During holidays in summertime, while a student studying Economics up in London, I worked on building sites in Wales.
I meet a band of characters: brickies, chippies, gangers, engineers, architects, labourers.
One man sticks always in my mind. A labourer. A lean man, and short, and always a Monmouth cap pulled tight on his head. All bone and gristle with a grip of steel. Mixed race and rightly proud. From the docks: ‘Tiger Bay’, as if that explained everything – and it did! A wise man, too.
In the site canteen. Morning break. A hastily made homemade sandwich collapsing between the fingers of one hand. Being teased for reading A Child of the Jago and taking notes. And then a clanger dropped. My crime? Using language unbecoming of a building site! And a brickie mocks me mercilessly: ‘Disposable income! Bugger me! There’s posh you are. Disposable bloody income! Me, I calls that beer money! Disposable income? Bloody students!’
Monmouth cap smiles reassuringly. I pick up a tabloid newspaper to paw the tits and bums.
Beyond Page 3, James Brown, the Godfather of Soul’s been arrested. An innocuous crime. ‘How come a man like that can be arrested,’ I say, ‘how can that happen to such a man?’
In a Cardiff accent, soft and raw, Monmouth cap smiles at me and says in his warm calm way: ‘He’s just a man, Roger. Just like you and me.’
Endeavouring to help others by publishing a book about ourselves, revealing our private lives, is a bit like pulling down our pants in public. Privates on Parade. And parading either cowed or with the organ-proud, engorged-proud pride of the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. Or better, somewhere in between.
Fielding phone calls from reporters; requests made for talks from schools; photographers and cameramen shooting shoots. Articles in Sai Kung and Hong Kong and in Germany, in the UK and America, too.
More than one friend’s said: ‘You guys are famous, now!’ And not all speak with grins.
On Facebook, meaning well, a woman calls my daughter: “An Earth Angel” .
I thought of Monmouth cap: He’s just a man, Roger. Just like you and me.
We three, Tina, Mui, me, are ordinary people who’ve encountered extraordinary moments Good, Bad and Ugly and have coped as best we can, as in life we all do.
Our book is about an ordinary family: “just like you and me”.
Do check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GirlBehindTheFace
Our YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCXIpRNkVbw&index=1&list=FLxPU0NBQ4ty6pCTStBVPw0g
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