On one of my visits to Zimbabwe, I watched television a lot during the week that is set aside to pay tribute to the generation of freedom fighters who were in many ways responsible for that nation becoming an independent state.
It was in this context that I saw the early episodes of Roots – the television series based on Alex Haley’s book about tracing the story of his forbears in Africa, through the experience of slavery and other horrors, to relatively contemporary times in the USA.
I was more familiar with later episodes, especially because of the unforgettable personality and performance of Ben Vereen, who played Chicken George (Haley’s grandfather in real life, if I remember correctly).
I became a fan of Mr Vereen and his luminous presence, but I was particularly drawn to the white bowler hat that his character wore in most of his scenes. I wanted a hat like Chicken George’s, but never found one, no matter where I searched.
Mr Vereen came to London to perform his stage act. I went to see him and enjoyed the show. I wasn’t expecting to see him performing as Chicken George, but I did hope he would wear that bowler hat! Obviously he didn’t, but I find it curious that I was mesmerised to the extent I was by something he once wore on television.