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Thursday 8 June 2000 – 8.30 a.m. Clayton   Some notes

Left Raleigh today after two evenings with Jimmy Harkin and a lunch with Melvyn Little [ SP ].

Jimmy is Scottish, been over here nine years, busking on bagpipes on Franklin Street, Chapel Hill to attract attention to his petition for a moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina. He and Melvyn work in different branches of the Kroger Corporation, grocers and pharmacies, they’re both shop stewards in the Union. Jimmy says he’s been a member of 14 different left-wing organisations, including Sinn Fein. Melvyn’s parents are in their 50s. He limps and uses a stick, from a road accident some years ago. His parents live, retired teachers, in Puerto Rico, as his mother is Puerto Rican, his father is caucasian. Melvyn does not speak Spanish. He’s not been a SP member long.

Have been taking pictures in Clayton, it’s small like Alsager with a railway crossing (see view down the tracks to Raleigh) and a few shops.

This is the Coffee Mill where I had the first real nice cup of coffee of the trip.

Run by a very attractive woman in her 30s, it’s not been open long and is an extremely nice, small, coffee shop with a beautiful big brass coffee making machine, settee, papers, locals all calling in from 7.30 – 8.30 when I was there. She knows what they all have and serves it without them ordering. The Mule Farm Machinery Company is opposite the Coffee Mill and the big white typical house is just along Main Street on the Raleigh Road.












Couldn’t have left Raleigh and arrived at a better place or time. Clayton is waking up, auto-service power drills going, Brinks Security delivering money to bank.








Wonder if there’s a B&B. Plenty of time to find out. Walking past a warehouse, fellers painting up ‘Clayton Kitchen and Bath’, Blur song drifting across to painting lot from their radio. Little library doesn’t open ’til 1.00 on Tuesdays. Hispanic shop selling posters, cowboy boots, Mexican stuff. There are two Mexican restaurants almost opposite each other. Could be a little settlement working out here.

Outside the Chamber of Commerce Bldg. facade (note Burglar Alarm) was joined by the local jewellry business owner who has lived here 50 years.

He told me a great deal about the history and local affairs of Clayton, including the new buildings, houses going up, the jeweller introduced me to Sally who works in the Chamber of Commerce and was proud to show me the old safe.

Her husband works for the CIA (!) protecting visitors from abroad so he travels a lot. She’s a Charlotte emigre who has settled here (3 golf courses attracting husband) and is secretary to the Chamber of Commerce after only living here 3 years, 9 in total. Good relations seem to be here between the old and the new. She introduced me to a banker who came in and they both laughed about the jeweller – ? – who “loves his buck” according to the banker! Sally gave me loads of leaflets and booklets on North Carolina. (Sitting back outside the Coffee Mill, in the shade).

It’s now 1030. Great conversations with these three people. Very hot in the sun but lots of shade and that good old North Carolina breeze is very cooling.

Better think about somewhere to stay. Jeweller directed me to motels area. Pittman or Evans, there’s two of those too! Is that what people do here – eat and bedeck themselves with glittering stones?




0620 Monday 5 June 2000      Raleigh    Some notes

Ed’s second exam almost over if it’s this morning – I know he has one today. They’re easier to remember than Beth’s as there’s only six. Poor Beth’s are higgledy-piggedly spread out over more time.

Have opened the window and a song bird starts up. Is it the State bird, the cardinal?

Reading LD’s [Leon Davidovitch Trotsky] childhood section of his biography, until hungry enough for breakfast. Not for a while yet. Still cloudy this morning. Three men crossing car park. First one casual dress, working clothes, white, following him and together two hispanics, white T-shirts, jeans big light brown boots and white construction helmets. Very processional, ritualistic arrangement. No way would those two be leading, though they all appear to know where they’re going. NPR – public radio – good item about tobacco industry court case with Judge Weinstein not being too sympathetic to industry.

0730 Car park beginning to fill up as workers arrive to the blocks over the way. I like watching workers arrive at work. There’s a purposefulness, a disregard for anything else except first heading off into the building, no reluctance, not exactly resignation either, more a readindess to get on with it, because that’s what there is to do, they know what it is and ‘here we come to do it’. No rushing but no messing either.

Great contrast, of course with the demeanour of workers workers leaving work.  [Jimmy Harkin has been at work half an hour already, he finishes at 3.00]

On the radio – Nissan is pronounced Knee – Sonn.

No sun since I bought these shades!


Sunday 4 June 2000, 8.00 a.m. Raleigh.  Some notes

Continental breakfast in La Quinta reception. Af/Am and W guests and staff. Cloudy day, nice temperature. Will everywhere to eat in town be closed on Sunday, as last time in Asheville? (Remember Billy).

Will probably explore downtown Raleigh and Cary today or tomorrow. Coffee / caffeine kicking in from breakfast. This Room 514 seems to be in the middle of the block and under the motor that drives something like the house A/C system, so there’s a constant rumble from the ceiling. Car parks all but deserted, 100s of spaces. Grassy areas very dry, so rainstorms last night will be welcome. The window opens to an insect screen.

Birds are nearly all chirpers, few songsters, one sounds like a squawky starling.

CNN very interesting but all items are very short, e.g. Battle of the Medway, river pollution

3.00 p.m. Raleigh NC Museum of History Pharmacy has a huge cabinet of “Botanical Drugs” including lycopodium in big tin, from about 1920s or ’30s. About to see a play about medicine and segregation in 1920s to 40s. The play involved a black woman reminiscing about the Drug store (segregated) in Charlotte(?) where her mother got Vic Vapour Rub, invented in Selma NC which took away the fever of her mother.

Down to Natural History Museum (there’s a café!) Very well presented themed areas. Very educational. Touch screen displays and quizzes. Excellent café – ‘natural , home-made’ type food (I had none today) and good strong tables and fabric seated chairs. Lots of children all over, with very attentive parents, talking all the time. All open 12-5 Sundays and well attended.

Only about 65 degrees outside now with a gentle breeze, no sun. Both museums well worth a couple of hours.

Jimmy Harkin rang back 10 to 7 and we talked to 10 to 9 and arranged to meet at his place after work.

Booked Monday night at La Quinta so will probably move on East Tuesday. Eating bananas and apples, bread and cheese in between breakfasts. Jimmy mentioned 2 socialist Presidential candidates whom he rates – Mary Calholis and David MacReynolds.


Some notes             [Photographs by hyperlinks to Flickr set]

Saturday 3 June 1.20 La Quinta

Days Inn Charlotte last 2 nights. Load of crap after 2 hours trying to find the dump. Noisy A/C until I found the controls. “Complimentary” breakfast greatly depleted Sat a.m. No batteries in remote and none at Reception.

Superb library in Charlotte. Bought Trotsky’s My Life for 50 cents. Instant e-mailing home and Liz and Ed and Mick (who?). Great Irish Pub with Coventry fan barman. Told him about McAllister who’s finished playing to coach. Chicken salad and French bread very good, good Irish music including Furies. Jameson’s on the rocks.

Slept 5 hours in the evening, 2 before 6.a.m. Left Days Inn 7.30 to I-85 then 49/64 to Cary, next to Raleigh. Drove straight to Blockbuster Video ‘phoned Jimmy [Harken] – left ansaphone message.

Got instructions to La Quinta from pharmacist. Checked in. Slightly better! Pool, fitness centre continental breakfast, slick reception. Don’t ask how much – if you do , you won’t want to afford it.

Bought clip-on shades on the way, near Ashboro, just right for my specs.

Public radio station is good, also World Service, Country Highway 49 is the ‘Scenic Route’ between Charlotte and Raleigh – very nice terrain, typical rural NC.

Rainstorms and thunder forecast for NC area over this weekend. Bob Hope, 97, in the news with intestinal bleeding. He had orange juice and oatmeal for breakfast – quote from CNN!

Wal-Mart in same complex as La Quinta. Sport shorts and trainers – $15 total.

Half an hour on the walking machine – very good. Trainers excellent. Saw last 30 minutes of Mississippi set movie with Ed Harris, about KKK, cotton, etc.

Loud claps of thunder overhead. Am on Level 5. Coffee should be ready, to World Service BBC News at 4 p.m. Chucking it down, to loud thunder looking out over car park, one block of buildings and then forest. A/C off now, cool enough. High 70s forecast for Sunday. Fell asleep around 5.30, awake at 12.30- didn’t ring the Harkens


Sat on a bench resting in the October sunshine yesterday after a short bike ride up Merelake Way – an old railway track – in Alsager. Talked with a man and his dog about the Way and how well used and well kept it was. He told me of the fight to keep the footbridge over the Way –  a metal and wooden structure on two beautiful sandstone stanchions linking farmland and the golf course – and how the Council had been persuaded not to knock it down several years ago but to renovate it with timber from Germany. It stands now in very good nick, the ironwork having been recently painted, giving pleasure to anyone who passes over it or just climbs up as I did from the Way just for a look around from it. Rode and walked on to Talke, turned round and free-wheeled most of the way back to the bridge.

Carried on home to find the DVD of  The Friends of Eddie Coyle had arrived, from Spain, via Amazon. A great movie, well-suited to the term of ‘classic’ that it attracts. Mitchum the Magnificent. Watched it straight through.

A great two hour discussion and study of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle today at the ‘Liberation Literature’ class, upstairs in The Bank Corner pub and restaurant. Lively exchanges on politics and history, America and Britain, literature and autobiographical anecdotes. Such a weekly pot of gold to be found under five minutes walk from my home, the thought of which while writing this has a similar effect to reading great literature such as, say, any Faulkner, that is, it messes with the breathing slightly.

Started bookmarking websites on on daughter Beth’s advice after my Google Chrome browser mysteriously disappeared today – for a while – with all its resident bookmarks!  Inadvertently recovered my original Chrome later, though, with the high tech manoeuvre of switching off at teatime and back on again later. There it was, all safe and sound, restored by the hidden hand of the clever person who is running this internet thing.

Lost iTunes earlier too, but it also “came back” and have been writing this to the accompaniment of a nice bit of Mozart.

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