Former youth worker’s rocky road into writing
Valentino A Jones, a former teacher and social services officer, has previously championed changes in the British educational system to help children of colour. His new book is inspired by his sympathy for exploited Grenadian workers
01 March, 2018 — By Peter Gruner
Valentino A Jones, who now lives in Grenada, returns each year to Islington where he still has family and friends
A FORMER campaigning youth worker has swapped Finsbury Park for Grenada for an entertaining novel about life on the Caribbean island in the 1950s.
In The Long Enduring Road To Success, Valentino A Jones chronicles the struggles of a young man called Doc who rose out of poverty, fell in love and made a life for himself.
Significantly, the book is being published by Finsbury Park broadcaster Alex Pascall OBE, himself Grenadian-born and famous for his previous pioneering BBC Black Londoners radio programme.
The book comes out amid complaints that publishing in Britain shows a lack of diversity. It is accused of being mainly white and middle class.
Set in the post-war period that may have been less frenetic than now, the novel nevertheless contains many resonances for young people today trying to cope with life’s challenges.
Jones, often writing in colourful local dialect, was a former teacher and social services officer in Haringey and Hackney. He also championed changes in the British educational system that were failing children of colour and pioneered supplementary education.
In the novel Doc is helped by two strong, inspiring women, his mother and a local woman in the village of Telescope, Ms Stella.
Ms Stella urges Doc to work hard in memory of the poor slaves brought by the ruling British to the island in the 18th century who had no opportunities to better themselves but simply to work and die.
She implores Doc and his friends, The Rocky Boys: “Doh waste your time sitting around doin nothing. Honour dem by getting something to do to improve you’selves.”
Doc’s mum provides support at a bad time when he is being criticised at work and snubbed by his colleagues.
She tells him: “You have to cope with failures, because they go teach you a lot of good lessons that book can’t teach you. Meet the failures, pass through the fire.”
Mum’s best advice is to look at the world and laugh at it.
Doc meets Velma, a girl determined to succeed, and falls in love. But she has her troubles. Her mother is ill, her father has emigrated to England and she misses him. Velma says: “I think of him up there in the cold, behind God’s back and we doh know when he’s coming back.”
The Rocky Boys are in their late teens, graduated but unemployed “rich in dreams and poor in means… like it or not, academic schooling was over for the Rocky Boys. Done. Gone. They had heard the last ringing of the bell.”
Doc’s first job in the home of the Briggs family includes sweeping the yard every morning and cleaning dog mess. Then he must sweep the kitchen before breakfast. Later he would be ordered to climb trees to collect fruit and cook the evening meal. Not surprisingly he felt he was being exploited. “The Briggs never bothered about money, mainly because they had it,” writes Jones. “They were born into it, they made it grow and it grew on them.”
Jones describes how lack of money is like a “warship in a harbour of the working-class man’s life protecting his lack of education. Secondary education was free for those who could pay for it.”
Jones was also founder and principal of Josina Machel Supplementary School in Hackney in 1976, where he was said to have successfully turned young lives around.
Now living in Grenada, he returns each year to Islington where he once lived and where he still has family and friends.
He says his novel is inspired by love for the Grenadian workers and sympathy for their plight and “the beautiful experience growing up on the island”.
Alex Pascall said: “Publishing in this country is often elitist. I loved this book so much I decided I would publish it. Valentino in his working life has always supported youth education and championed change in the education system in Britain to accept black and Caribbean history.
“In his wonderful work, Jones again deals with the problems of the young. His writing shows how much he cares.”
• The Long Enduring Road To Success. By Valentine A Jones, Good Vibes Records and Music Ltd (www.goodvibesonline.co.uk), £12