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“This is home now. London has me in her embrace,” says David Nanton. –

AS TOLD TO BC PIRES

My name is David Nanton and, 23 years ago, I came to London for two years. If I stay two more years from today, I would have spent half my entire life in the UK.

I lived all my Trinidad life in La Pastora and Cantaro, Santa Cruz, where everybody knew everybody. We used to bathe in the rivers, catch guppies, play cricket and football barefoot on our street, plenty buss-toe, and raid cocoa plantations walking home from school. My standard five teacher, Mr Alvarez, wrote a Santa Cruz poem: “Nestled among hills and valleys lush/ Lies a village peaceful, cool and calm…” It’s all developed now but I still love it. Those cold misty mornings prepared me for London!

The two things I learnt growing up as number three of seven siblings were 1. how to eat fast; and 2. how to dance while waiting to use the toilet! My older brother is a paramedic; all my sisters are teachers and my other brothers and I went into journalism.

I was back home just in March for my brother Joel’s birthday and now he’s gone. It just doesn’t seem real. We spoke regularly, even more so after his cancer diagnosis three years ago. I watched him grow from the family joker into a family man committed to raising three beautiful children with his wife, Hollene. I was his best man. The annoying little brother [became] one I admired and respected. He was successful in everything he did but you almost wouldn’t know it from his unassuming way. The huge hole he left in the lives of my family and so many others, I can’t describe the pain.

Online dating wasn’t for me. During lockdown, I ran into an old work colleague, got to meeting for lunchtime walks. Our old-school courtship wouldn’t have been possible without a pandemic. We are both very private people and I’ve just been told not to say anything else!

In 1984, I became the first La Pastora Government Primary Common Entrance exam pupil to get into St Mary’s College. My first day at CIC was memorable thanks to the white pupil who refused to sit next to me! I still wear my CIC ring.

I was Corporal Nanton, D of Bravo Platoon in the TT Cadet Force. The disciplines of well-polished shoes, sharpl- ironed trouser seams and well-made beds are still part of my life!

Somehow, I managed to graduate with A’Level history, literature and economics. In London, I would finally gain my MBA from Middlesex University.

I actually started working in the pagination department but I wrote a story and gave it to Clevon Raphael and, next day, it was on the front page! My follow-up got published too. A week later I had a desk in the newsroom.

I was only 23 when I left the Guardian to help start The Independent in 1996. I was literally sleeping in the tiny office two nights in a row every week to help design and get the paper out. I came close to burnout but those days were so exciting. It felt more like being part of a movement than just a newspaper startup! We lit a flame that went out way too soon. I’m clearly biased, but man, we were good!

When the Independent was bought out, I crashed. That’s when London came calling. I was 26 when I left Trinidad on August 1, 1999. Yes. Emancipation Day.

I got a part-time job in IT for the NHS, doing basic, entry-level tasks. Five years later, I was network manager. Now I am IT director for London’s largest private school trust and the only senior leadership black face. I often think of that white boy from my first day at CIC and how I would deal with him now!

David Nanton is IT director for London’s largest private school trust. –

Some people believe in the supernatural; I prefer “the unexplained.” It is a little arrogant – and unscientific – to dismiss something just because we cannot explain it… yet.

Some of my core values stem from my Christian upbringing. But I know people of different faiths who share those same values.

London is nothing like the old Famous Five books. Enid Blyton was definitely very Middle England. She would have been a Brexiteer for sure. Villages outside of London remind me of the Famous Five settings… and Billy Bunter is now prime minister!

Shortly after arriving, I turned a corner on a London street and bumped into this guy. As we were both apologising, I recognised him as an old CIC classmate. “But ay-ay, what you doing here?” He rattled off other names from school, all living in London. Suddenly I had found a community.

At the end of a trip to Trinidad, I would feel sad to be leaving home. Then, one trip, I mentioned going back home – meaning London. It caught me completely by surprise. I tell people I was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago but reached maturity in London. Both places have shaped who I am today.

This is home now. London has me in her embrace.

Brexit was a kick in the teeth. Anti-immigrant sentiment and unpleasant Far Right stuff started bubbling up from beneath the surface as a result of that referendum. Then there’s been the Windrush scandal, outrageous policies on refugees… There was suddenly this “small-island mentality” in Great Britain

London is more enchanting than not. The Notting Hill Carnival is a West Indian affair yet one that is also distinctly London. London embraced both Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix before anyone else did, even their own. In a roti shop, there are as many Europeans as West Indians around you, sometimes more. At the ordinary, grassroots level – in London anyway – people are genuine, warm, friendly, curious and open-minded.

I didn’t feel completely “at home” in Trinidad. Despite our protestations to the contrary, we are a very conservative people, taught to fall in line and not question things from an early age. “When I talk, no damn dog bark” is a motto from the rum shop to the Red House. Parenting, teaching, policing can lead to frustrating but sometimes hilarious Kafkaesque scenarios. Naipaul captured some of that absurdity well in Miguel Street and The Nightwatchman’s Occurrence Book. I feel that mindset is a legacy of British colonialism. The irony is London set me free from all that. In London, I found my voice.

I think I surprised everyone who knew me and myself when I began doing stand-up comedy. For me, it’s a mark of how far I’ve come in finding my own voice:


“I was stopped by the police but they soon realised that, despite being black, I had a good job, didn’t have a record and owned the nice car I was driving… So they charged me with wasting police time!”

London is the greatest city ever – but I’ve never lived in any other major city, so I am biased. After 23 years, there are still places in the city I haven’t visited and things I haven’t done, and I like that.

Me and Lady London have a little disagreement every now and then. Because neither of us are perfect. But we always make up.

What is a Trini? Forget Boris Johnson’s lockdown parties, we had curfew parties in the 1990 coup! So a Trini could turn anything into a joke or a lime – a protest, a political rally, even a funeral! [But] we [also] turned discarded oil drums into a musical instrument! We are a proud little people with big dreams and that’s what drives us.

Trinidad & Tobago gave birth to me and raised me. We may have our differences and estrangements – but how could you not love your mother? I am one of those proud little people with big dreams. I call myself a Trini-Londoner. When I get vex with Trinidad and Tobago, is only because I want to see us be better. Because we have greatness in us.

Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com