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I was born in Huddersfield. I left England when I was about five and I grew up with my aunt in Trinidad. Iíve always remembered those years in Trinidad as quite fond years.
My mother was training to be a nurse and like so many Caribbean parents they sent their children home, normally to grandmothers, but I stayed with my aunt for about 5 or 6 years. I came back in about 1971 to Huddersfield when I was about 11. So I didnít have an image of what England was like other than that Iíd read in books. Like there were red buses and red brick houses and snow in winter.
Yes, I did feel the UK was my home, but Iíd always felt that Trinidad was a paradise. I think Trinidad represented very much the celebration of life and the celebration of diversity. Itís quite interesting that my two other brothers felt the same; they stayed with me in Trinidad and it was the kind of paradise that we always wanted to return to. We knew we would always go back to England and we didnít want to stay too long in Trinidad or else it would just be like England so itís always a place where weíd go, get energised and come back. Trinidad is a place that was very special to us and still is.
I think, it wasnít until my late 20s that I realised I would be staying in the UK. For a long time I thought I might go to Trinidad and stay for six months each year but Trinidad had become a different place to what we had left behind. I changed my mind; there was lots of cocaine and violence and the freedom had gone, it was no longer appealing.
When I came to the UK people talked about, the Hindus do this, the Muslims do that, in Trinidad it was something we called a Ďone cultureí. I knew when it was Eid and I respected Eid the way we respect Christmas. I knew when it was Diwali and respected it. We gave to each other, there was that diversity. Iím not saying it was perfect by any means. But certainly as a child I knew about the mystical gods and so on within their religion without being frightened Iíd been taken over.
We were taught poems about Guru Nanak which is part of the Sikh faithÖ
Our teachers came from different cultures and thatís the kind of thing that really excited me.
I always say to my parents that I got nurtured from that; nobody has to tell me about equality, about respect, differences and so on. Because at an early age - 7 and 8 - I learned it wasnít something that was forced on me, I respected it. Itís a value thatís still with me. Trinidad was about being proud, about all the traditions. Thatís how I learned and I think it was a good grounding for me. You can celebrate differences.
Iím a Seventh Day Adventist, so I keep the Jewish Sabbath. Muslims didnít think just because I donít celebrate Christmas I canít give someone a Christmas card. They give it out of respect.
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