As a child, he dreamed of killing his father. Poison, glass, a fall down the stairs. For years Colin feared that his father would die before he had the chance to kill him. For years before his mother kicked “bag eye” out, he was an ogre. He demanded total silence in the house. They were like German submariners, trying to stay quiet – below the radar. They longed for the sound of the lock clicking as their father left.
He father always told them they were being watched – for signs of reverting to the stereotype of their race. His father and friends adopted the trilby, even though it wasn’t used where they came from. They exaggerated their style, because they were thought not to be quite civilised. They all winced when a Jamaican was arrested for a crime – because they were letting the side down. These concerned transferred from one generation to another.
The old adage that with age come with wisdom is not true. With age comes a veneer of respectability. His parents sent them to a private school. They wanted a better “h’education” for the boy. But to fund the education, he had to do dodgy stuff. He traded dodgy goods from the back of his car. He never had a licence, road tax or MOT. He was ambivalent towards authority – he mocked, yet deferred to it. Migrants are courageous people – they leave home and travel. yet, they are infantilised by it. At some point, the children became the parents. The parents still though they were here temporarily, but the children knew the game was up.
His father started the process of education – but his mother had to finish it. His mother fathered him. But the message of being watched continued. “Black people are schooled in paranoia” said a psychologist. When his book was published, the local Luton press suggested it could close a 32-year old gap. Could it be perceived by his father as an act of filial devotion? No. He was stung by what he saw as a betrayal, an public exposure of his faults. He was in the papers the next day under the headline “Bageye bites back”. Jamaicans will tell you there is no some thing as a fact, just versions of a story. We chose the versions that we can live we. But as Colin wrote, his version changed. It detached from him. He felt free. Freer than before – could that be transferred to his father.
There are very few photos of him as a child – one that exists is cut away from the rest, removing his father holding him. As he walked with his father, he reverted to being child, feeling that his (shorter) father was the big man. He walked like the losing side in a FA cup final – showing his dignity in defeat.