An escape to the balcony with the pigeons was freedom

The West Indian Front Room, 1970s by Michael McMilan

Sunday afternoons, after fried curry and rice and West Indian dumplings,

we’d sit on a brushed flannel blanket covering the velvet settee. Legs too short to touch the multicoloured carpet beneath.

We’d sit straight, only our eyes moving, wandering over the bright yellow textured wallpaper, tracing patterns and exits until we were dizzy.

He sat in one armchair and her in the other. Armrests protected with white hugging linens. Dollies on head rest, sideboards, side tables. Everywhere.

Behind him hanging against the white washed wall was a black velvet scroll depicting the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Home. A silence presence.

If he was in a good mood then there’d be port and a cigar and the gramophone sounding out with soul. Other times, black and white TV shows like Survival and the history of athletics, we had to watch. Still and silent.

We were his children brought up to do as we were told. To not ask why and call our elders uncle or Tantie . Any deviation from such a course of action would result in rage and beats.

My imagination became the place of expressing my range of emotions. My imagination became the place of power and choice. Freedom.

Pigeons. Standing there.

From a marionette flat

with a pebbledashed balcony

grey feathered birds, standing

there, there on the railings.

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