SEASON OF MISTS AND MELLOW FRUITFULNESS – Millie, Gravesend and Malawi

By Clayton Goodwin

Autumn …. October …. The season of mellow mists and fruitfulness …. Has always been a happy occasion for me. It was the month in which I first came to London from my village home, experiencing as a teenage student all the sensations of all, and it was the traditional (but not exclusive month) in which we presented for many years the Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth beauty contest. Now after the illness of previous months we were able to appreciate the season again in all its glory. Well, there was the inconvenience of transport difficulties and a major political demonstration. With more than the mere hint of drizzle in the air. So, I set off for Shepherd’s Bush where on my arrival 63 years earlier I had seen the streets lined with “penny for the guy”. Now no guys were in evidence. It was the custom of a foregone age.

October was the birth-month of Millie Small. Her passing three years ago had to be marked modestly because it was at the height of the Covid pandemic and the lockdown. The unveiling of a celebratory blue plaque at 62a Nettlewood Road, where the singer had lived, quietly, if not incognito for the latter part of her life, provided an opportunity to pay tribute to her memory. London borough of Hammersmith supported the occasion as part of their Black History Month celebrations. My day was “made” by the chance to meet, greet and be greeted by Jayee Small, Millie’s daughter, some 59 years since I had first made the acquaintance of her mother.

Yes, October is also Black History Month. I went back to Gravesend, my home town, to meet the North Kent Caribbean Association who have returned to their former premises adjoining the old Adult Education Centre and situated conveniently close to the railway station. They have had a full schedule of promotions, especially in Windrush Year, bringing the West Indian experience to several locations in the neighbourhood. Many of the now elderly lady members came to the Gravesend initially as nurses, and former midwife Sister Sullivan (“Sully”), who, it is said, delivered most of the children in the town, has become a celebrity in her own right. The West Indian presence here has been long been associated with mother/daughter Claudette and Michelle Bramble. I was pleased to meet them again and also Joe Modeste (Joe Mod), the well-known d.j./promoter whose earlier promotions helped substantially to put the community “on the map”.

October, too, was the month in which InterCare (Medical Aid for Africa) of Leicester put to good use the collection of catheters, flushes and associated items which had been delivered to our home while I was under hospital care, was left un-used after my discharge, and which no medical centre, hospital or any other public body would accept for collection. Africa Aid wrote: “We were very grateful to receive a total of four parcels containing an assortment of catheters; catheter bags; leg straps; valves; irrigation solution; catheter gel; surgical gloves and a Foley stabilisation device – all of which will be extremely useful to our partner health units in Africa and have been set aside for the next 20ft container of medical supplies we will be sending to health units in Southern Malawi (in Spring 2024)”.

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