Louise and Uncle Roy
The object is a Bob Marley poster and it's not the original one my dad had, but he had an old school record and he kept the thing that you keep records in, not a CD case...the sleeve. So when that was all tattered and stuff he just kept that.
He just used to have it like...in the house...in our little council flat, like you do because no one can afford a big old poster. And so, I just remember my mum taking the mick out of him, saying, 'you can't afford no poster'...and blah, blah, blah, Bob Marley, whatever. Because my mum's West African and he's Caribbean, so the culture clash was mad. My mum used to be like, 'well, my daughter is African through and through' and my dad would be like, 'my daughter is Jamaican through and through'. I was just like, 'ah...I'm from London'. One of the reasons I've got this, is because I've got my mum with me and she reminds me of that side of my heritage. She pounds me with it, I know it. I speak the language and everything. Whereas I don't speak Patois and I've got very few links...and very few memories, because he died when I was about 7...and I'm older than that now.
I don't share that much about this, so there are some things here that I've not really thought about...that I don't have a lovely prepared answer for. Which is probably good because you'll get the raw shit, the real stuff...and that's good.
I think what the object represents is a lot like my dad, because...not just the Jamaican thing, not just the music thing, but in terms of the legacy of the man. Do you know what I mean?
Like, Bob Marley was no saint or anything, let's not pretend. But we all like to remember him that way: like he just made amazing music, he was a great guy, he liked to have a good smoke, and he brought people together. Yet, you know...no one talks about the controversy of him having dreadlocks, because that was seen as really controversial in the Caribbean community at the time. No one brings that up. It's not a conversation. And I know that my mum and dad were in a very abusive relationship. But we don't talk about that; in my memory of him he was a great dad, but I know in the reality he was a horrible husband. I don't tend to think about it too much but I know that parallel is there for me, with good old Bob and my dad.
When I think of my person, the first thing I think of is: sweeties.
One of the things, is that my dad was twenty five years older than my mum. And so my mum, in her first marriage, was told she couldn't have kids. So, she came to England to study and find herself (some people go to India). And my mum's really funny because she was just like, 'you know, met a Jamaican guy, seems nice enough, had a few drinks and all of a sudden you popped your ugly head up'. I was like, ‘Oh mum, really? What a lovely, romantic story'. She was like, ‘we did right, we got married and everything, it was alright'. But because she was older, and he was older yet, having me so unexpectedly, when she was told she couldn't have kids...one of the side effects of me being...of that...because there is always little side effects of having older parents, innit? Mine were really minor. Mine were bad eyes and bad teeth. My dad would take me to the dentist and because, you know, we were living in England, and we could afford sweets, you know what I mean? He'd be like, 'if you have a really good day at the dentist today, I'll take you to the sweet shop'. I obviously didn't think about it at the time, but in hindsight all I know is I would go to the dentist and I'd love going to the dentist because I knew that meant I got a whole pound. A whole pound...to spend on sweets. I had a bit of everything. It was insane. And I'd be eating them and eating them and my mum would come pick me up from my dad's place and I'd be like...high. You know, when you've got a real sugar high and your face is like grrrrr, but you're trying to be calm because we can't let mum know you've had that many sweets.
Oh dad... I never called him dad either, so that's really weird to say. Uncle Roy. He didn't like being called dad because he'd say it made him seem a bit old.
He was like in his seventies for Christ sake. So, I don't know... he had like, a thirty something year old bit on the side...well no, not bit on the side...my mum wasn't a bit on the side, but he had loads of other girlfriends too. And I kind of associated that with Bob too. I mean, he obviously had his wife, but you know...he was no stranger to the ladies.
I remember one of my dad's girlfriends was about nineteen or so, and Kelly used to come round and smoke a bit and stuff... and I'd be like, 'hi', and we'd all sit and jam. And then when she left and another lady came...
I remember at my dad's funeral so many women. So many. All just like...wailing.
The first English funeral I went to I didn't understand the etiquette. Because the first funeral I had been to was my dad's. Everyone was balling and crying. There were drinks in the church and people were smoking...and it was like, 'Lord Jesus. Oh Lord. Roy, where you gone?'...and everyone was shouting. And then one my friends Katie died and I was like, sobbing... people were looking at me like, 'why is she crying so loud?' It was a complete culture shock.
Oh gosh, when we all went up there...even my mum called him Uncle Roy. His ex-wife called him Uncle Roy, his girlfriends called him Uncle Roy. It just kind of...it made it less...he wasn't one for responsibility if that makes sense. And "dad" carries a lot of weight. Yet I kind of give him that title when I speak about him, but whenever we go to family things, we still call him Uncle Roy. He even dyed his hair until he was eighty... what a funny little man.
Bob was quite new age in terms of my dad, ike part of what the kids were listening to. So my mum would take the mick, like that was how he was getting all the...how do I..."tail" that he was getting. Their terminology was a bit different...you never want to hear your mum say the word "pussy"...it's weird.
I used to just want him to be around. So I think I'd have just asked him to stay for a bit. But a little bit of me, now that I'm a bit older, understands that my idea of him has pushed me so much further than anything else...and wanting to make him proud, wherever he is. I don't know...I think I'm about to say something a bit twisted, but I don't mean it in a bad way, but I think everything has happened for a reason. And if he was still here...if I did ask him to stay...I don't think it would be a positive influence on my life. Do you know what I mean?
She's [my mum] always used him in a way to make sure that... she would have been like, 'your dad will be really proud of you when you finish this, or when you've done that.'
And I think if I could say one more thing to him, maybe this time it would just be, 'thank you'. Because even though he hasn't been here, he's definitely been a big influence and a good motivator.