On the Buses

“Scum! scum! scum1” shouted the students.

“Give them a few years and they’ll all be Tories,” said Uncle Joe. “F***ing students.”

It was noticeable that the students were all white and led by a cheerleader. They stood away from the small group of black protesters who did not join in the chanting.

The bus boycott was all well and good, but some of us had to get to work and it was too far to walk. Two of our fellow passengers were black. I knew one of them. James’ dad who worked as a cleaner at the eye hospital.

“We have to support our brothers on the buses,” Uncle Joe insisted.

It was black and white with Uncle Joe. You supported the union. In this instance you also supported the bosses because they maintained the colour bar on bus crews. (Uncle Joe also supported the bosses on the docks but backhanders were a private perk.)

“Uncle Joe” was his docker name in honour of his Russian hero. We all had a docker name. His real name was Cyril. Cyril was also “brother,” or “comrade,” depending on his role at the time.

We got off the bus and the chanting intensified. James’ dad wandered over to chat with one of the black protesters. I strolled over to the dock with Uncle Joe.

“Bananas,” I said.

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