Thursday, 21 August 2008

Star Wars 2008 Style

The newspapers are full of American plans to build missile detectors in Poland, dubbed by some Son of Star Wars; Russia naturally is not amused. I watch representatives of both countries on Newsnight. The elderly US senator is smug bordering on facetious. the Russian representative is intellectually his superior and comes over better even if he is speaking in a foreign tongue.
Do you remember in days long since past when you went to the cinema. You often arrived half way through the main feature. Then came the adverts, plus a newsreel and often a second film. The main film began and sooner or later you reached the point where you came in. All this talk of confrontation, nuclear problems and escalating threats remind me of the past. Continually going round and round, just like our youthful trips to the cinema.
I distinctly remember being told that there would be another great war in four years time. This at a time when the Second World War was very fresh in our minds. I would be nine years old and worked out that I would have achieved the ripe old age of thirteen when the calamity arrived. A teenager and a war, what excitement. Obviously I had no real conception as to what such events entailed.
The possibility of war and global escalation was in the background throughout our formative years. The Korean War, the Suez Crisis, the Cuban Affair are just some of the events that added to the uncertainties of the post war world and seemingly nothing changes.
In 1966 a documentary by the BBC called 'The War Game' depicting the effect of nuclear attack on Britain was considered too horrific to be shown. (It was eventually shown on television in 1985 though it did receive private viewing in the preceding years. I seem to remember seeing it in Chesterfield around 1969.)
The point is that the nuclear threat has been in the background all of my sixty plus years. I taught in a comprehensive school in Derby throughout the 1970's. It was a three storey building built in the sixties. Attached to a roof within feet of a classroom in which I constantly taught was a siren. This siren was tested every six months. Its monstrous, ear shattering, mournful wail stays in the mind forever. Evidently it was to be used in the event of attack by an enemy. Exactly whom I never did find out. Neither did I ever find out who authorised its position on the roof or its sounding off. I certainly wasn't asked or informed even though I lived and worked locally. Did it eventually fall into disrepair or did policies change. Apparently ours is not to reason why.
Its a wonder the population grows up in the main sane and sensible. We did discuss seriously in class on occasion the world and its problems. But sometimes you have to step back from it all if you are to assume we all have a future, particularly important where children are concerned.
We would discuss the terrible effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effects dwarfed by modern nuclear weapons.
"And what do you reckon, sir?" would be the question. This at a time when the talk was always of the warning of nuclear attack being four minutes. So much for the siren on the school roof. Just time to boil an egg and very little else.
"Well children, this is what you do. Dig a hole in your garden around six feet by two feet by three feet deep. Put a pile of leaves and a rake alongside. When you get the warning that a nuclear attack is imminent, and it will come by the siren, the radio or television, run into the garden fast. Quickly lie down in the hole and with the rake pull the leaves on top of you."
Puzzled faces all round. "And what will that do, sir?" (How many times did I tell them you don't start a sentence with and.)
"Well, children, sorry to say, it won't make any difference to the effect. But it will leave the place tidy for the next lot!"

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