to hell. I stayed quiet.

Gradually, though, that eased off.