is no doubt about it, we live in difficult times politically. Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11, British soldiers
being killed almost on a daily basis. However the world felt more scary back in the 1980's believe it or not? Maybe it
was because I was a child? Throughout
my time in Shepshed, I lived in the constant fear that my beloved village was going to be nuked into oblivion by some granite
face Russian dictator.
were living in the shadow of what was known as "The Cold War". It was Breznev who was at the helm in the Soviet Union when the 1980’s dawned. I read
somewhere that many Historians dubbed this period “the second cold war”, the first being the rise of Communism
after the second world war and the Cuban missile crisis in 1963 where the world was apparently just moments away from a devastating
third world war. It was before I was born so this piece of history does not give me many sleepness nights.
events in the 80’s did. The fear was so real you could touch it. Tensions inenvitably mounted when Brezhnev invaded
Afghanistan in 1979. Indeed folks, back in those days Bin Laden was a friend of ours, a bit like Saddam Hussien who we happily
supplied with arms during the eight-year Iraq/Iran war (1980-88).
Brezhnev’s invasion, the then US President Jimmy Carter ordered the infamous US boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games
in 1980. According to Keesing (1980) a total of 62 countries including the US did not go, most in protest at the invasion
but some citing economic reasons.
policy in the UK was that our athletes could choose whether or not they went. Alan Wells was glad he did, as he became the
100m sprint gold medallist.
the same year, Democrat President Carter was replaced by Republican Ronald Reagan. No doubt Historians would fiercely debate
my words here and probably take me to task, but my interepretation was he took a much more hardline approach on the “Soviets”
and dubbed them “the evil empire” when a Korean passenger plane that had strayed into Russian airspace was shot-down
on September 1st 1983 (BBC News).
in Shepshed, we had good reason to believe that tomorrow may never come and the bomb would end it all.
bomb. Note the singular reference and not plural. I was convinced that there were a zillion Russian warheads pointing at Shepshed
alone. If you go to the National Archives website, you can watch and read about “Protect and Survive” whih was
a series of public information films and leaflets produced by the government between 1975 and 1980 on what to do if the red-button
was ever pressed.
Dury sung a song called “Ban the Bomb”, in the Smiths song “Ask”, Morrissey
laments that it will be “the bomb that will bring us together”. Again, note the singular term! There
was a film “Letter to Breznev” (1985) starring Margi Clarke about two lovelorn Liver-birds who enjoy
a brief fling with two Russian sailors docked up in Liverpool. However a film that scared the pants off me was “Threads”
written by Barry Hines, who studied at Loughborough to become a teacher before writing classics such as “Kes”
and the aforementioned film about a nuclear bomb falling on Sheffield. I have recently acquired a copy on DVD of this film
and can laugh about it now, but 25 years ago it terrified housewives up and down the nation.
the subject of which, my Gran and my Aunty Margaret from Sutton Bonnington would often hold council in my Gran’s back-kitchen
and once, I recall, being terrified to death when Aunty revealed she had read somewhere that the Reds under the Beds,
Commies or it might have even been the Chinese or North Koreans were not going to bomb us, but send a rocket up to
the sun instead and wipe out the planet. My protests that it would A) melt and B) they would not be so daft were waved away.
These were madmen we were dealing with.
had to do something. As I had no interest in following Wham or Duran Duran, I became politically active
aged around about 13. Loughborough Hospital was in danger of being closed,so I painted out a placard and begged the bus driver
to allow me on the bus. Jokingly he threatened to charge me 37 ½p for the sign, but I was undeterred. Forget Citizen Smith
and the Tooting Popular Front, Citizen Monk and the Shepshed Popular Front had arrived.
Hospital, to me, was a cause worth fighting for. After all, two close relatives had been treated by the skill and dedication
of its fine surgeons so I had a personal interest. Admittedly the pair (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) had
only undergone operations there to remove a boil from their bottom and the other a routine contraceptive sterilisation op.
It seemed unthinkable that a town the size of Loughborough could survive without a proper hospital.
arrival in Loughborough, I joined the throng in Baxter Gate outside the hospital, soon to be doomed by Thatchertite NHS costs
and opposite Stephen Dorrell’s then constituency office. “Maggie Maggie Maggie! Out! Out! Out” the chant
went, I yelled along with all my might and thrust my placard so violently I nearly took the marcher next to me’s beard
you would never see anything like this in Loughborough or anywhere. As a very close friend who was at Greenham Common tells
me, “We don’t protest any more”. Although it is something far from my politics and I would never endorse
what they stand for, I recall a National Front march coming to Loughborough around about 1985 and a picture appearing in the
following weeks Loughborough Echo of these horrible looking skinheads stomping past De Franco’s Cafe. On our Saturday
though, the police shut down Baxter Gate and Leicester Road and allowed us to march up for a rally in Southfield’s Park.
opposed to Thatcher had turned out. I donated 20p to the Miners Striking Fun and received a sheet of “Coal Not Dole”
stickers and jokingly stuck one on my Tory voting Dad when he arrived to pick me up later.
the price of just 50p, I also became a CND member. They guy who was recruiting was Chris North. Chris became a friend of mine
during the 1980’s, I would often meet him up at the Dovecote, home of Shepshed Charterhouse FC (Now Shepshed Dynamo).
Chris was (and probably still is) a fascinating character, a vegan and I believe he was also a Buddist. I admit I was quite
fascinated by Chris because most of my male mentors were only interested in something if it had "tits or came out of a
barrel" (Bleasdale, Boys from the Blackstuff 1982).
for half a quid, I received a stream of CND publications through the post, badges, stickers and soon I became the target for
jokes from my class-mates. However I was and still believe I was, despite being very young and naieve, supporting a good cause
intead of day-dreaming about poncy pop-stars insisting that ooooh baby life was good!
I never got round to getting a
Frankie t-shirt though! "Relax" was pretty dull and at the time, the homosexual undertones of the song were lost on me! However
on a family holiday to Mablethorpe in 1984 there were some cracking t-shirts on sale, including one what said "Frankie says....arm
the unemployed!". I was well impressed and wanted one for my Grandad, who had been made redundant in 1983. However my Dad
would not buy it! It was akin to anarchy, in his book, arm the unemployed indeed!