Shabana Sheikh

Born: 1950

Pakistan, India

Date of interview: 11th May 2006

Map showing where Shabana Sheikh came from

What year was it when you came here?

1966. Frame Clothing moved after a year to Basingstoke Road, Bennett Road so that got tough that's when the bus used to stop in Bayliss' then we had to catch another bus from there to the Butts Centre from there it was like running every morning.

Then I got pregnant again you know and I was expecting my son and you had to stop working, it was maternity leave and all that. I had my son and then I didn't go to work for a couple of months and then I said to my mother 'Is it alright if I go back to work?' She said 'Yeah if you want to' and then I thought I'm not going back to you know to sewing and I went to these agencies they have and I thought I will do this temp job. They said 'Oh there's a job in Racal Instruments in Bennett Road and as a clerk if you want to go' and so I said 'Okay, you know I don't mind you know' and I thought my English wasn't bad and I can read and write a little bit and as you do you know increase it so I went to Racal that was just for two weeks and I went there as a temp two weeks as a clerk and I stayed on there and they said 'Stay on' you know, so I stayed there till they moved to Bracknell.

I've finished that work and I went to was another Royal Guardian you know, Insurance in Caversham Bridge House I worked there for a couple of weeks and then that was like temping. I used to like doing that in that it's nice different places. It must be about three and a half years I was doing that temping job everywhere and my husband went to Kenya with his dad and after a year his dad and brother they all came to England. When he came back he couldn't get his job again, they said come in March or April because it's not the season and he thought he can't sit home and he joined the Post Office for a year about a year, two years until 1970. There was a big strike in Post Office and there was no work, everybody had to stop and he didn't know what to do and his friend, they just thought, why not drive a taxi.

He had a big car you know a Volvo Estate. He went and sold that and got two other cars and we just started doing taxi work. We got cards printed and we used to sit there a whole day and only one phone used to ring or there was days when there was no phone ringing at all. His older brother had a shop that was in Southampton Street and the front room we rented out from him. We made into a taxi office and I would sit and answer the phones and he would go and drive. Anybody passing you know we put the stickers in the window, and all that, one or two drunk people would come and he would take them home and he started building up like that and giving the cards out. It was very, very hard work. He used to sleep there at the office, he had a chair there he used to sleep in the chair and I used to go home and because I had two kids at home you know I had to go home.

So it started picking up, and then there was this really nice person and he used to pass from there every day, he had a room a rented room up the Southampton Street somewhere and he just came in one day and he says 'I'm a lorry driver' and his name was Geoff and he was a very nice person and he said 'I want a weekend job.' So he started working weekends with us. He was like a family he was like my brother he was so good and he was so nice. At weekend he used to tell my husband 'I'll sleep here at the office I'll stay here you go home get changed and dress up you know get ready wash up and then come back.'

Then slowly we had a few drivers coming in and slowly, slowly it took us a few months, six months even to pick up. The drivers were very nice but the public round, oh it was so tough, they would hit the stones on the windows and they would just scream 'Paki's just go back!' I said to my husband 'What's this behaviour we can't work here, close this office we can't do it' he says 'No I am going to do it, I'm not begging for the money I'm working for it so you don't want to come to the office you can stay home.' I thought he's just saying that in anger. I thought I have to do it with him so I said 'No, we carry on' and that used to be very often. We were for about twenty years, it kept on and on, scratching the cars, they would break the aerials of the cars and if they were passing they would just hit a stone on the window. One day we had this lady driver, they just called for a taxi she went, and she will remember, they hit such a big brick in the back window of the car broke and ambushed her.