It was 1979 and I was sitting in the living room at Simon Bradshaw’s house, watching TV with his family.
The room was dark, deep red wallpaper and a long black leather sofa stretching across one wall. The news and the darkness were making me feel that everything was closing in.
The Russians had invaded Afghanistan and everywhere people seemed to be talking about the political tension and the possibility of a Third World War that, to me at least, now felt inevitable.
Had I been a bit younger I may have voiced my fears to my parents, but something in me said I should keep quiet and stop being so pathetic.
In a history lesson the following week, books were being stuffed into bags before the bell while Mr. Cartwright began to talk about Russian aggression. It was ironic, I thought, that he should be critical of aggression so fond as he was of throwing a board rubber at anyone talking in registration.
I took my chance.
“Sir, do you think that the Russian invasion might lead to a Third World War?”
Everyone groaned, desperate to escape for break time when Cartwright began a lengthy geo-political answer that I didn’t understand.
I hadn’t achieved anything other than making it more likely I would be beaten up in the playground.
These memories came to me this week after establishing a self-imposed ban on reading the news before getting out of bed in the morning, concluding it to be a terrible start to the day.
I don’t know if there have always been predictions of some form of Armageddon in the years since I was born but the convergence of climate change, Brexit, and COVID 19 is wearing, to say the least.
In 1975 the IRA bombed the Hare & Hounds pub just down the road. The explosion made the house shake. My mother had invited the vicar for dinner and I’d just reluctantly disappeared up to bed.
I was full of worry that night too.
“Do you think they will come down here?” I asked my mother not realising that the appeal of bombing a pub full of soldiers was not the same as targeting a residential house where a vicar, a nurse, and an accountant were eating chicken and mushroom vol-au-vents.
She just said, “No love,” and that was that because sometimes, no more information was exactly what I needed, especially when nobody knew for sure what would happen next.
I was 17 when the Falklands war broke out. Me and Dave Clark were standing outside his house leaning against the wall wondering if we ought to worry about the reintroduction of conscription.
“Hopefully we’ll still be too young by the time it’s over,” he said, which we were.
We couldn’t poke at our anxiety with a stick by lying in bed and scrolling through countless pieces on our phones or watching the source of it on a constant loop of TV.
Instead, the best we could do was put it aside and walk across the road to the shop where we’d buy ice cream (“Feast”) and a bar of chocolate (“Yorkie” plain), then return to Dave’s loft for another game of table ice hockey.