On Monday, I am heading to the US. I’ll be there for nearly four weeks, travelling across several states, meeting up with old friends, coming face to face with more recent ones and, I hope very much, making new ones too. I’m going to be spending quite a lot of time at universities, bookshops and the odd radio station in North Carolina, Wisconsin, California, Indiana, Massachusetts and Chicago. In a nutshell, I’m going to be discussing my book with people including Emily Burrill, Delinda Collier, Kathryn Mathers, Will Reno, Vincent Barletta, Anna Klobucka, Victor Mendes, Martha Saavedra, Ellen Sapega, Deolinda Adão, Ugo Nwokeji, Jess Auerbach and many more, including lots and lots of students. For the last few weeks I’ve been swinging between excitement and anxiety, but if the past is anything to go by that can only bode well. I’m also going to be hanging out in New York for the first time, hooking up with more friends & family there. I confess, I’m packing my trainers so I can jog around Central Park. It all seems a long way away, but this time next week I will be preparing for a round table discussion at Duke with a group of graduate students who will be asking lots of questions about In the Name of the People. I imagine I am going to be challenged in many ways, and it’s going to be interesting to experience this from a US perspective. It’s alien territory: I don’t know what to expect. As ever, I consider myself an interloper: I’m not an academic. I always feel the need to state this publicly. But I will be trying to keep Justin Pearce in mind — and not to worry about it. Who would have thought? Definitely not me. I’ll probably still be pinching myself on the flight home. In the meantime, hoping to avoid Mr Trump & encounter Mr Sanders.
It began when the cats started going missing. All of a sudden, posters popped up, calls for help in thick felt tip, taped to telegraph poles and back gates. There was one on the post box outside the kebab shop. Then came the weasels. Every scuzzy old man wandering the streets seemed to own a weasel in a body brace with a long leather leash clipped on. You felt a pleasant excitement at first. Daisy was the first one I was introduced to, but then she rolled on to her back, curling to clean her testicles, which were swollen and red. After that, dread filled my throat every time I turned a corner. I still can’t get the man’s face out of my head. She doesn’t bite, he said. Give her a tickle if you like. Then I went up to Durham to visit Davy and his sister. Another weasel. Another old man, this one dribbling ale from the corner of his mouth. We were on a train. I watched that drop for twenty minutes, until it reached the collar of his shirt. I would have moved, but the train was packed and we were sandwiched in by another man dressed entirely in black and reading an illustrated hardback, Hitler’s Elite. What surprised me about him were his shoes: a soft pair of Clarks boots called Darian Mid. Who thinks up the names of shoes? And would a real Nazi wear Darian Mids? When I got back home, depressed by the depth of cloud that had hung over Durham the whole weekend, I found a row of three dead rats on my garden path and a bunch of freesia in a jug on the kitchen table. And a woman called Jude had moved in.