One summer’s evening, hopping on a bus at West Green Road, direction Kingsland Road, I was joined by several small black boys, ranging from eight to ten years of age.
We all make our way to the top deck where a few tough looking Turkish guys are sat next to each other, an outrageous looking punk is sat looking out the left hand side of the bus, and a small and scruffy looking foreign guy, dressed in a black jacket and slacks, is sat behind the punk. At the front of the bus is a black guy, dressed in sports casuals and a cap, also looking a little tatty, with a pair of crutches.
Of the boys who accompanied me on to the top deck, one in particular, the smallest, could not keep still. No sooner had he gotten on to the top deck, than he started to jump from seat to seat, poking his head out of the window, shouting obscenities, running here and there. His showmanship was fuelled by the fact that wherever he went, his two older acquaintances would find themselves sucked into the vacuum that he left in his wake.
Pretty soon the boy had eyed the punk, and sensing vulnerability, mocked him, repeating the word ‘punky’ in an affected Jamaican twang. The punk, two and a half times the size ignored him.
The bus pulled past a barber’s on the corner of West Green Road and Black Boy Lane. The boy seeing several Black guys sat outside the barbers poked his head out the window and shouted a whimba whey, a whimba whey and other racist abuse. One of his friends advised restraint, adding that the guys weren’t African but Caribbean.
But the child would not have his energies harnessed. He was like a verbal machine gun, quick and witty, insulting and nasty. He clocked some girls he seemed to know, in their early teens, walking down the street. He rushed over to the seat behind the foreign looking guy, to shout at the girls, but in so doing disturbed the guy, who in a flash stood up and swore at the boy.
Mayhem looked like it was about to break out but then the Black man, who had been sitting at the front on the top deck, hobbled his way to the middle of the bus and started remonstrating with the kid. He took him to one side and said ‘Look I know we’re both black and we’ve got to take care of each other but have some respect, you’re going to get yourself hurt behaving like that.’
The eight year old, on another planet, looked through his Black brother, he wasn’t answerable to anyone.
Even his friends were just flotsam caught in the whirlwind of his energy.
The older guy limped back to his seat.
By this time the girls, who the boy had been shouting at, had joined him on the top deck. They talked a short while, and the boy tried to pinch one of the girl’s behinds, after which the girls made their way off the bus, to insults.
Then finally much to the relief of everyone, the young boy and his colleagues rang the bell to get off. We all thought we’d seen the last of the young boy as he went down the steps, but suddenly, no sooner had he disappeared, than his head popped back up, and in the flash of a second a raw egg was whizzing its way across the bus, in the direction of the punk.