Our home was built in 1920. And old houses tend to have lots of problems. The clapboard property needs extensive work. The chimney stacks pointing, the crawlspaces sealed, the foundations secured. I spent Easter weekend clearing up the backyard and removing branches hanging over the roof. Then we had a locksmith round to secure all points of entry - this is Atlanta, and you are never too far from true crime or some other fucked up happenstance.
Flies Galore: Rod Steiger in The Amityville Horror (1979)
The last few weeks have been spent painting the interior rooms of the house. We had an Amityville Horror infestation of flies in the bathrooms. Something dead was in the crawlspace, said Mike the electrician, and so I got on the blower to the pest folks. They reckoned it was a dead possum. Or a dog. The house has been unoccupied for some time... Was there a rotting corpse in the crawlspace like something out of an old movie? No. Just a dead rat gathering flies, according to the African-American insect exterminators from the William S. Burroughs Academy of Bug Control. Nothing to loose any sleep over then.
The area is a cross between Toxteth and Ladbroke Grove
Our new street is pretty mad. The houses are all distinctly Southern - palatial mansion homes with white picket fences and shotgun shacks with maple rocking chairs. Yes, you could not be any place else but the South. And, two and half years into living in the USA, I have no intention of being in any place other than the South. I have declined numerous invitations to visit friends and relatives up North. Why do I want to go up there and mix with those Hillary voting liberals? I can't shoot a machine gun, the weather sucks and the people are ruder than they are round here. Damn them Yankees. I'm staying put in Georgia with the rednecks and gun freaks.
A porch tower on a clapboard street
And with good reason. In amongst the innumerable DIY tasks came an invitation from the BBC to attend the 2015 Alistair Cooke Memorial Lecture at WABE public radio in Atlanta. Alistair Cooke was a British journalist and broadcaster who presented Letter from America on BBC Radio for nearly 60 years. To commemorate his life and work, the BBC has invited historian Professor David Blight of Yale University to present the 2015 lecture.
Professor Blight is the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, which explores the romanticized history of the American Civil War. Blight says the great issues of the war were never truly resolved – in particular, equal rights for emancipated slaves. At a time when the issue of race relations is at the forefront of debate in modern day America, Blight will explore how the role and experience of African-Americans during and after the war is often overshadowed by stories of brave white men from the North and South.
Crucially, the schism over equal rights versus states’ rights, which continued to divide the country after the American Civil War, has often gone ignored in favour of a more positive historical slant. In his lecture, Professor Blight will explore the politics of memory and how, 150 years on, the way the war is remembered fuels a legacy which continues to haunt American society today. For those of you wanting to catch the lecture, it will be broadcast on the World Service on Saturday, 9th May at 23:00BST.
Grendel's Mother: Gillian Reynolds of The Daily Telegraph