Tag Archives: Jack Dunbar

Long Time: the better life?


In 1950, 1,700 people emigrated from Jamaica to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Twenty years later, in 1970, the number of emigrants had reached an alarming 23,000. The total number of immigrants in the UK in the year 1970 constituted, nonetheless, less than 5%.

On the topic of immigration, Enoch Powell (Conservative Party) delivered a controversial speech in Birmingham -1968 –  after which he fell into disfavour and was dismissed from the shadow cabinet.

Edward Heath:  elected Prime Minister, 1970. The 68th Prime Minister in the history of the British parliament, the conservative Edward Heath replaced Harold Wilson, the only labour Prime Minister in the last twenty years. Enoch Powell, dismissed, disgraced, was most saddened by the fact that his participation in the party’s victory could only take the form of his rather vocal support in front of the television set in the lounge of his comfortably furbished detached house.


What a naughty boy was that
To try to drown poor pussy cat
Who never did him any harm

And killed the mice

Hickory tickory…



He winds his way through the estate; past the first two low-rise blocks, past the newsagent’s, the fish-n-chip shop, the launderette, the post office, the betting office and the off-licence. A short queue had formed in the chippy, and through the fluttering multicoloured strips of a plastic curtain hanging in the entrance to the betting office, men’s voices joke, shout, hope, swear. Post office being next to the betting office and the off -licence, a fair amount of welfare probably never made it through a man’s front door, thought Jack, such is life. He turns another corner:

A couple of houses in the block are boarded up. Amazing, how quickly a place can run down. It hadn’t been that bad when they’d moved in. If everyone were to plant a few flowers on their balcony in the summer and make sure their kids went to school, he didn’t want his kids turning teenagers in this environment but what could he do? His feet smack the concrete floor. The sound carries far, far enough for gangs lurking behind pillars yards ahead to know you were on your way but he lives there and isn’t afraid of boys trying to be men, he’d smack their bloody heads together if they ever tried to mug him or anyone in his family. In a parallel house an old lady’s sitting by her window, her curtains pushed aside. Elsewhere, a mother, fraught, fed up; “Daniel! Come ’ere before I give you one! Come ’ere right now… you fink I’m joking?” Silence for a while, then, “Daniel!” Impatience brewing. “Right that’s it, you’ve had ya warning.” Whack! A toddler’s wet, gargling scream. Father storms into the room, starts effing and blinding, but Daniel’s mum gives as good as she gets. Maybe it will come to blows. The old woman shakes her head as she withdraws from the window. From the profanity. Jack takes a shortcut past the playground; two car-tyre swings mope from the branches like carcinogenic fruit, a metal slide, a see-saw and a sandpit, or at least it had been, before the sand’d been pinched. Another left turn, and Jack is home. Lift’s not working again. He begins to climb the stairs to the seventh floor.

“S’at you, Jack?” She was in the kitchen.

“No, it’s Father bloody Christmas.”

“Hello, love.”

A peck on the cheek, “Nice day?” She wipes her hands on her apron. Pushes her hair into place. She had been beautiful once.

“Same as usual.”

Jack sits down at the kitchen table in the hot, small, cluttered place so hard to air on cold days such as these. The paint blistered on the wall around the cooker.

“What’s for dinner, love?” He picks up a crayon. Colours, absent-mindedly, with daughter, Nina.

Jack’s wife stands over the sink peeling potatoes. “Police were round. Door-to-door questioning. Some old lady in Havelock was mugged coming back from the post office this morning, I dunno… Ben got a gold star for a story he wrote at school, didn’tya, darling? Go’n show daddy your gold star…” she dunks the peeled potato into the sink of cold water then plops it into the pot on the cooker. Leaning against the cupboard, she begins to clean the juice, the mud of the potatoes from her fingernails, looking, every now and then, out the window. Nothing ever happened out there, but you look  just the same, like a fish in its bowl doing the rounds.

Jack looks at his wife. How many times had he told her it drove him up the wall the way she kept fiddling around with her fingernails like that.

“What’s for dinner, love?” he asks once more.

“Oh! Sausage n mash. Got a little baked beans left over from yesterday. You can ’ave those.”

‘Setting the book in Jamaica and England allows me to represent the communality of experience in addition to the effects and rewards of rupture. There are no losers in Long Time Walk on Water. Not even the most brutal of my characters. I see the vulnerability caused by need and I honour those who seek a way out. Harsh at times, Long Time Walk on Water is ultimately uplifting and life-affirming.’

(Joan Barbara Simon, interviewed by Lucy Walton for Female First)


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Count yourself lucky

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

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. 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)

Long Time Walk on Water, available at:

Waterstones    Barnes & Noble   The Book Depository   Smashwords

Amazon US   Amazon UK   Amazon France    Amazon Germany