In 1957 my dad (Jasper) made his journey from sunny Jamaica to England. When he arrived he lived in shared accommodation on Freme Street, Nelson Street and Dover Street, all in the Brunswick area of Manchester. Little did I know that the area would become very important to me.
He was unable to read or write, but always found work as a labourer. He regularly sent letters back ‘home’ to Jamaica, dictated by him and written by me or my younger sister.
We often wrote the letters on a blue piece of paper. Once we had written it, the edges would moistened and stuck down to form a type of envelope. The front looked very official; it said ‘Airmail’.
Once my dad retired he loved going to the ‘bookies’. He probably spent no more than a tenner a week. Looking back, I now realise it was more about the socialising, although I must say he knew his jockeys.
He was good at copying writing. He would listen intently to the racing on the television, then tell us the name of the horse. We would find it in the newspaper for him and he would write it down and take it to the bookies for them to do the sums.
In 1985, age 63, he took himself off to Longsight Library and registered for the literacy classes. He attended three times a week for a couple of years. He really enjoyed it and learnt so much.
Throughout this time my dad was drawing. As kids, we weren’t interested and saw them as ‘strange’. I now realise that a lot of his drawings were copied from the daily newspaper and he put his own slant on it. He drew with pens, pencils and crayons. He is now 98 years old and has no memory of drawing them. I also wonder if this was a way for him to express himself when he was not able to read or write.
I might be a little biased, but I think they are really good. What do you think?