A refugee's story part 2 - A white boy is born to yellow parents

I grew up white.

I was born with yellow skin in a hospital in South London in the winter of 1980, across the river from Bow but near enough to make me think I'm a cockney. I never really moved all that far from these London roots, going to university in Coventry but coming back, then travelling far and wide only to find my way back to Thamesmead.

I found out at a later time that the nurse in the Woolwich Army hospital for mothers and babies was the same nurse who attended my mother on her death bed 20 years later. By the time she passed away I had gone through the school system pretty successfully, and was well on my way to being a teacher, a good stable job in the UK and maybe even a job for life if such a term exists in this day and age.

At school I was no angel but bright enough to get through with good reports and excelled in maths like every other Vietnamese kid in the place. I always put that down to the fact that mathematics is not dependent on language and as a result the universal code that is mathematics could be much better deciphered than the English work we were set, but now I'm older I think that's not the case at all. After all I had no language problems at all. I was born in the UK and English was my first language. But it's not politically correct these days to say that one race is just better at maths than another, so for the purposes of this piece I'll maintain that it was because of language.

I came out of school with good grades and went to Warwick where I studied Physics. What mother wouldn't have been proud? I was the picture of a successful British upbringing and there was no doubt I would do my country proud.

Looking back on growing up, I have mainly fond memories of childhood. The less happy ones are easier to understand now in the light of my present knowledge.

Other than my earliest memory of crawling around on a floor with a bright light overhead in a cramped flat my earliest memories were filled with play and the naiveté of youth. As a young boy, I don't remember a time when my whole family lived happily together. As far as I was aware, I lived with my father, while my mother had been to university and come back to find her own house, where she lived with one other brother, U. I knew that my gran lived with my other brother, H just up the road. And as a small boy I was as happy as could be.

I was worked hard but allowed a lot of room for play and I can remember how everyone used to think my dad was the coolest dad on the block because he bought Ferrero Rocher's and let me dig up the garden and fill the muddy holes up with water. The twins, Chris and Terry used to come around every day and we'd fill the holes up with water and run around an assault course in the garden for what seemed like hours, making a mess and shouting at each other like kids do in English.

Occasionally I would go round and see Mum. She lived about 10 minutes walk away so it was not hard to go round and see her. My brother H and my gran lived across the road, no more than the throw of a grain of rice away. We could have gone around at any time, but I tended to see H a lot less and even now I don't think we're close.

Only now that I'm older can I see the whole picture. Only now do I see what happened before I was aware of the world and what led us to live our separate lives and it all makes sense to me. Before I was born a lot of senseless things happened which blew our lives apart and wrecked our family but how was I to know? My parents spared me the details.

Childhood was bliss. I guess that's what they say about ignorance isn't it? But now I am no longer a child and history books reveal so much.
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