Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Where Was You?

A fruitful meme via Normblog and Harry's Place, asking where we all were as history lifted the duvet and slobbered on our toes:

Princess Diana’s death - 31st August 1997

Having a bath in my flat in Tashkent, waiting for the car to take me to the airport for the flight home for my brother's wedding. It was coming up to eight o'clock in the morning, local time. Some royal correspondent was reminiscing fondly about the Princess on the BBC World Service, and I thought "What's the silly mare done now?" Then came the headlines. Our driver Nusrat had already heard the news, and assured me that MI5 had done it.

At the wedding reception six days later the DJ played Candle in the Wind. The family of my English sister-in-law sat in respectful silence. Our Welsh family continued chatting, drinking and smoking. It wasn't Di's big day, was it? A week later I was back in Tashkent, walking down a street at dusk with a British colleague. She mentioned that Mother Teresa had died the same day, and recounted the "Sandals in the Bin" gag. Our laughter was cut short as a nun of Mother Teresa's order crossed our path.

Margaret Thatcher’s Resignation - 22nd November 1990

I was working for a consultancy company in Oxford, attending our morning editorial meeting. The Reuters wire went beserk, and a don at the table said "she's gone". Everyone was quietly delighted. We got on with our work, but no one came back from the pub after lunch and the management didn't expect us to.

Attack on the Twin Towers - 11 September 2001

I was the desk editor in the newsroom of a respected broadcaster, and happened to have CNN on the screen above me. I saw the first plane hit as the channel switched coverage to the Twin Towers, and called my colleagues over. I thought it was a nut in a private plane, or an awful accident. As everyone went to sit down again I saw the second plane disappear behind the first tower. At this I blithely told my deputy I was taking my lunch break.

Down the bar at least one colleague was insisting it must be US rightwingers, while I thought it was Bin Laden. And I heard the first sick joke about the attacks, though I can't remember it. A professional highpoint that I'm unlikely ever to equal.

England’s World Cup Semi-Final against Germany - 4 July 1990

I can't remember clearly, which was pretty much my state for the whole of the World Cup. I watched almost all the games in other people's houses in Brighton and North London for some reason. For this one I think I was round at the flat of prog-rock pimpernel Ward Cooper in Golders Green. I felt very sorry for Pearce.

President Kennedy’s Assassination - 22 November 1963

This is an odd one. My friend Wislen was visiting my hometown of Dolgellau, and we bumped into my cousin Iola in a pub. When Wislen told her he was from Dallas, he got the usual "Oooh, I remember where I was when that poor President Kennedy was shot". She was listening to the radio while giving the infant No Good Boyo a bath in the kitchen sink during one of my parents periodic cavorts among the speakeasies of Llwyngwril. This surprised me, as my mam says I was born in December 1964. Hmmm.


M C Ward said...

What a chequered career you've had Boyo. I was probably either teaching, sleeping, or both.

No Good Boyo said...

Respectable activities and easily combined, Wardy. I've malingered like a cuckoo in various professions and ought to have remained a shepherd.

Gorilla Bananas said...

"Would the world be a different place if Kennedy had worn a crash helmet?" a history graduate once asked. "Probably not," replied his "Dykes on Bikes" sister, "because the bullets would have gone through it."

Gadjo Dilo said...

Another excellent initiative, and with legs on it! Here are my own personal off-the-cuff reminiscences:

Princes Di: Living in a large hippy-ish house in Copenhagen. I heard it on the radio when I woke early to go to my restaurant cleaning job and met head female hippy chick. "Did you hear the news?" "Yeah." "Well, it's a shame for the kids, that's all." "Yeah, 'spose so".

Margaret Thatcher’s Resignation: Nope, don't remember, sorry.

Attack on the Twin Towers: Yep. Attending a lecture in database design at a college in Copenhagen. Horrendous, but the world didn't stop turning, sorry; and I think like many I awaited the day when the 9/11 = 7/11 joke became possible.

England’s World Cup Semi-Final against Germany: Was that the one with Gazza crying? I don't think I saw it live - too painful - though I enjoyed the fatalistic navel-gazing afterwards no end.

President Kennedy’s Assassination: I was 11 months old, so I was probably pooing myself somewhere.

Gyppo Byard said...

Di dies - Was at home in bed in Yogyakarta with Mrs Byard when a colleague phoned us up to tell us, at which point we turned on the World Service to listen to the sombre music and hushed tones of the news coverage. I thought - quite honestly - "so MI6 got her in the end, then!" A thought which subsequently turned out to be utterly untrue. But I had memories of Neil Kinnock's mysterious crash and its aftermath. Being in Indonesia one was removed from the hysteria in the UK and felt, not for the first or only time "I really don't understand Britain."

Thatcher goes: Was living in a somewhat hippy-ish shared house off Cowley Road in Oxford, and was in the midst of a tutorial with a TEFL student when one of my unwashed vegetarian Green Party-activist housemates came bounding up the stairs yelling with delight "SHE'S GONE!", so we curtailed the tutorial and went down to watch the TV news.

Twin Towers: At home, waiting to go into hospital the next day for an operation. Watched the TV footage in a state that can only be described as 'stunned'.

England's World Cup semi: What? Don't watch sport, and try to take no interest in it whatsoever.

Kennedy Assassination: Had yet to be conceived, though bizarrely enough my dad was in the USA at the time and trying to find a place to bring his young wife and daughter to live. Had things gone differently, I might well have been conceived and born in the US and thus be entitled to US citizenship. Instead, I was conceived in Wales and born near Birmingham, which I regard as a lucky escpae.

Anonymous said...

I didn't think the first plane hitting was televised?

No Good Boyo said...

Anon - possibly not. I may have just seen the consequences.

GB, a president wearing a crash helmet would have made history itself.

Gadjo and Gyppo, missing Thatcher and not knowing the Truth About Kinnock are lapses that suggest a decacde spent exploring Jamacian horticulture. Is that libellous? The Truth About Kinnock certainly is, so you won't read it here.

It all makes me think of other great moments of history I've missed. I feel a post coming on.

Kevin Musgrove said...

I envy your air miles. An obvious consequence of living so close to Barmouth International Airport. Don't envy you the airline meals, though.

Was Iola confusing the shooting of Bobby Kennedy with John F.? I can well remember the former but have no memory at all of the latter, and I have a few years on you (still 21, though!). My mum's always telling me that I saw Yuri Gagarin when he visited Trafford Park. My brother insists that it was more likely Lulu.

I remember feeling very cheated when news of Thatcher's demise came out on the wireless at work.

The welling of saccharined grief at Diana's death was nauseating. It took a couple of days for people to decide that they were transfixed by grief, which suggested mass hysteria rather than real emotion.

We were in my auntie's back parlour eating corned beef butties with the lodgers when England won the World Cup. Just thought I'd mention it. (-:

Mrs Pouncer said...

Princess Diana - we were in France in a tiny settlement called Ferques in the Pas/d/Calais. Mr Pouncer was there for some legislative problem with the quarrying of travertine, and I'd gone along for the ride. The children were in England. Mr Pouncer said something pithy (I think it was "Fuck") and the old woman next door gave us a cauliflower wrapped in the sports section of La Voix du Nord.

Margaret Thatcher's resignation - well, I'm afraid we had benefited from the lovely old harridan's regime, but I was thrilled to see her go. Ghastly old arriviste and her nouveau pals. Common as.

The twin towers: our eldest daughter rang from her dressing room at the Prince of Wales Theatre and said "I hope you've got the fucking television on ... we won't be going on tonight, that's for sure". I thought it was a terrible accident.

Football - is this the crying Gazza game? Drawing a blank here, sorry.

JFK - It happened on a Friday. I remember my father taking an enormous bunch of chrysanthemums to the convent where I was a pupil and giving them to the Reverend Mother. They had already hung a portrait of JFK in the hallway, with an eternal flame and a condolence book (way ahead of their time) and all the nuns were wracked with grief. Howling, really. Mass that Sunday was a real production number. Maybe people have forgotten how much English Catholics adored the Kennedys? My dear mother based herself on Jacqueline and copied her wardrobe slavishly. My father cried, I remember, and we prayed every day for about a year for Caroline and John-John.

No Good Boyo said...

Kevin, I used Tabor International, altough its future is in doubt now that the Cross Foxes Inn has closed.

I think Iola might have confused me with my cousin Morthwyl, although it doesn't explain what she was doing with the little scamp in our house.

Mrs P, the Catholics have always hankered for the king across the water.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

So Mrs P was in France when Diana bought it ... coincidence? I think not. Harold always seemed to be off on a mission not a million miles from where something dramatic happened. When Murdoch went for an early bath he was in Morocco. I swear his boots were still wet when he walked in.

I fear I might have been to blame for Diana. The night before, a friend and I were discussing the photos of her and Dodi in the newspapers, and I distinctly remember saying "I wish that woman would just DISAPPEAR".

I charge $500 a time now to repeat that trick with the name of your choice inserted.

No Good Boyo said...

I take it you mean Maxwell the Ruthenian Renard, Daphers. Murdoch is almost certainly amphibian, especially if you ask David Icke.

If you accept Welsh dwris (100 tans to the dwri) there's a brick of cash heading your way with the note "Glenys Bloody Kinnock" attached.

Anonymous said...

Murdoch and Maxwell - both amphibians, one a better swimmer though.

Anonymous said...

A fascinating sequence of walk-down-memory-lane reminiscences, NGB. Since you seem to be in list-mode these damp days of early autumn (is it due to the faint beetle clicks of the beckoning male menopause?), perhaps I could trespass on the hospitality of your columns to suggest you enlighten your readers with a similarly- couched rundown perhaps entitled "Great Japes at Work" - with the names suitably disguised to spare the blushes of the innocent, natch? Posterity will be all the richer for your collected effusions, I dare say.

No Good Boyo said...

Ha, once again my employers try to flush me out into the open! It won't happen, yurtscrambler - if that's your real name.

Japes are the short con of the resident office pain. I'm planning the equivalent of the long con - once all the threads come together there will be reversals of polar axes, mass pregnancies, editors envying the administrative staff and the return of that giant cloud insect demon thing from Quatermass and the Pit, except this time hes' insulated.

Think on.

Anonymous said...

A touch paranoid, I think, NGB, at least in the considered view of this benighted yurtscrambler (for it is he). & there was I thinking faction was thy middle name...

Gyppo Byard said...

Good grief Mr Scrambler - or may I call you Yurt? One never has time for japes where *I* work. Nay - much too busy, and committed to excellence and so forth!

Nor for blogging, come to think of it (I am currently at home on my off day, and I hear young Guthlac awaking so I must swiftly away...)

Anonymous said...

Ah, GB, all good wishes must of course be extended in profusion to the young, even if their spawners have condemned them to a life of Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. But rejoice, young Guthlac (peace be upon you), the Famous Five will soon be back (http://tinyurl.com/56lxzc) in some new adventures. Can the Secret Seven be far behind? Now that would be a Happy Ending.

No Good Boyo said...

Only if The Comic Strip and let loose on the scripts.

Anonymous said...

You should be ashamed of yourself. But you're not.

The Birdwatcher said...

I can remember where I was when Botham scored 149 at Headingly to set up that famous English Victory over the Aussies. have I got my priorities wrong?

Kevin Musgrove said...

Absolutely not. I was halfway up a cliff on the Isle of Man taking inclinometer readings on the local rocks.

M C Ward said...

Di - I was in bed. Mother came in and told me she'd died in an accident. Not mother, but the Princess. I united with the nation in grief.

Thatch - I was at Hull University on my way to a beer when bearded social science types started getting all excited. A solitary placard read, "She's gone." I shed no tear - until John Major made an appearance.

Sep 11th - at work in Bournemouth pretending to be an accountant. Accessed the bbc website for the eighteenth time that day and saw a plane had hit the Twin Towers - couldn't believe it could have been accidental, and was spot on in my CIA-style findings. Turned down subsequent appeals to become one of their analysts.

JFK - probably my spiritual guide was preparing me to be reincarnated as a TEFL teacher. After six years of exhaustive negotiations, I made my appearance, and the rest, as they say, is history. Karma - what a bastard.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Mr Birdwatcher, nope, I remember exactly where I was then as well! Kevin, strewth, what a varied career you've had as well. The main thing I remember about Di's death was when I arrived back in UK and found my father racked with anguish because he couldn't experience the grief for some bird he'd never met.

No Good Boyo said...

I remember some plank, possibly the prime minister, suggested renaming Heathrow Airport as Diana Princess Who Touched All Of Us But Not In a Bad way International Airport of Hearts.

William Hague, widely regarded then as now as a div, said this was a stupid idea. All the papers said he was out of touch with the nation. Perhaps he was, but at the time I thought "Yup, you're right.It's like waking up after a three-day bender and realizing that the spider's web tatoo on your face is going to take some explaining to your boss at the Halifax."

A narrow escape.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Wasn't it going to be called The People's Airport?

Ian Plenderleith said...

Di - on the other end of the phone to my Mum, who was affecting to cry as she broke the news to me, while I stifled the urge to laugh and yell, "Another bullet saved come the ree-vo-looshen!"

Mrs T - at work as a sub-editor for World Water and Environmental Engineering Magazine. We all downed scalpels and glue to watch it in the office of the more salubrious New Civil Engineer magazine, which had one of those modern telly things. Bit dull - engineering journalists don't do 'triumphalist', apparently.

Twin Towers - call from Frau Indie-Pop in downtown DC: "I'm safe and coming home." Me: erm, why? I mean, I'm a busy man, I don't watch CNN at 9 in the bloody morning when there are perfectly good free porn sites to be looked at on the internet.

Gazza - despite having been at Italia 90 to watch Scotland's customary crash, and despite purporting to not support England, ever, no, definitely not me, I found myself watching this on a TV in Walthamstow with my English house-mates, cheering on ver Engerlund, cos I'm just a bloody sheep like the rest of the world. Or a glory-hunter.

JFK - banging about in the old man's ball-sack, trying to swim with the tide. "You hear about JFK?" asks this chubby sperm. "I'm not off out there, it's too dangerous." Over the next year I perpetuated this rumor, striking fear into the skinny tails of my spunk-mates, thus allowing me to outswim their reluctant asses at the vital moment.

No Good Boyo said...

Pop, you were a stirrer even in the knackersack.

Kevin, come the glorious day it will be called Aneurin Bevan People's Popular Airport, and the struggle will begin to make it even worse.