TheOrator.Press: Education, Schools, University, Language & Leadership. A Valentine’s Special ~ February 2023

In 1975 Jamaican Born Des Thompson Married Bajan Born Jeanette Walcott. Having Been Married For 48 Years, Together For 49 Years & Getting Ready To Celebrate The 5oth Anniversary of Being Together Next Year, They Spoke To TheOrator.Press About How They’ve Kept Their Love Going, The Importance of Friendship Within A Marriage And Making Room For Regular Romance Too. Plus Setting A Good Example For Their Four Beautiful Kids. And Their Six Grandchildren, The Next Generation

Still Active And Attractive At 75 And 67 Respectively, Des And Jeanette Thompson of The Windrush Generation Are Something of A Senior Black Power Couple Within The Black Community. They’ve Struck A Fine Balance Between Growing Old Gracefully And Still Being Fiesty, Trendy, Happening And Loving. It’s Impressive To See, Inspiring And Moving.

Having Met Them Whilst Covering A Windrush Day Event Last Year At Croydon’s WGLA (The Windrush Generation Legacy Association) We Simply Had To Follow Up With A Valentines Special And Find Out How They Do It.

Des Is Charismatic, Tall Dark And Handsome, (And Now A Silverfox), Full of Wisdom And With A Commanding Presence. His Wife Jeanette Is Light-Skinned, Green Eyed, And With Long, Natural, Shiny, Curly Hair, Friendly, Articulate, Artistic And Poetic. She Also Has A Great Love of Plants, From The Exotic To The Most Simple. They Have Worked Hard For Their Beautiful Home, Which Is Decorated Throughout With Them And Also In The Garden, Which Is Garden Perfect For BBQ-ing. Both Are Dedicated To Each Other And Their Large Family.

They Are Also Members of Their Local Church Community. They Love A Good Gospel Singing Session As They Embrace The Word of The Lord. Des Particularly Appreciates The High Energy, Uplifting Positivity And Joyous Delivery of The Gospel Celebration Because The Music & Power of This Style of Prayer Is Vibrant, Powerful, Strong And Energetic.

Des Is A Founder Member of WGLA (Above) And From Time To Time They Also Enjoy Events Organised By ACHA In Sutton (The African Caribbean Heritage Association). Jeanette Also Attends Regular Art Classes And Together They Regularly Enjoy Contemporary Social Events, Visiting Friends And Revitalizing Holidays.

They Are Both Community Minded. As A Former Electrician And Builder Des Is A Founder Member of The Pioneering Black Contractors Association (Est.d 1985) Which Was Patronised By The Likes of The Then Prime Minister John Major (Who Supported The Organisation As A Former Brixton Resident), Bill Morris The First Ever Deputy Leader And Later Actual Leader of The General Secretary of The Transport And General Workers Union (Later To Become Baron Morris of Hansworth), And David Pitt The First Black Magistrate for Hampstead. Not To Mention Councillor Joe Singh The Then Mayor of Lambeth.

As A Construction Expert, Having Been A Former Grand Master of The Organisation, He Is Still A Member of The Independent United Order of Mechanics. An International Friendly Society Which Has Lodges (Men) & Chapters (Ladies) Throughout The World, Including The Caribbean And Africa

Jeanette Worked As A Secretary For Many Years, Including Working For An Economic, Social And Political Think Tank, A Computer Company And Des’s Construction Business. She Is Still Good Friends With A Number of Her Former Work Colleagues With Whom She Still Socialises And Holidays.

TO.P: You Look Incredibly Well. Obviously Marriage Suits You. So What Would You Say Is The Best Thing About Being Married?

JT: Well The Best Thing About Marriage For Me Is Being Married To The Husband I Have. I Wouldn’t Swap Him For The World. We Argue A Lot. We Do. There’s No Doubt About That. But I Couldn’t Imagine Being Married To Anybody Else. We’ve Been Married For 48 Years This Year. And Been Together For 49. So Ahh. Yeah. Look At Him. He’s Lovely!

DT: Well It’s Just Being Married To The Wife That I’ve Got. And You Know, It’s Working At It. We’ve Been Working At It And Getting It Right And Getting It Wrong. And Then Getting It Right Again All Those Years. It’s Not Easy But You Know, You Stick At It. We’ve Taken The Long Road.

TO.P: When You Say You’ve Taken The Long Road, What Do You Mean By That?

DT: Not Giving Up. You Don’t Give Up. You Know, That’s The Thing. You Have To Ride Whatever Storm You Go Through. And We’ve Been Through Some Storms. Family And Personal. We’ve Been Through The Rough And We’ve Come Through. Still Going Through. With Our Family And The Kids And You Know. But We’re There. She’s Been There For Me. And I’ve Been There For Her.

TO.P: What Would You Say Is The Secret To Keeping A Marriage Going?

JT: I Think You Have To Want To Be In It. I Think That The Trust That You’re With The Right Person, And The Trust You Have For That Person. And You Give. You Give And Take. And It’s Got To Be In Equal Measure I Think. I Think If One Person Was Giving All The Time And The Other Person Was Taking All The Time That’s When It Probably Wouldn’t Work Out. You Have To Have That (Valued) Respect For Each Other As Well As Love.

TO.P: It’s Noticeable In The Pictures You’ve Kindly Shared With Us That There’s A Twinkle In Both Your Eyes, So Wonderfully It Seems It’s Not Just About You Being Married To Each Other For A Long Time, You Actually Still Like Being Together. Is That Right?

JT: Yeah We Do. Not All The Time [Laughs]. Most of The Time. We Like Our Own Space As Well. And I Think That’s The Thing. Don’t Be On Top of Each Other Too Much. We’re Not Stuck Together Like Glue. You Have To Have Your Own Hobbies And Be Able To Not Be In Each Other’s Pockets All The Time, But When You Are Together It’s Times When You Want To Be Together.

DT: I Don’t Know About The Twinkle But It’s Being With The Person You Want To Be With And From When I Met My Wife, Before We Were Married It Looked Like Fate Was Always Going To Join Us Together. It Was Meant To Be. Fate Just Drew Us, Built Us And Kept Us Together. And As I Said Before, It’s Working At It. The Secret Is There Is No Secret. You Know, It’s Just Hard Work. But It’s Not Hard Work. Because It’s Work That You Like. And Without Knowing It, You’re Just Doing It.

TO.P: How Do You Make A Friendship Within A Marriage. Compared For Instance To When You See Some People Who Are Married When You See Them They Don’t Seem To Talk To Each, They Don’t Seem To Be Happy Together, There’s No Twinkle?

JT: Well It Was Obviously There In The Beginning You Have To Work At It And You Have To Want To Be In The Relationship. I Mean We Are Not Friends All The Time. There’s Times When We Have Arguments And You Don’t Want To Speak To Each Other, But That Doesn’t Last Long, You Know. Especially On My Part Because I’m The Type That Will Just Argue And Finish. Des Might Drag It Out A Bit Longer Because He’s The Silent, Quiet, Broody Type.

But The Friendship Is Very Important Because We Are Good Friends. When You’ve Been Together So Many Years You Just Kind of Know The Other Person, And You Really Understand, Even When They’re Not Saying Anything, What They’re Feeling And You Try To Mend If Something Has Gone Wrong. You Try To Bridge That Gap Because You Don’t Want To Not Be On Speaking Terms, It’s Upsetting. And It’s Because You Love That Person And You Value That Person That You Will Try And Mend Whatever Bridge Appears To Be Broken For That Section of Time. You’ve Got To Be Patient.

DT: Well Your Wife Has Got To Be Your Best Friend. If There’s No Friendship And There’s No Likeness And There’s No Companionship And If There’s No Love, All Those Things They’re In The Cake. And We Have This Cake That We’re Not Just Trying To Put A Little Everyday Ordinary Ingredients In, We Put In Our Special Brand And The Cake Is What We Have A Piece of Everyday. This Is Our Cake. Our Love For Each Other. It’s A Special Friendship. She Is My Best Friend.

TO.P: So You Mentioned Arguments Earlier. It’s Been Said By Some Long Term Married Couples That They Never Go To Sleep On An Argument, But Sometimes Surely You Must Because You Can’t Always Resolve Things Over Night. How Do You Handle Arguments?

JT: The Thing Is We Are Kind of Similar Personalities. But He Knows I’m Quite Volatile. So I’ll Be The One That Flairs Ups Quickly. Shouty. Stressy. And He Can Be Calm.

It’s Impossible Not To Go To Bed On An Argument But You Try Not To Hold Onto It Too Long. And All Our Arguments Have Never Been About Anything Serious. I Can Honestly Say In 48 Years We Argue Over The Most Stupidiest Things. So It’s Easy Afterwards To Just Mend It. There’s Never Really Been Any Big Issue That We Actually Argued About. It’s Silly Things.

DT: Sometimes You Have To Say It’s Hurting Me More Than It’s Hurting Her. Sometimes Your Stubbornness And Your Silliness Carries It Over Too Long. And Then You Say I Want This To End.

TO.P: What’s The Longest An Argument’s Lasted?

DT: A Couple of Days. And Even Then That’s A Long Time. You Can’t Be Living In The Same House And Carry Thing On Because It’s Hard You Know. This Is Your Friend. Your Best Friend. Your Wife. Your Partner. When She’s Not Here I Miss Here. When I’m Not Here She’s The Same. So! Maybe It Might Be Horrible To Say But It’s Good To Have An Argument Sometimes As You Get Things Out The Air. You Get It Out Off Your Chest.

JT: We Don’t Hold Back. We Just Tell It Like It Is.

DT: And After That It Becomes Good. And The Good Part Is Making Up. You Know. Because You See The Other Person’s Point of View. And Sometimes You Might Not See The Other Person’s Point of View. But It’s Good Just To Get Back To Normal.

TO.P: Do You Believe In Romance?

JT: On Valentine’s Day We Went Out For A Little Drive And We Went Out For A Little Lunch But We Didn’t Make A Big Deal of It. But It Was Really Des Who Instigated That, So He Was Being The Romantic One. Another Year Maybe I Would Be The Romantic One And Do Something. He Acknowledged That It Was Valentine’s. We Didn’t Go Crazy. Sometimes We’ve Gone Out For A Meal. Other Times We’ve Not Done Anything, We’ve Just Bought Each Other A Card. It’s Not Just About One Day Is It? It’s Your Life. So You Have To Acknowledge Each Other And That You Do Love That Person And Show It In A Way.

But In Your Day To Day Life You’re Not Always Showing It. You’re Just Carrying On. Especially When You’re Raising A Family. It’s Easier Now Because Mostly It’s Just The Two of Us. But When We Were Raising The Kids, He Was Busy Working, I Was Busy With The Kids, So You’ve Got To Find That Time To Be Together. It Was Harder Then.

TO.P: What’s The Most Romantic Thing You’ve Ever Done?

JT: For His Birthday…I Did Organise His 70th Birthday. I Wouldn’t Say That Was Romantic Because We Had Loads of Friends Invited. But He’s Organised Surprise Birthday Parties For Me. My 25th. My 40th. And My 50th . Which I Knew Nothing About. And For His 70th Two Weeks After His Birthday I Organised A Big Party For Him. For Our Anniversary We Went To A Hotel In Kensington For A Long Weekend. The Year We First Married I Did A Dinner For Him. Tried To Do A Romantic Dinner For Him But His Sister Turned Up On The Day, So It Kinda Got A Bit Spoilt That One.

DT: I Think You Have To. I Believe In The Magic of Life. Being Romantic Is Magic. You’ve Got To Believe In The Romance Side of A Partnership. It’s Like Believing In Father Christmas. I Believe There’s Magic In Everything. There’s Magic In Two People Being Together. And Also You Don’t Even Think of The Time You’ve Been Together But It Seems Like Just Yesterday.

I Can’t Believe My Oldest Son Is Going To Be 45. Those Years It’s Like How Did It Happen That We’ve Been Together So Long. It’s Just Fun. You Know. We’ve Had Fun. And It’s The Fun Side of The Romance. And The Hard Side Is The Working Side. The Fun Side Is Us Being Able To Have A Laugh.

JT: And We Do. We Do Have A Laugh. On Monday Coming (20th February) Will Be The Day I First Met My Husband. I’m Meeting My Friend Who We Met At Their Wedding When I Was 14.

TO.P: And Are They Still Married?

JT & DT: [Simultaneously] Yes!

TO.P: How Did You Come To Know That Person To Go To Their Wedding In The First Place?

JT: My Dad And The Groom’s Dad Were Friends. And Des And The Groom Were Friends. Des Was The Best Man At That Wedding. 

[Although They Met At This Wedding They Went Their Separate Ways Afterwards And It Was Another Four Years Before They Began To Date. But They Made up For Lost Time Though Because They Married Just Over A Year Later. Des Was 27 & Jeanette She Was 20. Des Proposed In February 1975 (On Their 3rd Time of Meeting…And Whilst Driving!). Demonstrating Amazing Forward Planning They Bought Their First House In April 1975 But Did Not Move In Together Until They Were Married In October 1975. It Just Goes To Show That Ultimately It’s All About The Marriage Not The Proposal, The Wedding Nor The Wedding Day Primarily. We’re Loving That!]

DT: 25th Surprise. 40th Surprise. 50th Surprise. It’s The Little Things That Are Big Things. Romance Is Not Just A Word, It’s An Action.  And It Speaks Volumes If You’re In It And Doing It, But You Can’t Think About It. You Gotta’ Do It. You Can’t Think And Read About It And Not Have It. You’ve Got To Have It In Your Life.

It’s Like You Love Your Kids. You Love Your Wife. It’s That Mixture Again. I Go Back To The Cake And The Thing of Mixing It All Up. What Is It That We Enjoy? Do We Enjoy Love? Do We Enjoy Ice-Cream? You Enjoy It.

Every Day Is A Valentine. Every Day. It’s Good. If You Can’t Celebrate Your Life With Somebody There’s No Point Is There? I Didn’t Buy A Valentine’s Card This Year. But We Went Out For A Meal. We Went Out For A Drive. Instead Trying To Speak It, Do It. Just Do It.

JT: I’ve Written Poems For Him Over The Years.

TO.P: Another Thing A Number of Long Term Married Couples Have Said Is That After The Kids Go (Grow Up & Leave Home), The Marriage Goes. How Did You Avoid That i.e. How Did You Not Lose Yourselves After Having 4 Kids?

The Natural Flow of The Water Proves To Be A Guide To Self~Awareness, Self~Confidence And Family Success For Des

JT: When You Have Children You Are Busy. But You’ve Got To Remember It’s Not Only About Your Kids It’s About Your Partner As Well. And Somehow We Were Able To Sustain That Over The Years. Which Is A Bit Strange. But There’s Lots of Marriages That Survive Children. And If You Have Nothing In Common Except The Children Then That’s Where Things Are Going To Fail. Because You Have Marriages Where Once The Children Have Left Home The Husband And Wife Can’t Even Talk To Each Other. We’ve Always Done Things Together. When Our Children Were Teenagers We’d Take Ourselves Off On A Sunday. We’d Go To Church And Then We’d Disappear. And When We Came Home The Kids Would Say “Were Have You Been?” [Laughs] “What Time Do You Call This?”

You Have To Have Time For Each Other. I’ve Always Made Sure He Knows I’m Devoted To The Children But I’m Also Devoted To Him. We Love Our Children Dearly, We Get On Very Well With Them. We’re All Very Close. But We’ve Always Loved Each Other As Much. We’ve Both Worked Through The Marriage. He’s Had A Busy Life. I’ve Had A Busy Life. But Somehow We’ve Managed To Keep That Connection, Go Out Together, Events, Dinner Dances And Things Like That. With Other Adults Not Just Children. When They Were Younger We’d Take The Children With Us. So That’s How You Keep Everything Going.

It’s The One’s Who Have Nothing To Talk About Once The Children Are Gone That Have To Rekindle That. But We Never Really Lost It.

DT: I’ve Always Felt Over The Years You’ve Got To Be Able To Do Something For You And Your Wife. And We’ve Done Things Separately And Then Together. We Go To Church Together. We Go To Parties Together. And It’s Been A Partnership. That’s How It Works. It Doesn’t Work Any Other Way. You Know If You Can’t Get Together And Find Some Common Denominator. We Just Go Out For Walks. Go Out To Functions Together. And It’s Not Something We Just Started, We’ve Always Done It.

TO.P: You’ve Got Four Kids And Several Grand Children, Do You Think You’ve Passed On This Way of Loving Each To Your Kids?

JT: Yes. Definitely. They’re In Very Loving Relationships. Three of Them Are Married. The Youngest Isn’t Yet. But They Are All That Way. I Think Lead By Example.  My Eldest Son [Coming Up To Forty Five] Got Married In 2010 And He Was With His Partner Eight Years Before Then. My Second  Son Got Married [Forty Two] In 2012 And He Met His Partner When He Was 17. And My Daughter [Thirty Seven] Met Her Partner At 18 And He Was 20 And They Got Married In 2017. And My Youngest Son Is 33 In August. They’ve All Been In Long Term Relationships As Well. The Same Grounded Values They’ve Seen From Us They Also Have.

DT: I Think As Jeanette Said, Sometimes, And Most of The Time It’s By Example. And I Think There’s Been A Lot of Luck. Sometimes You Thank Heaven. We’ve Always Tried To Maintain A Family Unit. They See Us Being Together And They Like What They See. We Try And Keep It Going.

JT: And The Thing Is Our Daughter-In-Laws And Son-In-Law Are From Families Like Ours. So It’s Not Only Us Leading By Example But They’ve Seen It From Their Parents.

TO.P: Do You Still Fancy Each Other?

JT: Yes! I’ve Always Fancied Him. You Have To Otherwise There’s Nothing There.

DT: Yes! I Still Fancy My Wife. You’ve Still Got To Have That Twinkle.

The Generation That We Came From, People Had To Work And Work Hard At It. And I Think We’re Now Probably Bearing All The Fruits of That Work.  And It’s Been Hard Work.

JT: Marriage Isn’t Easy

DT: Relationships Are Not Easy

JT: There Are Times When You Annoy Each Other Like Hell, But You’ve Still Got That Foundation of Love And Respect. You Have To Be Selfless In The Relationship. That Is The Thing. When You Raise Your Children It’s Not About You. It’s About Them.

You Have To Be Able To See And Read The Person. Are They Tired? Why Are They Angry? Why Are They Miserable? If It’s Not You Maybe It’s Something That Happened Outside. Unfortunately It Gets Brought In.  But You’ve Got To Read – Is It Something You’ve Done That’s Annoyed Him (Because You’ve Just Said Something) or Is It Something That Happened Outside (And Unfortunately It’s Just Been Brought Inside)? We All Do It. So It’s An Understanding of Each Other.

TO.P: What’s The Toughest Thing About Being Married?

Life Is Not Always A Bed Of Rose’s And Des Was Always Self Employed Running His Own Business As Well As Involvement In His Lodge, Which Took Up A Lot Of Time. And Being A Magistrate, Sitting On The Bench In A West London Court District For Many Years As Well As His Involvement As Chairman Of The BCA (Black Contractors Association). And Also Sitting On Various Committees For A Remand Centre. You Can Imagine A Lot of Time Spent Raising Our 4 Children Was Left To Me. This Did Cause Arguments At Times But We Pulled Through It All.

We Were Blessed With Good Kids. And They Knew How To Behave When We Left The House. And We Never Wanted Them Hanging Around The Streets. We Made A Point of Getting Them Into Activities.

DT: I Made Clear To Kids At Home It Was Not A Democracy. I Told Them How It Was Going To Be. And They Had To Just Do It. And They Did. And We Are To This Day A Very Close Family. It’s About Knowing The Formula.

TO.P: What Is The Formula?

DT: The Formula Is What Works For You. It’s Like Water. You’ve Got To Find Your Own Level!

In 1966 Dionne Warwick Sang ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love’ (Written By Burt Baccarharat & David Hal In The Midst of The Vietnam War. With All The Hate, Destruction And Negativity Across The World Right Now, We Decided To Embrace The Opportunity To Talk About Love & Positivity For A Change Given, That Is Is The Month of Valentine’s Day. And Des & Jeanette Were A Great Couple To Talk To And Learn From. Their Words And Insights Were Powerful And Provide Great Inspiration.

They Are A Great Example of Strong Family Bonds And Love Within The Black Community. However Such Existience Is Often Denied By Certain Racists Who Maintain Love And Family Is Not Something Black People Are Familiar With, As Part of Their Centuries Old Attempts To De-humanise Black People.

One Outrageous Example of This Is Re-Trumplican Politician Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, America, Who Stacey Plaskett, of The United States Virgin Islands Took To Task About That In March 2021 In No Uncertain Terms.

And Pioneering Director Ava DuVernay Championed The Televison Love Story ‘Cherish The Day’ Because She Believes There Is A Need For More Black Love Stories To Be Told And Shown.

Socially Conscious Justice Campaigner And Actress, The Late Cicely Tyson, Was Oscar Nominated For Her Role In The 1972 Powerful Les-Miserables-Esque Love Story ‘Sounder’ Set In The Deep South of America. And One of The Greatest Modern Love Stories Within The Black Community Is That of Former First Lady And President of America, Michelle And Barack Obama. They Recently Posted Their Valentine’s Pictures on Instagram. And Denzel Washington And His Wife Pauletta Have One of The Longest Lasting Marriages In Hollywood.

There Is Real Love In The Black Community And Beautiful Black Families And We Celebrate Their Existence And The Drive To Hear More About Them.

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