Friday, January 28, 1983


I took a calculated risk and missed my tutorial for American History, anticipating I can change course on Monday. So I ligged in bed until one instead and got up to find Barry and Lindsey packed and ready to go. Whincliffe beckoned.

We got the train up to London with Susie (who was going home) and Rowan (who was catching a train to Durham to visit a friend at the Uni there). I couldn't tell whether I was looking forward to it or not, but we reached the big city mid-afternoon and were soon on our way to the Polytechnic of Central London.

We were riding up an escalator in the tube when Barry bumped into his friend Derek. It was just incredible: in mannerisms and speech, Derek is an identical replica of Barry’s RCP friend John. He had the same quick-fire wit and dry humour which came from a strangely creased sharkish face and downturned mouth. Susie, Lindsey and I smiled disbelievingly to one another at Barry’s apparently nationwide network of revolutionary communist friends. He seems to meet them everywhere!

After a short walk to PCL through dark and familiar streets hemmed in by concrete and glass, we found RCP Carl sitting in the bar downstairs with a mate Don, who was a quiet old-fashioned looking bloke with short back and sides. He reminded me of a 1920s miner or something. A few drinks and several packets of crisps later we left, said goodbye to Susie, and caught the tube to Hackney to meet our ride to Whincliffe.

Near Hackney town hall we were greeted by a group of dark figures huddled around a white minibus. They looked frozen to death, and I was so dispirited as we clambered in the back that I briefly contemplated doing a runner, leaping out and going back to Watermouth. . . . The back of the bus was heaped with bags and people and spare tires and I settled miserably into my 'seat.' In the blackness all around me the others shared political in-jokes about “Workers' Power,” “Sparts” (Sparticist League) and, their favourite target, liberal CNDers and the “Greenham Gals.”

Carl was in typical cynical form: what was it someone said about cynics knowing the price of everything yet the value of nothing? Hours went by before the other minibuses from the North and South London branches arrived and we could finally set off. We reached Whincliffe in the late hours of the evening.

We drove for ages around the dark back streets and it was all very conspiratorial. For a while we waited miserably in the back yard of a towering dark terrace beneath a bright moon and scudding clouds, cut to death by the wind, before we were ushered up several narrow flights of stairs into an empty curtainless room with bare floorboards and just a pile of bricks in one corner. So this is our room for the night we thought, but no, we were off again, back down to the minibus and a short drive to the Islamic Youth Centre, “somewhere in Whincliffe.”

This was a big old house with a long garden in front and dark and empty windows. There was a hassle as the door wouldn’t open at first but soon we were ensconced in a plush carpeted room which we couldn’t use after all as it was a prayer room: we'd probably defiled it beyond redemption by tramping in in shoes and boots, unrolling our sleeping bags, etc. We removed upstairs. The building seemed to be in a state of semi-dereliction, the cold toilets strewn with litter.

Our new bedroom is similar to the last, only with a thinner and more threadbare carpet, no curtains at the windows and very cold. We quietly unpacked and everyone has laid down on the hard floor to sleep, and me to write this.

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