King a de road: A Little Bit of Kingston Town in South London

I’m in deepest Lewisham, somewhere, a little lost in the suburbs, waiting for a bus to take me to Lewisham station. After a while my bus arrives, a single deck, packed. I get on. The bus driver is a Jamaican, late twenties, elegantly muscular in body, debonair in face, with braided hair stuck tight to his head, sporting a sleeveless blue jumper overlying a long sleeved shirt. As we wind through the streets of Lewisham, it’s as if he’s winding through the hills and country roads surrounding Kingston Town. ‘Whaddya tink dis is? A smart car’ he says at every meeting with a car where there seems to be an intractable battle for space. ‘Get out ma way, am king a de road’ he says, and then aggressively battles his bus through the smallest of gaps left by the reluctantly retreating motorist. Two young black girls, around fourteen years of age, are walking across the street. The bus judders to a halt. The driver opens the window of the driver cabinet, and speaks to them, neither with smiles or aggression, but with confidence and nonchalance, with soft seductive cooing and wooing. Both girls smile back, sweetly. One of them raises her hand to say hello; almost to gesture see you around. The bus moves on. A BT repair van squares up to the bus. Both drivers wind down their windows. Our driver calls out, ‘Whadya tink am driving? A bloody smart car. Na, get out a ma way, am king a de road’. Comes the exceedingly aggressive reply, following a dirty growl, which in turn grew out of the gurgling sound of flem boiling with anger, ‘Fack orf you facking cant’. The BT van starts to reverse.

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