In the course of my semi-conscious meanderings I had, you see, come across a comment about the 1980s and the ever-present threat that the cold war posed to global well-being. The image above is typical of those that flashed through my mind (it's not often that things flash through my mind, they normally ooze, a little like thick treacle). I was still a child (but only just) as the eighties began, and while it was certainly an interesting decade in many respects (the dawn of colourful clothing in Britain!), the continuing threat of very, very silly people pressing big red buttons and bringing death down upon us seemed to be very real.
I first became aware of the threat of nuclear conflict/obliteration in the early to mid seventies, mostly through the things that occasionally popped up on TV and snippets of discussions overheard in the family. Phrases such as 'the four minute warning' and being ready to climb under our desks became part of our lives in those days. I lived on a small peninsula within sight of the once bustling but still important port of Liverpool, a few miles from one of the country's largest oil refineries, and forty five minutes from two airports. It was reasonable to assume that if some suited idiot thousands of miles away chose to kill us all, our part of the world would be among the priority targets for the enemy (whoever that really was).
It's hard to convey how that felt - as a child, in particular. It was certainly unlike anything my parents faced as the high explosive and incendiary bombs fell around their homes during the Second World War - we didn't have that shocking reality of death and destruction to deal with. My generation only grew up wondering...wondering if the leaders of the world were really that stupid, and if one day a mushroom cloud over Liverpool would herald the end of everything. We never had to face the horrors of war on our own doorstep as my parents had done, we didn't have to witness the real barbarism of humans willfully murdering others. What we dealt with was not knowing, and in my case, not trusting stuffy old men in suits, who said silly things and rattled sabres with gusto while knowing full well that their families would be safe in bunkers if all hell broke loose.
Famously, we in the general population had been fed the line that told us all to - in the event of the alarms going off - rip off an interior door, lie it against an interior, load-bearing wall of the house, provision it for up to two weeks of survival and then climb underneath. Writing it now has me chuckling at the ludicrous prospect of anyone trying to do that. A family, plus provisions for two weeks under one door - and by the way, that was to be accomplished within four minutes. I don't how many people bought that nonsense (I know that I did at the age of eight or nine, at least for a while until I began to think: "Hang on a minute...!") but it was what the government of the day offered for advice. That's the degree of patronising lack of care that we lived with.
It could have been a lot worse - almost unimaginably worse, of course. I'm very thankful that it wasn't - and if 'worse' had indeed happened, the world would be a very different place today (I wouldn't be here, for starters!). Having said that, my memories of the 70s and 80s, filled with the stuff of childhood and adolescence as they are, remain tinged with the shadow of real fear that loomed over me even as I used to walk my dog along Hoylake beach, stare apprehensively at the distant cranes and spires of Liverpool and wonder if that day was THE day when the world went mad.