– a memoir of growing up ‘mixed-race’ (an extract)
Mum and dad never really thought they’d settle in Pontefract. Ponte was supposed to be tough. Hard, gritty. Neighbour of Fev, Cas, Wakey, ex-mining town, northern, White working class. They had lived in York.
One day, heavily pregnant with my older brother Andrew, my mother ventured out to Betty’s tea shop for a teacake. An elderly lady made room at her crowded table. In conversation, she remarked: “One of the good things about York is that there aren’t many coloureds.”
Pontefract was quite a change to York. Both had sweet factories, a castle and a racecourse but the Pomfretian tea shops were of a much lesser premium. In 1976 there weren’t that many ‘coloureds’ in Pontefract either. Out shopping in the town centre with myself in the pram and Andrew seated on top, my mother met another friendly stranger who felt moved enough to observe: “People like you are really good to look after these children.”
Unlike Andrew who had the misfortune to be born in soft, cosy, chocolate Florentine-d, lace doilie-d, middle class York, I was born and bred in Ponte. I was proud of the fact. “Where you from?” People would ask. “Ponte”, I would reply in my broadest Pomfretian. “No, I mean where were you born?” Not giving them what they wanted, I’d answer: “At the hospital. You?”
Read the full memoir here.
Tangled Roots is an Arts Council funded project which records and celebrates the experiences of multi-racial families in Yorkshire.
Contribute your own story or read others by Michelle Scally Clarke, Desiree Reynolds, Adam Lowe, Jane Steele, Emily Midorikawa & Seni Seneviratne by visiting the website tangledroots.org.uk