- Living the crisis through ten momentsA story told in ten moments
He is five years old. He is happy. Technically, he is not five just yet. He is four and a half, as he likes to tell people. But in his mind he is five - then, he thinks, he will be taken seriously. Five is when you start primary school and get to wear a uniform. He hopes it will have red in it. He likes the colour red. It’s his favourite colour. It is the summer of 1977. 7th June. The boy with the afro is full of innocence. He is told that, along with the nations of the Commonwealth, today all of Britain is celebrating The Queen’s Silver Jubilee. He imagines every street in the world is having a party at this same moment. He doesn’t know what the Commonwealth is but it seems like a good thing. He’s not sure what Britain is either, but he is told that he is British, and it sounds important, so he is happy that he is British. British like everyone else on the Sidcup street where his grandparents live. And the Queen, whoever she is, looks pretty in her bright pink hat and pink dress. She looks just like the stamps. He is a bit confused when he is told that today is not the Queen’s birthday but the anniversary of her becoming Queen. He thinks it funny that you can celebrate becoming yourself. The boy wears his favourite red and white striped shirt. He has a British flag. And the flag has red in it. So he likes the flag. He waves it as hard as he can, as everyone on Cavendish Avenue sings songs he doesn’t understand about something called Britannia. His football team will be Liverpool because they wear red and one day he will play for them. He doesn’t like blue, else he would have to support Chelsea. Or worse, Everton. He is thus doubly lucky in liking red. He hopes the Queen has a Silver Jubilee every [End Page 148] year. He gets to stand at the front for the photo, although he ends up next to the twins, whom he doesn’t much like. But otherwise he is happy on this English summer’s day, standing in the middle of the street. He belongs. Along with everyone else. He hopes his mum will be proud of him for being so British. The ground beneath him is firm. He is settled. And he gets to keep his flag, with the red in it.
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He clutches his mother’s hand. For the first time the boy sees fear in his mother’s eyes. It is not the crowd, or the noise, that initially worries him. It is the realisation that his mother may not be able to protect him. He thinks of himself as a brave boy. He wants to protect his mother from whatever it is that is causing her to look so concerned. But he is scared too. The chanting grows louder. The boy and his mother move quickly into a nearby building, off Lewisham High Street, and run up the stairs. There are others hiding there too. Strangers with pensive expressions. The boy looks out from the window and sees signs that say ‘Clear the Muggers off the Streets’ and ‘Keep Britain White’. The boy doesn’t understand the words or their significance but he senses this is why his mother looks scared. As the crowd approaches, the boy grips his mum’s hand harder. She tells her son to move away from the window so he can’t be seen. The all-white crowd, mainly male but with a few women, are being [End Page 149] escorted by the police as people on the side shout at them. They eventually move past and down the street. He is confused. If they are bad, he wonders, why are the police protecting them? Apart from the uniforms, the police and the marchers look the same to him...