Les Back: Can you say a bit more about, you’ve mentioned about your early experience of you growing up. Could you say a little bit more about that and how you think that’s, how you’d draw on that in your writing?

M Y Alam: As a kid?

Les Back: Yes, where did you live?

M Y Alam: Well I lived in Manningham for many years. My earliest memories are moving into a street of back-to-back houses. My dad bought three houses in that street. At the time, they were like three hundred quid a piece, four hundred quid a piece. No shit, three bedrooms, back to back houses with an inside toilet, and there were outside toilets round the back, you know, they had the old outhouses. Shit, you can’t even rent them for that now. So anyway, he bought one for my eldest sister, because she was getting married at the time, he bought one for my uncle, and he bought one for us and that was it. Pretty soon people started moving out. Within a year there was hardly anybody left of the white people. Everybody had left, for whatever reasons. I don’t think I understood too good then but it kind of made sense when I got a little older and started understanding people better. Thing is, we weren’t unpleasant people I don’t think. And what’s more, my mum could speak English pretty well and my dad was very fluent. We never committed any pagan rituals outside people’s doorsteps or anything, and yet people decided they’d move on to greener pastures. Come to think of it, though, there were two households that stayed there for a long time that were white.

In one of these houses there lived these two young lads, same ages as myself and my brother at that time, couple of years in between them. And they became good friends for a long time. One of them was a really smart – I mean clever – and he was the one who got me into Ska, Reggae, Soul and all that Two Tone stuff. He bought a scooter and all that and to me it was all fascinating because it was real, right in front of my eyes: scooter loaded up with mirrors, fish tail parka, loafers – the full works. Sad thing is, I heard he died a few years ago – heroin. Anyway, in the other corner of the street were an old couple, a very old couple, who had a daughter who’d visit them and she had kids and we’d sort of kick around with them too. Relatively happy times. Very happy times actually. I mean the thing is at that time, my dad used to work in a mill.

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