Tuesday, 23 February 2010

April 1982 - June 1983. London

Our plane touches down at Gatwick, but in our hearts, we're still flying high.

We're determined to return to Grenada as soon as possible, though logistically, the problems seem insurmountable. My 5 year relationship with F is at an end, I have nowhere to live, no job and no savings.

But you know how it is. When you're feeling positive, it can seem as though life itself is charmed. F meets us at the airport. When he hears our intention to only remain in the UK for a few months, he agrees I should stay in the flat we've shared in Acton, maintaining our relationship, but moving into the spare bedroom.

Within the first week, I'm contacted by a friend who tells me there's a vacancy where she works for someone to do stock control and accounts to provide maternity cover. The pay is far more than I have ever earned before.

J and I start a self-defense class. We're such naturals, the instructor keeps us behind after every class to give us free extra sessions.

Sorted. Everything's going my way. I have an ongoing relationship (which had always been non-monogamous), somewhere to live and an income that will enable me to save. Once we come up with a practical plan, we should be able to return to Grenada well within the year.

If this was fiction, you'd know something would go wrong at this point. When the main protagonist believes everything's going her way, she'd better look out.

Well, this isn't fiction, but ...

On Mayday, 1982, J and I go off to our self-defense class. This is no fancy martial arts technique we're learning, but rough tough street fighting. Each week we've compared bruises and pulled muscles after our extended session. On this day, one of my injuries is to my knee. It's not 'til I get home, put my feet up and watch my knee balloon before my eyes that I realise this is more serious than the usual knocks.

To cut this part of my story short, the following year is filled with appalling pain, daily grueling physio, 3 operations and a long period when I'm totally bed-ridden. Meanwhile, my relationship is disintegrating round my ears, culminating with F moving another woman in soon after I get home from hospital after the first op.
The knowledge that eventually I will be returning to Grenada is the only thing that keeps me going. There are few bright spots in that difficult year, and they're all connected with a tiny island half the world away:

  • The management where I'm working are really supportive and understanding. They arrange for me to have lifts into work and take time off each day for physio. During the weeks and then months when I can't get out, they deliver work for me to do at home and collect it the next day. I do it sitting up in bed, leaning on my Grenada tray.
  • Since I'm not in a position to go anywhere, at least I can save all my earnings.
  • I meet a guy at work who's Grenadian. He has a house in Tempe, just outside St Georges, and agrees we can rent it from him when we eventually return.
  • H and I come up with a scheme whereby we believe we can contribute something meaningful to the Revo. We know the revolution has gone along way to eradicating illiteracy on the island, but there is a lack of decent reading material. There's a library in St Georges, but it's underused and stocked with literature left over from the colonial period. Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy are all very well, but there are few if any contemporary or more relevant books. Meanwhile, in London, we have access to an outpouring of wonderful literature from authors like Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Books by writers in the US, Caribbean, South America, Africa ... We come up with the idea of a mobile library, regularly visiting all areas of the island including the remote rural villages, stocked with all these amazing books. If we could set it up, with funding and donations organised here, we could stock it, get it on the road and then hand it over to the Revo.
  • I also buy a decent 35mm camera and we sign up as stringers for a leftie photo agency based in London.
So, theoretically, everything is in place. All we need is for me to be fit enough. It takes a year. In the end, I get there with the help of a wonderful osteopath, a change in hospital and a move out from the poisonous atmosphere of the flat and into a short-term place in a communal house in Shepherds Bush. I'm, finally able to put aside my walking stick and, together with H and J, book my ticket for Grenada.

Armed with a list of exercises and a supply of homoeopathic remedies, we bid farewell to family and friends and set off to fulfill a dream.