• Chapter 2



    The convention of the first person narrative is designed to give us one solid certainty: the narrator is not a suspect. But as has been pointed out [Marriott & Jones, 1967], we can never be quite sure. All narrators are unreliable, and first-person narrators are no exception. What if Dr. Watson were the criminal, but distorted his narrative to deceive us? (J Thomson, uncompleted PhD thesis on detective narratives)

    I have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion of these pages. Not that I have any worries about my level of intelligence; low self-esteem has never been one of my problems. But I am very unsure what role I play in this story. Am I the detective, the criminal – or the victim? Perhaps in a sense I am all three.

    Until a few weeks ago it never occurred to me to try and set down my version of the things that happened nearly thirty years ago. Indeed, I’ve often tried to push them out of my mind altogether and get on with my life. But I am a professional historian, and forgetting the past is contrary to my nature.

    I’m an old woman now; I shall be fifty in a year or so and I’m starting to feel my age. I had some tests at the hospital recently, and given the state of the NHS it may be months before I hear the results. When I get them they’ll probably have run out of money to do anything about it.

    But the thing that triggered off my desire to write it all down was walking to the station one evening and passing a picket line. In the half-light, for a moment, I would have sworn the woman I saw there was my friend, Josie Wade, older physically, but in some strange way just as I remembered her. I soon found out the truth of the situation, but I felt that I owed it to Josie, and to myself, to set it all down.

    I’ve never kept diaries, but when I think about it all, it comes back to me so clearly that I don’t need documentation. I’ll simply tell what I believe is the truth. Of course, it’s never the whole truth. There’s always something omitted.

    To begin, then, at the beginning, though the first nineteen years aren’t of much interest to anyone. I was an only child, born in 1948, under a Labour government, so in my early years I enjoyed free school milk and clinic orange. If any politician nowadays suggested giving free orange juice to all kids people would think they were mad.

    I wasn’t beaten, raped or abused; in fact, I got on reasonably well with my parents. My father had gone to work in the council offices as an office boy, and worked his way up till he was some sort of middle-rank bureaucrat. He voted Tory, read the Daily Express and had all the prejudices you would expect. My mother was a very quiet woman, very respectable. The one phrase I remember over and over again from when I was about three was ‘Don’t make an exhibition of yourself’. That was the whole of her morality. Never argue with anyone, however objectionable they may be, because that’s making an exhibition of yourself. Just smile politely and moan about it later. Never complain, however legitimate your grievance may be, just moan about it later, when you get home.

    I remember Suez when I was eight. We’d just got television, and there was a report on the Labour Party demonstration in Trafalgar Square. My father muttered ‘Scum! Communists!’ over and over again. My mother, genuinely shocked that some of them weren’t wearing suits, kept repeating that they were making an exhibition of themselves. The next report was from Hungary, and a lot of even more badly dressed people were throwing stones at Russian tanks. I expected them to say the same things, but they went absolutely quiet; even Dad could hardly call them Communist scum. But I could tell from the look on my Mum’s face that she thought they were making an exhibition of themselves. Maybe it wasn’t very nice living in a Stalinist dictatorship, but there was no call to go throwing stones; they should just have gone home and grumbled.

    I passed the eleven plus and went to a grammar school. I was reasonably bright, nothing special and idle into the bargain. I was encouraged to stay on to take ‘A’ levels, and my teachers had hopes that I would go to university. But I didn’t work, and I screwed up the one interview I had. Luckily for me, it was the beginning of the period when they were expanding higher education in all directions, so I managed to get a place in a College of Technology in North London. When I told people I was going to a College of Technology they assumed that I was studying engineering, and looked puzzled when I told them I was doing a degree in History. But in those days you could do all sorts of weird subjects in Colleges of Technology. The old engineering lecturers who used to run the places were frightened out of their wits as though their native planet had been taken over by alien hordes. A few years later they got turned into Polytechnics and the engineering lecturers looked even more frightened.

    The reason why I didn’t study very hard at school was cricket. Certainly it wasn’t a common pastime for schoolgirls in the 1960s – although of course there had been women’s cricket teams for quite a long time. My friends, my teachers and my parents all thought I was rather peculiar, but it was just about acceptable; and since I was playing with other girls I wasn’t risking moral jeopardy.

    I wasn’t making a feminist point, if indeed I’d ever heard the word ‘feminist’. There were lots of things men did that I had absolutely no desire to do – for example, join the army and get blown to pieces. Some of my friends’ elder brothers had done national service – one of them in Cyprus – and I was pretty glad my sex preserved me from that fate. I didn’t like the idea of having babies either, but given the choice I reckoned giving birth was better than a hand grenade in the guts.

    In one way cricket’s like chess; it’s an intellectual game, where strategy and long-term planning are of enormous importance. But it’s also an extremely violent game. If you ever saw Freddie Trueman have an l.b.w. decision refused, and then tread on the umpire’s foot from a twenty-yard run-up, you’d understand just how violent cricket could be. Imagine getting a short-pitched ball coming up to you and smacking it with the full face of the bat over the third man boundary for six. Next to killing a fascist it must be the most satisfying thing in life.

    Between cricket and studying I didn’t have much time for sex. In fact, by what I understand are modern standards, I was untouched until quite late in life. I was still a virgin when I went to college in the  autumn of 1967. It’s a funny thing but somehow I feel I ought to be apologising to somebody for having been a virgin when I was nineteen. Was I too ugly to pull a bloke; or too cowardly to risk pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases? Even if I was both, I’m not quite sure why I would owe anybody an apology.

    For the last twenty years, in most left-wing meetings, you could stand up and say you were gay and be fairly sure of not meeting any disapproval; in fact with a bit of luck you might get a round of applause. But if you stood up and said you were a virgin, what would happen? They’d all look at you as though you were queer.

    The first week I started at college there was an afternoon for various societies to recruit members. I was wandering round looking to see if there was a women’s cricket club – which needless to say there wasn’t – when I came upon a stall for the  Vietnam Solidarity Campaign. I didn’t know an awful lot about Vietnam, but what I knew I didn’t like. I’d seen some television coverage – American troops burning down villages while women and children screamed. So I decided to join. There was a young man sitting behind the table who turned out to be called John Thomson.

    He hadn’t got a lot of customers just then, and we got talking. He seemed to know a great deal about Vietnam; at least he impressed me a lot by talking about the Geneva Accords and the fall of Dien Bien Phu. I’d never met anyone quite like him. After about half an hour his friend Mike came to take over from him on the table and we went off to get some coffee. We just went on talking – about Vietnam, and then about something called imperialism which didn’t really mean very much to me and then about capitalism and socialism. I thought the latter had something to do with the Labour Party, but I was put right pretty quickly.

    It wasn’t the first time I’d been chatted up, but I’d never had anything on this scale. Over the next couple of weeks I saw John pretty regularly. What was amazing was that he was serious about the ideas. It clearly was not a case of spinning me a line as the quickest route into my knickers.

    We did get round to sex eventually, in rather a roundabout way. In his short course on the evils of capitalism John explained to me that women were oppressed. I’d never quite thought of it that way before, but I could see what he meant. I didn’t have any great problem about accepting that I was oppressed – and John was quite willing to admit that he was oppressing me.

    The next stage in the argument turned out to be a bit more tricky. With lots of quotes from Engels – whom I hadn’t even heard of two weeks earlier – John explained that it was necessary to abolish the family. Now I was quite fond of my Mum and Dad – as fond as any nineteen-year-old gets to be, and I didn’t really want to see them being abolished. Fortunately he explained quite quickly that we mustn’t be voluntaristic about it, and that the family would only disappear along with the capitalist mode of production. (Remember this was thirty years ago.)

    Eventually I was convinced about this too and I was ripe for the  final stage of the argument; that sex out of wedlock was quite all right, and indeed in some sense a blow against capitalism. When John got to this point I was slightly shocked. Was he just like all the rest, except that the road to my knickers had been incredibly more circuitous than what I was used to? But by now I’d got to be quite find of John, so I was willing to go along with the argument. Intellectually I was persuaded; all that remained was for us to get into bed.

    As I said,  John had made it clear that this was an anti-capitalist act, so that we were doing something laudable even if we didn’t actually have a lot of fun doing it. Which, as it turned out – for me, at any rate – was just as well.

    A few days after I was deflowered came a much more exciting event, the Vietnam demonstration in Grosvenor Square in October 1967. A whole bunch of us from the college met up at the tube-station and went down to Trafalgar Square together. John introduced me to a friend of his, a slightly older man called Steven Sadler.

    The speeches were too long, and it was beginning to go dark by the time we started marching. We entered Grosvenor Square at the top right-hand corner and marched down towards the American Embassy. I could just see the huge eagle on the façade.

    The grassy area in the centre of the Square was cordoned off by a long line of police. The marchers in front of us were being turned to the left, away from  the Embassy. I could hear John and Steven muttering something about a letter to be handed in, but I assumed that like everyone else we would turn left.

    Instead the group I was with started pushing straight at the line of police and I found myself being launched into the guts of a rather slender young policeman who wasn’t quite sure what to make of it all. Up to that point I suppose I’d always thought of myself as a pacifist, but my pacifism did not survive the afternoon; in fact I think it had vanished by the time we had passed through the police cordon. I gather the police now use film of that demo to study how not to do it. I’m sure the modern breed of pigs have a good laugh at their predecessors; certainly they screwed up pretty catastrophically.

    We lurched right through the cordon and into the middle of the Square. There were more police across the road in front of the Embassy and we started running towards them. Suddenly everything went dark, as though I were in a tunnel; I looked up and saw I was almost directly underneath a police horse. I was told later that you could paralyse a horse’s entire body if you stuck a banner-pole up its arse-hole. It’s a pity I didn’t know that then, as I was singularly well positioned to try it.

    I lurched back towards the group where John and Steven were. More and more demonstrators were streaming through the gap in the cordon, and the police had more or less given up trying to keep people out. Instead they were massing in front of the Embassy and trying to drive us back. People around me started throwing pennies; the old pennies, that were still in use then, were quite heavy and a direct hit in the face was probably mildly unpleasant. Thanks to Wilson’s devaluation of the pound they didn’t buy much any more.

    Then someone bent down and picked up a clod of  earth. There’s always someone who takes the initiative in a thing like that. I don’t know who it was and he or she probably took good care it didn’t get into the history books – because it would have been in the police records first. Again the habit caught on very quickly, and we were all hurling clods of damp earth at the police. The horses charged once or twice, but we held our ground. I’m not quite sure how long it all went on; I was in a state of complete frenzy, a mixture of rage and enthusiasm. I ran, leapt, hurled. I threw pretty well; I was known as a good outfielder when I played cricket, and I once ran someone out by hitting the stumps from forty yards away.

    Eventually we dispersed. Steven Sadler was going round advising people to clean their finger-nails so that if the police stopped them they wouldn’t be able to tell they had been throwing earth. I gouged mine out with the tip of a biro, leaving rather peculiar blue marks beneath them.

    Next day the papers were full of tirades about violence. I couldn’t help thinking that compared with setting fire to a village or pouring lighted petroleum jelly on someone’s bare buttocks, we had been pretty restrained.

    Nowadays kids study that stuff for GCSE.

    Steven Sadler made quite a point of chatting to me on the way home from the demonstration, and insisted that I come with them to the pub for a drink afterwards. As I’ve already made clear, my life had been pretty sheltered up to that point – which is why I had been so impressed by John. But compared with John, Steven seemed to come from another universe. He was undoubtedly the most remarkable person I had ever met. I  now know a lot of things about Steven and about the world that I didn’t know then, but I still think of him as a remarkable person.

    He was in his mid-twenties. He had gone to work in an engineering factory at the age of fifteen, and had served a five-year apprenticeship. He had been an active trade-union militant, and had become a shop-steward. Then he had gone to the college where I was now studying as a mature student (quite a rarity in the 1960s) and had graduated the previous summer with a first-class degree in Sociology. In theory he was now a postgraduate student, and he supplemented his income with a bit of free-lance journalism. In fact he was something quite different, something the very existence of which I had never conceived. He was a professional revolutionary. Quite what this involved in North London in 1967 was not wholly clear to me, although I gathered he had been very active in helping to organise the Vietnam demonstration, and that he was working with a group of friends who were planning to produce a new ‘underground’ newspaper – something like International Times, but more political.

    I knew from the fact that John was never available on Sunday evenings that he attended some sort of political meeting at that time. He was always a bit vague about what went on there, as though it were deeply clandestine. A couple of days later John told me, in a sheepish fashion, that Steven wanted me to attend the meeting the following Sunday evening. Obviously John regarded me as some sort of pathetic dolly‑bird who wasn’t up to that sort of thing. Steve, however, had recognised my talent.

    So the next Sunday evening I went along to Steven’s flat, feeling considerable trepidation. And that was how I became a Bolshevik. Since John and I were still lovers – if that’s the right term – I suppose I had followed what feminists used to call ‘the horizontal road to socialism’.

    There was a discussion on socialism and violence. We began with the Grosvenor Square demo, then went on to violence in Vietnam and why we should support the National Liberation Front. I didn’t say anything, but I couldn’t sleep that night with new ideas chasing each other round my head.

    Actually the group wasn’t nearly as formidable as I had imagined. Usually there were about eight or ten people there, nearly all students from the college, though an engineering apprentice called Jim came from time to time; we treasured him as our genuine proletarian. In particular, there was a couple called Sue Norman and Mike Applegarth, of whom I’ll say more later. Mike was the only one who could really stand up to Steven in argument. John, who was very self-confident when he was explaining things to me, tended to come over all deferential when Steven was there. Josie Wade, who was already a friend of mine, started attending a couple of weeks after I did.

    Steven explained that we were a Marxist Study Circle. At the moment capitalism was still very strong, and our job was to educate ourselves. We were like the first Russian Marxists at the turn of the century – except that our lives were rather more comfortable than theirs. But things could change – perhaps a lot sooner than we thought. He told the story of how Lenin in January 1917 had said that he would not live long enough to see the Russian Revolution. When things did change we would have to change the nature of our organisation, become much more geared to activity.

    Steven had a range of knowledge, of both history and current politics, that I found amazing. But at the same time he was able to explain things so clearly, with examples and jokes, that even a novice like me could understand. It was the mixture of scholarly erudition and passion that I found remarkable in Steven. He was manipulative – I often felt he was manipulating me; but there was no doubting his sincerity.

    That was the way it was at the beginning of that legendary year 1968. A year that was both absurd and deeply serious. Any account that forgets either of those aspects is untrue. Certainly for me it got all too serious at times.

    All my previous conceptions and prejudices had come under attack. I could remember my dad ranting on about ‘Communists’, but here was a bunch of people who regarded the Communist Party as conservatives, and Stalin as the greatest enemy of the revolution.

    We took it all very seriously. Each week’s meeting was based on reading – a pamphlet or chapters of a book. Surplus value, alienation, the Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution, fascism and how to fight it, the united front. In February I had to prepare an introduction on the Spanish Civil War. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous since.

    You might think that such activity would have got in the way of my college studies. On the contrary, it transformed them. I was embarking on a degree in very conventional historical studies. But the framework I acquired from Steven changed all that. Instead of a list of kings – and a few queens – with assorted battles, a chaos of long-dead trivia which I was quite adept at memorising, but which held no real meaning for me, I began to make sense of it all as the long slow death of English feudalism and the rise of modern capitalism.

    Steven was my political guru before he became my lover. In fact, I tried very hard to keep the two things separate. I had been in left-wing politics for all of four months and I fancied myself as a steel-hard Bolshevik. I knew my political judgement must not be distorted by any petty-bourgeois compunctions about personal affection. If I discovered that Steven was a police agent then my duty would be to expose him immediately, without any thought of personal feelings. If necessary I would have to lure him to my bed and plunge a knife into his back even as he penetrated me. The exact gymnastics required for this left me a little perplexed, but I knew it would be my  revolutionary duty. I had derived such ideas from reading Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary and listening to Steven recounting anecdotes about the Comintern – mainly in fact the latter, which were more lurid than any book I ever read and were partly the product of Steven’s colourful imagination.

    Nonetheless I fancied Steven quite enormously. He was a tall, handsome man, and physically really tough. Before he got into politics he had been quite successful at sport. He had a black belt for judo, and as a young man he had spent his Sundays doing some medieval thing that involved jousting with staves. Now that John had done the intellectual job of talking me out of virginity, I was ready for more. Whether I was ready for what I got from Steven is another question.

    We had been to a meeting to plan for the March 1968 demonstration against the Vietnam War. There had been a serious disagreement about tactics. Steven had sorted the thing out by giving a simple but quite brilliant exposé of the theory of the united front; the two conflicting groups had simply given up when his contribution ended. I hadn’t said anything much, but I was enthralled by the way in which he had dealt with the situation. If he had asked me to, I would have swallowed poison or ridden naked through the centre of London on a white horse – providing either of these actions had served the cause of advancing the struggle of the Vietnamese people for national liberation while maintaining all the necessary reservations about the Stalinist nature of the National Liberation Front.

    We left the meeting together, still arguing passionately about the issues that had come up at the meeting. Steven suggested we go back to his flat, which was quite near, to continue the discussion. I knew very well what that meant, and I was happy about it. However, I sat on the sofa, keeping my distance until Sadler had resolved one of my nagging doubts. If Russia was not a socialist state but a new form of class society, then could one consider the Communist Party – which presumably aspired to establish the same sort of society here – as being in any sense a working-class party?

    When Steven failed to give me a proper answer, I got rather cross. I told him very firmly – using the word fuck at least twice in each sentence – that if  I asked a serious question I wanted a serious answer, not to be brushed aside.

    It was the first time I had argued back to Steven in quite that way, and I wasn’t sure how he would take it. But if he was going to screw me then he should treat me as a political equal. Happily, he lived up to my image of the ideal revolutionary. He gave me a clear, concise explanation of why I was wrong and only when I nodded to show that I accepted the argument did he move over onto the sofa beside me.

    I suppose if I’d known what I was letting myself in for I wouldn’t have gone back with Steven that night. As I’ve said, I was quite a sheltered girl, and even if John had talked me out of virginity, I still had a pretty limited idea of what was ‘normal’. I’m not sure that I could have spelt ‘transvestism’. Certainly my entire knowledge of the subject was confined to a copy of the News of the World I’d once picked up on a train.

    Steven broke me in very gently, explaining it all with the same passionate lucidity as for the falling rate of profit or the nature of Stalinism. He actually tried to give it a political justification. We were ‘subverting traditional gender roles’ and at the same time we were ‘undermining the hegemony of state power by parody’.

    Sounds good, doesn’t it? Nothing is as good as that in practice. What it meant was rather tackier. He had an old policeman’s uniform – where it came from I don’t know – and I had to wear this. Meanwhile he would put on a rather frilly, tarty pink frock. Then I had to pretend to arrest him for prostitution or drug-smuggling, and insist on conducting intimate body searches. The more I humiliated him the more excited he would get. Then he would fuck me.

    Of course, it transformed my relationship with Steven. It meant we were sharing a very intimate secret. My friends, like Sue and Josie, knew I was screwing Steven, but I would never have dreamt of telling them the full details. And when I saw Steven standing up at a meeting declaiming about the necessity for political organisation, I could always shut my eyes and imagine him in his little pink dress. It didn’t detract from the enormous admiration I had for him, but it did mean that my admiration was somehow mixed with pity that he should be what I still couldn’t help thinking of as a ‘pervert’. An odd mixture, but one that kept me very close to Steven for a long time. Perhaps I’ve never broken away completely. When you’ve shared one secret you move on to sharing others.

    I can’t remember any time of my life that I’ve found so confusing as the spring of 1968. It all started with Enoch Powell. When he made his ‘rivers of blood’ speech I wasn’t shocked at first. I just accepted that a vicious right-wing Tory would behave like a vicious right-wing Tory. But at the same time I’d spent the previous six months building up an image of the working class as the saviour of humanity. I’d found out about the Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War. I could recite phrases from Marx and Trotsky about working-class unity.

    Then workers started going on strike in support of Enoch Powell and for a complete ban on immigration. When I first heard about it I couldn’t believe what was happening. I saw the reports on television, and I wanted to go out on the street and shout at them.

    Then we heard that there was going to be a strike for Powell in a factory just down the road from the college. A bloke called Dave Drutt, who worked in some miserable little engineering shed with about twenty-five workers, had managed to persuade them to walk out. I got hold of Steven as quickly as I could, and we agreed that we ought to put out a leaflet. Steven and I and Mike Applegarth sat up half the night drafting it. We made a big thing about the fact that Powell wrote Latin poetry and that he didn’t have anything in common with working people. Then we ran it off on a duplicator and turned up outside the factory at seven o’clock the next morning.

    I was terrified. The working class I had admired so much had suddenly turned into a monster. I was still impressed by its enormous power and strength, but now I saw how easily that power and strength could be directed in the wrong way, how easily it could crush me and all my friends.

    Actually, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. The three of us stood outside the factory leafleting as the workers went in. They were going to have a meeting and then walk out again. I got quite a bit of what nowadays would be called sexist abuse, but we didn’t have a name for it then. Nearly everybody took the leaflet and read it. It was only Dave Drutt himself who was abusive to us. He told me I was a silly cunt and that I should shove my leaflets up my cunt; this seemed like a mixed metaphor, but I didn’t try to explain it to him.

    We came away without any sense of having made an impact, but Steven said that at least people would be talking about it. I found out later that although they had agreed to strike only three people had been willing to join Drutt on a march to the town hall, and one of those was his brother; the rest just shoved off home. Even Drutt wasn’t stupid enough to march through the streets with a total of four people, so he called the thing off. Was it a victory for us? Who can say? It was good enough to make it worth trying again, which is as much as you can say for most things.

    Shortly after that there was a Labour Party public meeting to be addressed by Ossie Dix. When the Labour government was elected in 1964, he had been one of the young leaders of the Labour left. But after two years of opposition to the Vietnam War, the Prices and Incomes policy, immigration controls and all the rest of Wilson’s policies, he had been offered a post as a junior transport minister, and to the surprise of those who didn’t know him very well he had accepted it. It was hardly possible to say that his silence had been bought; at the time the additional salary would hardly have kept him in potato crisps. It would have been more accurate to say he had given it away.

    We had quite a heated argument about how to respond to this. I had just discovered how right-wing the Labour Party was, after spending my entire childhood thinking it was virtually Communist. So I was the most hot-headed. I thought we should disrupt the meeting and denounce Dix as a traitor.

    Steven pointed out that Ossie Dix was a junior minister in the Department of Transport, and that the only legislation he was directly responsible for was to do with zebra crossings. He asked me whether I thought zebra crossings were a capitalist plot to keep workers alive and productive when they would sooner be squashed by cars.

    The meeting itself was quite lively. Dix had just begun to speak when two men at the back began roaring: ‘Traitor’, ‘race-mixer’ and ‘stop all immigration now’. Someone whispered to me that it was ‘that nutter Dave Drutt and his brother’. The men were bundled out of the room in a couple of minutes, swearing and shouting abuse as they left.

    I’d never heard a Labour minister before, except for seeing them on the television, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. I suppose I thought he would be terribly smooth, with an Oxford accent, and full of platitudes about the need for wage restraint and the American alliance. So I got a bit of a shock when he started to speak. First of all, he had a strong Yorkshire accent, which contrasted sharply with the rather smooth manner of the chair, the recently elected MP for the  area, Terence Wicklow.

    I was still trying to come to terms with the style when I realised what he was saying. ‘The most important thing to happen in Europe since the end of the Second World War is the general strike in France.’ And he went on for about twenty minutes about what a magnificent struggle the French students and workers had fought, and how we could learn a great deal from them. He talked about class struggle, he talked about destroying capitalism, he even used the word ‘revolution’ three times.

    That just about summed up the contradictions of 1968. I had still been reeling from the aftermath of the Powell speech when we heard the news from France. Student demos were exciting, but they didn’t seem terribly real by the side of what we had to put up with. Even the Night of the Barricades had just seemed like another example of how vicious the police could be in foreign countries. But then three days later there were ten million workers on strike, a million people marching through the middle of  Paris. I just watched the scenes on television and felt I’d rediscovered what I’d lost a couple of weeks earlier. What were a few little racist strikes in Britain compared with this display of working-class strength?

    Then a few days later came the news that workers were occupying factories, here, there and everywhere. Within a couple of days it was a complete general strike. I remember sitting in the coffee bar at college with Josie, discussing whether the revolution had come in France, and if it had, how long it would be before there would be a revolution in Britain. Josie thought it might take a couple of years, but I said she was a complete pessimist; I could not imagine that it would need more than a few weeks for the example to spread across the Channel. Indeed, I thought a couple of years was a bit pessimistic for the  whole world.

    That night there were the first racist attacks in the area. Two black families had their windows broken. Nobody was seriously hurt, but it created a feeling of near panic in the black community. One of the attacks had taken place in the next street to where Josie lived, and she came into college very upset. All thoughts of the revolution next year had gone out of our minds; in fact, we started asking ourselves whether it would be the gas-chambers we should be seeing within a couple of years.

    Two days later I was sitting up late writing an essay when there was a loud knock on the front door. I ran to answer it and saw Steven. My immediate thought was that there had been another racist attack. Perhaps Josie had been injured.

    But Steven just smiled at me and said: ‘Have you got a passport?’ I had. I’d been to Spain with my parents the previous summer.

    ‘Good,’ he said. ‘Because tomorrow we’re going to Paris.’