My father was an important lawyer in Baghdad… where I was born… back then Iraq was a very quiet country… important only for telling stories… ‘The Arabian Nights”… “Alf Layla Wa Layla”… Iraqis are good at telling stories… we’d sit down and listen to the old men… pay a few pennies to listen to the old story tellers… they could go on for three or four hours… my stories are free… back then I’d stand in the corner at school and tell a story I’d heard from the old men and people would all go quiet.
It was such a long time ago… I was 12 when I came here. We came because we believed what we heard… that England was a well-educated country and that we’d be more free. I knew it would be cold… that England had an ice season… there’s snow in Iraq but only the kind that falls and cuts your head.
I still see places on the news that I recognise… I remember the place near Baghdad were the Tigress and the Euphrates Rivers come so close together you think you could jump from one to the other… and then back. You could swim in the rivers… with mud and crocodiles!
Baghdad is filled with gardens… but it’s too hot. We’d go to Mosul in the mountains in the summer to stay cool. Sometimes I think of the good life I had in Baghdad and I think how it would have been if I’d stayed… but I went into the army in Egypt… and got this tattoo… we all did… it only cost five bob.