Compare Grace Nichols’s attitudes to “home” with this account by one of the immigrants on the Windrush which sailed from Jamaica to England in 1948, and brought one of the first large groups of West Indians to Britain. One of them was Vince Reid, whose family came from Kingston, Jamaica. Here, fifty years later, he looks back.
My parents brought me on the Windrush – I had no choice in the matter. They didn't have to – it was obvious they came in search of a better life, better opportunities.
It was quite a devastating experience. I was thirteen when I arrived so I wasn't a man, I was a boy. Most of the people on the Windrush were men. I had never been out of Kingston, so to go on this big ship, for all those days - it was quite an experience.
I went to school in Kings Cross. I never associated with white people in any significant degree, and then at school I came across real hostility. I mean to say I had no friends for several years … that wouldn't be far from the truth.
I only had friends when I had gone through the Air Force and came out. I joined the Air Force when I was sixteen, what they call a boy entrant, an Air Force apprentice. By the time I came out there were more black people in this country.
I am 62 years old now. I have been here 50 years . I would prefer to live here. Well, my family is here, my wife, my grandchildren are here.
I have no significant roots in Jamaica. I have been back to Kingston several times. My circumstances were significantly different to everyone else's, but personally I like England, it's a nice place to live. It's not to say it doesn't have its problems, racism and so on.