Category Archives: Long Time Walk On Water

Free for all



Still ever so pleased with the recent 5-star review of Verses Nature Vol.1 . So pleased that I’m now going to give that book away for FREE on October 29. Make the most of it!

Now  that you can have Verses Nature (In The Beginning Was The Heat) and Verses Nature (The Making Of) for FREE, what more do you want?

What??? Oh, alright then. I’ll give you Long Time Walk on Water (‘Highly, highly recommended’, says a reviewer on Amazon). Free for selected days in November.

What??? Oh, alright then. I’ll also give you Mut@tus (high-brow rumpy-dumpy for you and your friends, but not for your mum!). Free for selected days in November.

Watch this space and kindle promotions on Amazon. Don’t say I’m not nice to you.




Long Time Catch Up

LONG TIME WALK ON WATER (VII)Sifting through old photos. Keywords: Empire Windrush, Caribbean immigrants, London 1960s. These are not just pictures. This is my history. My grandmother’s face among them, perhaps, in a photo taken somewhere, on display in a museum, or in a private collection bequeathed to (grand)children for whom such photos are possibly nothing more than quaint. They were brave people. If it weren’t for them, I would not be enjoying all the opportunities I have today. Long Time Walk on Water is my way of saying thank you. I’ll say it again: Thank you. I will never forget.



Daily Bread (though once a week would do)

loft 17

INTERVIEWER:  How did you get your background in the Bible?

FAULKNER:  My Great-Grandfather Murry was a kind and gentle man, to us children anyway. That is, although he was a Scot, he was (to us) neither especially pious nor stern either: he was simply a man of inflexible principles. One of them was everybody, children on up through all adults present, had to have a verse from the Bible ready and glib at tongue-tip when we gathered at the table for breakfast each morning; if you didn’t have your scripture verse ready, you didn’t have any breakfast; you would be excused long enough to leave the room and swot one up (there was a maiden aunt, a kind of sergeant-major for this duty, who retired with the culprit and gave him a brisk breezing which carried him over the jump next time).

It had to be an authentic, correct verse. While we were little, it could be the same one, once you had it down good, morning after morning, until you got a little older and bigger, when one morning (by this time you would be pretty glib at it, galloping through without even listening to yourself since you were already five or ten minutes ahead, already among the ham and steak and fried chicken and grits and sweet potatoes and two or three kinds of hot bread) you would suddenly find his eyes on you—very blue, very kind and gentle, and even now not stern so much as inflexible—and next morning you had a new verse. In a way, that was when you discovered that your childhood was over; you had outgrown it and entered the world.

(from an interview given to Paris Review, 1956)

Children cheating. Love it. And so true! I’ve touched on the topic myself:

Sunday school, 1974

We’re baptised but it doesn’t really mean anything. We kind of mutter a prayer on a Sunday before we eat dinner. That’s it. And we’re supposed to say prayers before we go to bed, but no-one ever checks and I’ve forgotten the words at the end.

Gentle Jesus meek and mild, look upon this little child…

Then I la-de-da the lines I can’t remember and then it ends something like;

If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Something like that. But he never gives me any of the things I ask for. You know what grown-ups are like.


On a Sunday we have to go to Sunday school. They never go to church, but they insist on sending us to Sunday school, don’t they. Cos Wendy and I are Brownies, we have to go dressed as Brownies. It’s really boring but we can’t say we don’t want to go. One particular time, the nearer we got to the church, the less we wanted to go, so you know what we did? We walked around the church block until the service had finished and the people started coming out, then we went to the sweet shop and spent our tuppence on sweets. They never found out. They’ve never once asked us what they talked about at church, so we know they’re not really interested.

Do I believe in God? Yes, of course I do! Well, I think I do.

One last word, 1976

Am I like them? I have some things in common with my mother, yes, that’s true. I got my brains from her, she says. She could have done great things if she hadn’t started having kids and got lumbered. I’ve got her big feet. I hate my feet. But other than that, I don’t think we’re similar. I hope not.

I wouldn’t say I was really happy but then again, I wouldn’t say I was really sad. I don’t think about it like that. It’s just a normal childhood like anyone else’s. We’ve got our own house and we’ve got a car… I’ve got some nice clothes. Maybe… don’t tell anyone I said this, but… maybe if I had a nicer family… nicer parents, like… But anyway, it’s not over yet, not quite, and maybe it’ll get better. Yes, I hope it’ll get better at the end of the summer. The angels will roll the stone away like they do in the Easter Song… and if not, well, when I’m grown up, it’ll be my turn.

The angels rolled the stone away,

The angels rolled the stone away.

It was early Easter Sunday morning,

The angels rolled the stone away.

Jesus had a sad life as well, didn’t he? I mean, they killed him in the end, didn’t they?

(from Long Time Walk on Water)

Long Time: mum, it’s someone black

Quizzical though it might at first appear, all the tenants in Beswick Road were wont to stop –

for a fraction of a second –

whatever it was they had been doing each and every time the doorbell rang.

Ding donnng… Ding… Dong???

One or two children, wrenched away from their momentary play place in the vicinity of the curtains by an imperative parental grab, unaccompanied by words, were pushed impatiently to some other corner of the room. It might be door-to-door. Or election campaigners. Worse still, it might be Immigrations. Or even the Police…? Not a soul, not even the cat-

moved –

for a fraction –

of a second.

Miss Brown had quite categorically stated that if anyone ever, hever gave the Police occasion to come knocking at her door, that person could pack them bag and she and them would have to part company. So one or two wives shot their husbands a vicious look. And one or two wives were shot back an equally vicious shut-yu-mowt-woman. The doorbell rang again. Truculent ring-a-ding, this time, on this particular, somewhat agreeably sunny London two fifteen, when all the tenants of Beswick Road, and Miss Brown’s cat, desisted from action for that fraction of a second, and Rose happened to be down at Miss Brown’s as she had got into the habit of doing. Notwithstanding her landlady’s inclination to chat-too-much, Rose welcomed the time spent in her company as a real taste from home. The two women cast reciprocal ‘is-who-dat?’ looks from beneath arched brows as the bell was molested for the third time.


Carmen emerged from behind the plastic stripey hang-up between the kitchen and the living-room door.

“If is door-to-door, me have it arlreddy. Look like him no mean fi go weh fore him run up me ‘lectricity bill, yaa. Mek haste and get rid a im.”

Carmen went over to the window. Rose and Miss Brown followed with their eyes. Miss Brown tiptoed in the direction of the tv set to turn the volume down.

“Mum, it’s someone black.”


“Yeah. Black.”

“Is who it is?” she insisted.

“How’m I supposed to know!”

“Move weh fram di curtain no mek him see yu!” Miss Brown’s whisper thundered over to the girl and cuffed her.

Carmen rolled her eyes to heaven as she moved away. “He looks like you, if you ask me,” but she had done her bit, so she now walked back to the kitchen, unwilling to perform any more favours, muttering something it was just as well Miss Brown was too preoccupied to pay attention to.

Miss Brown. Staring at Rose, then beyond her, then back at her. Eyes growing wide. Horrified.

“Roy!” She gasped.

Rose’s eyebrows said, Who?

“Car-men!” she whispered as loud as she dared.

Carmen re-appeared in the doorway with her most fed up expression on.

“You did see if him have a bag wid im, like im gwine stay long?”

Carmen shrugged her shoulders.

“Go an let im in.”

“Why me?” Carmen protested. “I don’t even know who he is!”


She got the message.

He rapped tap taptap tap tap on the living-room door as he wiped his shoes off on the doormat. Roy had not seen his sister in years. Only once or twice since they had arrived in Hinglan, first him, then her, him following his wife’s family to settle in Birmingham, her, Miss Brown, deciding in favour of London. Miss Brown, not at all partial to her sister-in-law, refused to spend her hard-earn money on a visit. And now he was here, in London. After all those years. It has to be said that Miss Brown’s brother did feel a little awkward, after all those years, so he decided: bess ting to do, hact nachurral.

“Miss B?” he greeted her with a chuckle, as with an over eager display of those immaculate teeth that had won him innumerable lady friends on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Uncle Roy,” His sister stated a fact that could not be stretched to a welcome, no matter how she try. She stood in the middle of the room. “Di door open.”

Stout, cheerful-looking man going on for fifty. Stepped like a dandy into the room. He was better looking than his sister and had helped himself to a taste of almost all of her girlfriends back home, which fact had invariably led to a mash-up of friendships, for which Miss Brown had never truly been able to forgive him. When Uncle Roy followed his wife to England, Miss Brown had hoped that the cold would put him out of action likkle bit. He only ever remembered he had a sister when his wife booted him out and he needed somewhere to put his head. Here he was now; fatter than she recollected, a few grey hairs beginning to make an appearance, and the paunch of good living pressing itself tightly against the waist of his trousers. But where was his bag?

“Come in an sit down,” Miss Brown said indifferently. But she couldn’t help herself, she had to ask, “Is where yu bag deh?”

Uncle Roy made himself comfortable on the sofa. “Marnin,” he said to Rose.

“Marnin,” Rose replied.

“Yu see dis madda a yours, her bradda kyan’t even sit down five minute rest him leg before she want to chase him out,” he stretched one hand along the length of the sofa.

“Is not me daughter dat, but is a member a di family, yu hear wat me saying to you?”

“Is what yu name, lovely…” Uncle Roy sat back. Opened his legs likkle bit.

“Emily,” Rose got politely to her feet. “Miss Brown -”

“Emily. You warng know someting, Emily? These Jamaicans don’t have no manners, you know. Nat like we British.”

“Miss Brown,” Rose tried again. “I best be going.”

“Alright, Rose,” she spoke in Rose’s direction, with her eyes fixed on her brother. “Yu gwine come down later fi a likkle a me stew peas?”

“If you sure is not too much trouble…”

“Trouble? Is no trouble whatsohever,” Miss Brown assured her.

“Well,” Rose turned to the brother on the sofa. “I best be going. Nice to see you.”

“The pleasure was all mine,” Uncle Roy replied gallantly.

Miss Brown standing in the middle of the room and Carmen in the kitchen both rolled their eyes to heaven.

“All mine,” he assured the slender young woman. Nice young gyal.

On her way up the stairs, Rose just caught Miss Brown ordering Carmen to look inna di fridge see if Daddy still got a few can a beer, and by the time she had reached the top of the landing, she could hear Miss Brown and Uncle Roy tearing up some raucous laughter about something. Or someone.

‘It’s a pity Jack never gets to meet Uncle Roy, the protagonist’s uncle-of-sorts, who knows a thing or two about food and women himself, although his greatest love seems to be for getting hold of the wrong end of British politics. Simon has been described as a wordsmith par excellence. Rightly so! Intelligent, humorous, tragic and sensual. Contemporary British literature at its best.‘ (A.A., London, U.K.)


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Cross your heart? 1974

My biggest secret? No. I ain’t telling. If I tell, it’s not a secret anymore. No. No, I can’t. Stop asking or else I’m going to go. My second biggest? You promise you won’t tell? Promise? Cross your heart and hope to die? Well, you know mummy’s got a baby? She used to breastfeed her. Wendy and me were allowed to watch but Derek wasn’t. I think he wanted to but he was never allowed to. Daddy watched sometimes, but Derek never. He always had to leave the room. He’s a boy. It looked funny. Not last night but the night before when daddy started night shift… she’s glad to see the back of him cos he keeps getting on her nerves and they don’t talk to each other half the time… she had Kim and then she put her down and called Wendy and me. You promise you won’t tell? She told us… she told us to suck it but we didn’t want to… she pulled us and made us, but before, Derek had to go out of the room. It was a horrible feeling. Like a dried raisin. It must be horrible being a baby. Then she told us never, never to tell anyone and when I went to bed with Wendy, we were afraid to talk… and I felt really lonely.


(from Long Time Walk on Water)

‘Read everything and anything by Joan Barbara Simon. I promise you will be rewarded. I was’  (Anthony Howarth, Oscar nominee)

‘Weaves love, self-discovery, race, class politics, immigration, and the British postcolonial imaginations into a beautiful tour de force. A moving account of black sojourners’ day-to-day in a new alien land as they tumble forward for a better life and belonging.’ (Amazon)




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LONG TIME: When the weary are worn out… and dinner’s in the oven

Just back in from work that very moment, Jack, standing in the hallway, and although he hadn’t been round the flat yet, hadn’t even taken his jacket off, although the flat was making all the noises it usually made – telly buzzing, fridge wheezing, waterpipes, the lot, he sensed in an instant –

“Nina? Ben, where’s ya mum?”

“Dunno. Said that she was going out n that you’re not the only one who’s got cronies.”

With a sigh, expelled from the caverns of his fed up lungs, Jack:

hung his jacket up next to her empty peg,

pushed his working boots into place along the skirting board next to where her outdoor shoes were missing,

threw himself into a chair in the kitchen.

Them in the flat upstairs, trampling around again. Why couldn’t their kids just



and behave themselves, sit down and watch telly quietly like his kids did.

“Oi! You up there!” One hand cupped over his mouth. An angry voice carries far. Propels saliva. Turns the veins that scale the temple hard, blue.


Pack of anti-social bleeders! What he wouldn’t give to get off that council estate, but it was hopeless; with only two kids? They’d need another three before getting on the list for somewhere bigger. He felt sorry enough as it was that his two had to stay cooped up in the house all evening, all day when they were on school holidays, but he would not have them mixing with the kids round there. A few months back it must have been by now, when Ben had run in crying;   some of the boys on the estate had thrown stones at him. His father had simply tutted with even greater disdain for his son than he had shown for the gratuitous violence impregnating the headlines of his local newspaper, had just said, “Stop crying, you sissy. They’re just jealous. Riff-raff like that don’t know the meaning of the word family. Next time they chuck stones at you, you pick up a couple yourself and pelt them back good and proper.” The following evening, braving the cold, Jack had gone down with Ben to practise pelting, some of them council kids watching at a distance.

“Look at em,” Jack head-butted their way, “gawping like they’ve never seen a son having fun with his dad before.”

Ben pelted, harder, like a cricketer, imagining them council kids yelping every time he slung a stone, every time he got them right where it hurts, egged on by his dad, teaching him the right angle, guiding his pitch. Inside, behind the ostentatious ruffling of hair or vocabular praise, it pained Jack Dunbar to have to teach his son how to pelt other boys, poor little bleeders they were, with all the cards stacked against them no wonder they turned rough. Father and son pelted for ages, till their shoulders ached and them council kids had wandered off, one by one, driven home by hunger and the cold. The next time Ben asked if he could play out, his father still said,



Them in the flat upstairs didn’t stay quiet for long. Jack’s ceiling shuddered as they chased each other up and down, knocking over furniture. What could a man do but sigh?

A slip of paper at the other end of the table. Swallowing down that something inside him which recoiled from the idea of having to make a move, Jack finally managed to pull himself to his feet after a minute. Or two.

I’m fed up with this mess, it said. Need a change. A good one. A bloody long one. Near the bottom: Monica. And below that: dinner is in the oven.

Note gets flung at the window. How long would she be gone this time?  Maybe she’d creep in tonight at four o’clock in the morning by God he’d let her have it this time, whenever she came back!

“Ben, what time did your mother leave, then?”

Telly’s blaring.


“I dunno.”

“What d’you mean you dunno? What time did your bloody mother leave?”

“I don’t know!”

“Come ’ere when I’m talking to you!”

Ben: drags his feet from the sofa, over the carpet, across the lino,   blinks up at his father.

“Sorry, son,” Jack pulls up a trouser leg, bends down to Ben’s level,  tries again, “it’s not your fault… now, try again. Try to think,” he puts his arms around his son, rubbing him gently. “Were you watching telly when your mother left?”


“Thanks, son. You’re magic!” Smack on Ben’s bum.

Boy turns to leave.

It was then that Jack first noticed the pile of dirty dishes in and around the sink. Dinner in the oven was still warm, give her that; fish fingers, potatoes and green peas. From a can. A skin had formed on the gravy.

“You two already eaten?”




            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

a hairbrush

two pairs of nylon tights

a bundle of underwear (her best ones)

a dress (she was wearing one already)

a skirt

two tops

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. What? Oh, just a couple of days, she said.


( from Long Time Walk on Water)




‘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)

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Growing Up, 1975

I grew up this morning before dinner-time but I didn’t really know about it. I knew I wasn’t wetting myself cos it was too slow and it didn’t last that long. Miss Ryan wouldn’t let me go to the toilet because we’re supposed to go at playtime. When she came over in the end, I told her I was bleeding. Then she let me go. They were all whispering that I’d cut myself. I thought so too, but I wasn’t sure because it didn’t hurt like it should when you really cut yourself, like when you fall down skipping or you’re trying to catch someone when you’re ‘it’.

Mrs Watts, our nurse, she’s really nice. She gave me something for it and a pair of… fresh knickers. She keeps a spare set of clothes for things like that, she said. I had to wash mine out. She hung them up and I had to come back for them after school. Then we had a little talk.

When Mandy went back at lunchtime, Mrs Watts also had a letter in a sealed envelope for Mrs Green. Mrs Green read it, put it back in the envelope, tucked the flap in. Placed it on the telly, thought twice about it, picked it up and slipped it into her trouser pocket. Wendy was also home for lunch.

“You know what it is, don’t you?”

Mandy had told Wendy and Wendy had told their mum before Mandy summoned up the courage to give her the letter and the plastic bag which wasn’t see-through because her mum had a thing about see-through bags.

“You’re going to get in trouble!” was the first thing Wendy had said when she saw Mandy at the door in a skirt not her own.

“No I’m not. My skirt’s dirty.”

“You wet yourself at school!”

“No I didn’t! I got my period. So there!”

Wendy fell silent.

“You’ve got to tell mummy.”

“You tell her,  go on.”

“You know what it is, don’t you?” her mother asked – said more like –  as she placed a plate of spam, baked beans and chips in front of her nine year old daughter.

Mandy nodded, her eyes on the spam. It looked like white people.

“Good.” Mother went to fetch the squash.

(From Long Time Walk on Water)

‘Weaves love, self-discovery, race, class politics, immigration, and the British postcolonial imaginations into a beautiful tour de force. A moving account of black sojourners’ day-to-day in a new alien land as they tumble forward for a better life and belonging.’ (Amazon)

‘Beautifully crafted (…) will leave the reader as changed as Simon’s characters. Highly, highly recommended.’ (Amazon)


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Long Time: mother and child

Ruby studied the child but could find no resemblance to anyone she knew. Looked it over. Its feet. Its frail fists. Its scrunched up face. The lungs pumped and pumped, rocking the entire vulnerable frame. Ruby looked over at her daughter lying, exhausted, in a moist pool on the bed, almost asleep, the deep scent of her screaming perforating the thick air. It had lasted for hours, for hours Gertrude had screamed and screamed, her eyes exploding with fear and surprise. She hadn’t given it much thought, what it would be like, having a baby. She knew about the pain, but no-one had told her about the pain; betrayed, her eyes sprang out of their sockets as she screamed, as her hands seemed to want to push her away from that bloated belly grinning up at her as she thrashed around on the hard bed. Ruby had tried to be of assistance to the midwife. It wasn’t in her to hold her daughter’s hand or mop her brow; she had never done it before and failed to see why she should be doing it now, so she said, “Come, now… come, now,” and when Gertrude’s screams ripped into the air, she shouted irritably, “Cho man, yu nat di only person ever give birth, calm yuself down!” and she thought; you want be a woman? Well, now yu know. Yu damn well learn to live wid pain if yu want be a woman, yu hear wat me saying to yu? She wrapped up the child and left the house.

Gertrude saw her mother leave. Watched her through the corner of her eye. Started crying softly; my baby… my baby… The midwife looked over, said, “Hush now. Yu done good. Hush,” as she sat in her chair near the window, looking out into the yard. She only wished the mother would do her business soon and get back home so that she could be on her way. She did not want to get involved. Listened and nodded as Ruby told her the story she was all too familiar with, as Ruby explained how she had had to beat her daughter into seeing reason, that the last thing an intelligent young girl needed was a baby. A baby. No money. No man. Just the baby. Complained how the young people had no self-respect and that when she was young –

then she broke it off.

My baby… my baby… The midwife sat in her chair, looked out of the window and tried to close her ears to the girl’s plea. This child was sensitive; it is not every mother you can take a child away from. Some of them turn, and this child, she could feel Gertrude in the room and her nose was full of the young girl’s motherhood, she had them easy-hurting eyes. Gertrude’s voice rose, expanded, taking on the features of a song. She toned it, nursed it, and at some point beyond naming, where pain takes on some amorous quality that breathes a mysterious beauty, Gertrude, for the first time in her life, found that she was singing. No words, not even really a song, but beyond her control; the secret language, and it wafted over to the midwife in dolorous clouds to smoke a dance before her eyes. It danced of pain. Of shame. Of broken pride. It circled the room in search of promises. Stroked the panes in need of visions. Rose from the girl on the bed who could not have her baby. The girl, taken over by a voice so new it was almost not her own. The midwife was lifted to her feet and carried over to the bed. She looked into Gertrude’s eyes, and knew. Not from this one, oh Lord. Lowered her hand to Gertrude’s hot brow.

Hush now. Hush now.

And at her touch Gertrude fell asleep.


‘Strands of fate magically interwoven to give you a reggae-type experience full of pain, sweat, suffering, pride, poise and grace.’ (Goodreads)


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Long time: first date

She looked away, annoyed that he should have seen her looking up and down the street. Looking for someone. His grin got wider with every step he took, teased by every novelty he was able to detect about her, even from that distance — new hairdo, make-up, nails, new clothes (nice little figure), my God — so that by the time he had reached the bus-stop, James Dunbar was brandishing the irrepressible smile of an admirer.

“Good marning.” She could hardly keep her smile back, either.

After swallowing, “… who’s the lucky man, then?”

“Is wa yu mean?”

“You off to get married, or somefing?”

“Me? Married? Yu too styupid! Yu tink if me going to get married me would stan up here at di bus-stop?”

“That’s right. A Rolls for you… anyhow I’m glad to hear you’re not getting married.” He couldn’t tear his eyes off her.

“So am I.”

“Emily… you… you look absolutely stunning. Took my breff away when I saw you just then.”

She chose to say nothing.

“I think about you quite a lot, you know, Emily. I know I don’t stand a chance, but I like to think about you.”

She remained silent.

Jack: We’ve been meeting all these months, and I really look forward ta seeing you every time. Seeing you warms me up so much, it makes me start the day on a good note, know wot I mean? Anyone who had you for a girlfriend should think himself lucky…

He’d been practising for ages, all the things he might say, he could say to get her to go out with him. He had worked out how he would stand and what he would do with his legs, with his hands and that. And now that she was standing there before him like some beauty queen, he could feel himself bursting to say something, but dammit, he couldn’t remember his lines.

Jack: There’s a mixed couple round where I live they look so good together. They’re the other way round, mind. She’s white and he’s –

He’d never actually said the word black to a black person before. He didn’t know if she would like it.

Jack: Well, they’re the other way round. Not like –

and that word us got stuck in his throat.

Jack: Always holding hands, they are. Real in love, like. (sigh) Lovely, innit?

Then, wetting his lips,

Jack: Emily…

Jack’s inner voice: Go on, Jack! Get it out. Now or never!

Jack: It’d be so nice if I could just take you out one afternoon. You know, we could go for a walk somewhere nice and have a nice meal somewhere… the summer’s over, we won’t have that many sunny days left n it’s already getting darker quicker in the evenings…

Jack’s inner voice: There! You see! Weren’t that hard, was it? Give yourself a pat on the back, mate (laughing proudly). A whacking great pat on the back!

Jack: Emily, what do you say?

Emily (in a no hurry): I’m a very busy person. Me don’t have no time for tings like dat.

Jack (panting): Whenever you’re free, I’m free. What about weekends?

Emily: You tink me gwine go out wid some white man me know notting ’bout part from him name Jack?

Jack: What about a Sunday afternoon?

Jack’s inner voice: She hadn’t said no outright, had she? She hadn’t said no…

Emily: Must tink me no have someting better to do wid me time…

Jack (persisting): Nobody works on a Sunday afternoon…

Emily: … tink we let go and loose like fi unnu woman dem.

Jack: Emily?

Their bus chugged its way up to them he ignored it they could catch the next one –

Jack: Emily?

Emily (irritated): Cho man, me ears deh eat grass! (shrugs her shoulders at some botheration)

Jack: Beg you pardon?

Emily: Say me fed up a hear about it!

Ding ding! The conductor rang the bell twice. The bus, obedient, tame, pulled away. Jack hopped round to the other side of her.

Jack: Wot is it you’re afraid of, tell me. You afraid you might actually like it, perhaps?

Emily: Me nat afraid a anyting you can do me. Me got me Protector.

Jack: Then why don’t you come! (imploring) Emily!

Couldn’t she see what she was doing to him, couldn’t she feel that he would walk the earth for her – could she really not?

Jack: It would do us both the world of good…

He could think of nothing more to say as he stood beside her, staring ahead sullenly, irked by the mindless chatter of the people around him why the hell didn’t they just shut their traps!

Battle break out on Emily Thompson face but she keep her mouth tight shut, yaa. The next bus just turn the corner and she can’t afford to miss it –

Emily: When?

Jack: Shall we meet at one?

Emily: One is too early, man!

Jack: What about at two?

Emily (brief pause): Where?

Jack: Wot’s wrong wiv ’ere, at the bus-stop?

Emily: Good.

Ding ding!

“Two please, mate.” He held his hand out for the tickets, “Taa, mate.”

Both stared straight ahead, their bodies erect, not saying a word to each other, like a couple after a quarrel trying to play it down in public.

“Pollard’s is the next but one,” he said, still smiling. “Shall I get off here?” his head inclined a trace in her direction. Red fingernails, she had. Just like a lady.

“Not if yu don’t want to.”

“Oh, right,” he whispered.

Rose tug on the cord and it go Ting-ting!

Jack scurried to his feet, holding his unbuttoned jacket against his chest, out of her way, his eyes on her the whole time.

Rose looked down at him, wanted to say –

then made her way to the back of the bus.


‘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 English man at the bus-stop who fancied her. It was out of the question. She never mentioned it again. But my mind 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)

‘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)

From Long Time Walk on Water


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