Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another meme

Bob Piper has tagged me with this: What was I doing when I heard about....

1. Princes Diana's death: At home, in my old flat watching 'Reds' on TV. It was quite a late showing, and when it finished (about 1am?), there was a newsflash saying that she'd been involved in a serious accident. The way they reported it made it sound like they thought it was fatal but it hadn't been confirmed.

2. Margaret Thatcher's Resignation: I can't remember which order now - maybe it was her actual resignation that I heard about on the tube - the tube driver announced it and it was one of those rare moments of eye-contact with everyone on the Underground. Everyone was very happy about it. But one of the final stages, when it was all getting inevitable, I was on the phone to Sarah Baxter (the Political Editor at the New Statesman & Society - I worked there at the time selling adverts) and she was at the House of Commons giving me a running commentary - she got all excited and had to hang up to go and get the details.

3. Attack on the Twin Towers - September 11th 2001: I was at the TUC congress in Brighton and it was on all of the TV screens in the exhibition area. Everyone was milling around just after the first plane hit the building, and I was watching he screens as the second one hit (as was everyone else). It was a weird moment (understatement of the year?). A few things stood out for me. Firstly, my massive underestimation of the consequences. Being a pathological optimist, it actually occurred to me that it may be possible to rescue the passengers on the plane and that hopefully, very few people were in the parts of the building that the planes had hit.

Remember, when the first plane had hit, there was a widespread uncertainty about why it had happened - was it a freak disaster? It took the second crash to absolutely confirm that this was design rather than accident. Big events bring out odd things in people (or they do in me, anyway). I couldn't accept that I'd watched thousands of people being killed - I was treating it like any big event that everyone was talking about. Others there that day were really weeping - but they were in the minority. I remember a lot of people's reaction was amused fascination.

The other significant thing: Tony Blair was due to address the TUC a few hours later. His office had already briefed that - because he was already in Brighton - that he'd make a short appearance, but only to say that his planned speech would not be appropriate and that he was going back to London forthwith. Knowing he was going to speak, and - by then - knowing that it was a deliberate attack, I made a hasty calculation: If there was any building that was likely to be subject to a similar attack in England, it was going to be the one that the PM was giving a pre-advertised speech at.

So I watched his one-minute speech from a pub up in The Lanes. It really took a day or so for the whole thing to sink in - the collapse of the buildings helped, I suppose....

4: England's World Cup Semi-Final v Germany 1990: In a pub on Liverpool Road with Paul Anderson I think? At times like this, he pretends to be Scottish. I've never shared the big interest in Internationals, I share Chris' ambivalence (and I agree with his reasoning) on the subject.

Correction: Gah! It was the Euro 96 that I watched in Islington with Paul (Psycho in excellsis). I probably watched the 1990 game in a pub in Battersea, and I vaguely remember being completely smashed before kick-off.

It was our Psycho who missed the penalty though, so I would have been very upset. My calculus on international games is that I offer a fairly even support to all of the British Isles sides, but any Forest connection can turn me into a screaming patriot for whoever the side is. In 1978, Ally's Army had Archie Gemmill, John Robertson and Kenny Burns in it. (I thought that John McGovern went as well, but I'm told otherwise).

5: President Kennedy's Assassination - 22nd November 1963: I had been thought of, but wasn't born at the time. Mischievous relatives have speculated that I'm probably properly half-Irish having been conceived on the ferry in late summer of '63.

To pass it on? OK. Paul can contradict me about number 4 (above) if I've not remembered it correctly. Terry, Peter, Adrian and Steve can do it if they want to?


Adrian said...

Ooh, I haven't got a blog anymore. But here you go.

Diana: My brother had got married the day before and I was best man, so I walked down to breakfast in a Northamptonshire hotel to be told it by relatives. In that typical Irish fashion all their republicanism went out the window when faced with a bit of royal news. But that didn't last long.

Thatcher: I was at work at a conference on housing. The rumour had run strongly that she was going to go all that morning and when it was confirmed I phoned my partner up and we went for a celebratory lunch. Sadly, the worse the better would have been the best reult for the country as she would have been crushed in 1992.

Twin towers: At that very moment sitting eating my lunch with the government's chief whip in 1 Parliament Street (we obviously did not know). Went back to the office in Whitehall to find that all had changed, changed utterly. Did not understand what the private office staff were trying to tell me as it seemed so outrageous. When I finally understood I sat and watched in horrified fascination as I tried to explain to the Secretary of State's party what had gone on (they were on the road in North Wales).

1990: At home in my mother's house, horrified at the idea that I was about to have another 1966 visited upon me, but also supremely confident in German precision engineering penalty kicks. In retrospect seems a bit mean, but seriously folks - enough of the Bobby Moore already.

Kennedy: on the grassy knoll, where else?

adrian said...

Actually, it wasn't 1 Parliament Street but Portcullis House.