Theres been lots on the Beeb recently celebrating Black Britons, music, arts and culture if like me youve been enjoying these broadcasts this post is for you. 2016 has been such a strange year of change and unpleasantness and I guess the worrying rise in Nationalism both here and abroad prompts this post. Watching Public Enemy earlier in the year Flavor Flav made impassioned points that he and the group had always been against segregationism and worked towards unity. Why am I writing this? In 1987 I left school without any direction unfortunately, my uncle was a train driver which looked OK and so I started work two years later as a train guard based at Bletchley. At this point the old British Rail still nationalised was my entire career 89-94, theres growing call for the current 23 year period of failing privatisation to end, if you use trains you might relate. Back to Elton John. I was a boy in a mans world, in a job that ran 24/7 shifts and almost 100% male at that time. The drivers in the top links had been steam drivers and the stories of grafting on steam engines still got told in the mess rooms. At the same time some of my first workmates were first generation immigrants, employed in the 1950’s to run the railways, hospitals and services. Elton John was one of these guys, a Jamaican train guard never without a roll-up stuck to his bottom lip. We would hand-on trains to each other and sometimes ride sections during shifts where I would get to know him. Topics of conversation would be music and politics, and as with all shift workers inevitably about ‘the management’ or mismanagement as it was seen. I couldn’t always catch Eltons conversation his patois was strong but a really warm, friendly character that as with most of the staff there provided me with an initiation to adult working life really. Tea room breaks would always without fail involve the production of the magical Encona Original Sauce with its lovely bottle, a trivial matter perhaps but something linking Elton to home and identity. My routes were London- Birmingham, with freight work around Willesden, Bedford and Northampton. This meant lots of time in London where the biggest proportion of Afro-Caribbean’s ran the job. Euston held many special characters in this realm, George, the suburban Platforms 8,9,10,11 supervisor who when faced with an irate business man trying to locate late train back to Hatch End or wherever would simply say in his smoothest coolest voice “it’ll come when it comes”, nothing disturbed these men, and they were legends to me. These guys would have been in there 30’s in 1950, late 50’s and 60’s when I worked alongside them- perhaps not around anymore but they still live on with me in my memory. Part of my life story since 1971 and everyones in Blighty, a Unity there I treasure. Quoting Mutaburuka here “
So my drive to inspire and lead young people to active lives is in part a realisation that children learn everthing from their coaches, which is both a privilege and great responsibility. Leading by example is part of that duty, as the saying goes each one teach one, or even better linking back to the start of this post “A happy face and a thumping bass for a loving race” Jazzie B.