Emily Thompson, Rose to her friends, emigrates from Jamaica to the Motherland, England, in search of a better life. James Dunbar. London lad. Jack is what he answers to. Picking his way through the muckier incidents of life, he consoles himself that things will get better. They happen to meet at a bus-stop, Emily and Jack.
Long Time Walk on Water; a tale of how the humble live whilst waiting for their dreams to come true.
“When did she go, then?”
“Oh, she left just before I got home from work yesterday. I dunno wot the hell she’s playing at.”
“Wot is it with you young people, James?” She had given him such a nice name; James Dunbar, she couldn’t bear the way he let everyone call him Jack, as though he were a commoner. Or somefing. “I ask myself why you young people can’t get your act together, eh? I’m sure I don’t know.”
“Mum, you gonna stay wivva kids this evening till I get home from work, or ain’t ya?”
“Someone around here has to have a sense a duty…”
“See you this evening then. Oh, and mum-” quick peck on the cheek, “Taa.”
Nana Irene lived a few streets away in the upper half of a maisonette, although she had submitted numerous applications to the council’s housing agency to get them to move her down. On account of her legs, but that stupid young thing at the desk seemed more interested in her nails than in Irene Dunbar and tried to give her the impression she was being ungrateful. “I ain’t looking for charity!” Irene had tapped on the counter, indignantly. “My husband’s fought in two world wars and I’ve brought up four respectable kids, so I’ll not ’ave you reduce me to begging, you silly little tart, wot I want is my fair due!” But Irene had given in now. The only way she would be coming out of that maisonette was feet first. That’s how grateful society is. Do your duty, then they treat you like a sponger. The only ones to ever show any appreciation were the grand-children, Irene smiled as Nina and Ben pressed themselves lovingly against her, delighted by her surprise visit.
“You doing well at school, Ben?”
“Course I am!”
“And you, Nina, d’you like going a school now n having lots of boys and girls to play wiv?”
“Yeah!” Nina sing-songed. She liked to wear her hair in pigtails when she went to school.
“That’s good to hear! Now, go n put your clothes on then come n watch telly with Nana, okay?”
The pair pounded up the stairs to their bedroom, where there was a wardrobe for the two of them, a bunk bed squeezed in behind the door, and the table Monica had put by the window. For homework. Monica had likewise submitted several applications to the council’s housing agency, but the council said; two kids in a two-bedroomed flat? And both parents earning? Count yourself lucky.
The phone booths were always pissy round here, and the doors too heavy to be kept ajar with your heel. Monica had to leave her overnight bag:
a pair of slippers
two pairs of nylon tights
a bundle of underwear (her best ones)
a dress (she was wearing one already)
a photo of the children in their school uniform
another one of the two, taken by the door-to-door photographer in August
outside on the pavement. She dialled the number; had wanted to laugh, to sound carefree, yet no sooner had the receiver been picked up at the other end, then shame, rage, helplessness and all sorts of other vehemently felt inarticulations raced in a salty flow from her eyes and nose, so that all she could splutter was Thanks, she knew she could count on her. Wot? Oh, just a couple o days, she said.
‘The most beautiful writing I have ever read.‘ (Christiane S, France)
‘Words dance, breathe, rejoice, titillate, pulsate, quiver in this brilliantly crafted volume of what may be her best-loved novel. Couldn’t put it down.’ (Amazon)
‘when I fell into an armchair at my gran’s place after work, in her over-heated, over-furnished council house where the telly was almost always on, and in between my gran would tell stories, I started looking at her anew. I discovered a singer. I looked closer. Saw the warrior. Looked closer still, and there she was; the heroine. Once she told me about this Englishman at the bus-stop, she was convinced he fancied her. It was out of the question. Of course. Me nevva even look at him twice, she told me. She never mentioned it again, either, and that would normally have been the end of it, had my mind not seized upon the potential of a Rose Thompson, Emily to her friends, and a James Dunbar (they call him Jack, from the 7th floor), unimpeded by the values transmitted by their respective cultural backgrounds. Long Time Walk on Water was born.’ (Joan Barbara Simon, interviewed by Lucy Walton for Female First)
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