By John Western
Booklet by means of Western, John
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Extra resources for A Passage to England: Barbadian Londoners Speak of Home
But I began to think: Maybe some people do? At school there were family names that seemed to have been in East Kent from time immemorial: Sackett, Cobb, Chittenden, Fagg, Gore. Western, however, was self-evidently not a name originating in this easternmost extension of southern England. I looked out the window of the speeding train and saw distant figures strolling on the raised sea wall, silhouetted against the sky. Summer visitors, I presumed. With the vast growth in private car ownership, that sea wall walk, near no railway station, was getting more and more crowded.
They interpreted this as a clear indication that they were not welcome. The immigration laws of Britain, their transatlantic country of destination, dealt with them in ways very different from the way immigration laws, a decade later, Transatlantic Homes 11 dealt with me: they made me feel welcome indeed in my first transatlantic country of destination, Canada. The year 1962 was also the year we got our first television set. This acquisition nourished curiosity about current international affairs and brought a degree of awareness—albeit not grounded in any experience of my own—that not all the actors on the world stage were white like me.
I took it that in some deeply formative sense it was me and I it. 10 There's the paradox: one cares so unconditionally for one's home—on condition that one is not obliged to remain there. Irresolvable ambiguities such as this seem, indeed, to be near the center of modern experience. "Irresolvable" maybe; but one makes one's choice and votes with one's feet. I quit Margate. Thus if, as I am, choosing to go, then the Sacketts and Cobbs cannot really deny me and wound me anyway. Their sway is only over that which I am voluntarily relinquishing, my point of departure.