I remember walking into the scullery and detecting that something was wrong. I was four at the time, and one of my older sisters and my mother were talking as they washed the dishes. I asked what they were talking about and they told me a bomb had been made, so big it could blow up the world. I was very impressed - and scared. The notion of a bomb so big, there’d be no place to hide: that was a real frightener. For years after that I kept dreaming about looking up and seeing the biggest bomb being released from a plane, and then the huge mushroom cloud. My dream filled with that empty, hopeless feeling of everything ending. In my teens I confided this recurring nightmare to a friend. He laughed and accused me of having ‘intellectual dreams’; why couldn’t I dream about girls like a normal person?
Memories of that nightmare were revived a week or so ago, when they released those papers showing that QE2 had a pre-cooked speech-in-waiting ready, to be delivered in the event of a nuclear war. The idea, presumably, was to lift the sagging morale of the nation:
“But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all, the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength”
Quite. No mention of what steel-lined hole-in-the-ground she’ll be hidingin, or the Cabinet, or the other selected important people. Because don’t think that arrangements hadn’t and haven’t been made to protect, if protection is possible, the Important People. What's truly frightening is that they clearly believed it’d be possible for some to survive, leaving the rest of us to become vague piles of dust.
The late Peter Cook, when he was part of Beyond the Fringe, had thoughts on the subject that summarised the insanity of it all:
"Now, we shall receive four minutes' warning of any impending nuclear attack. Some people have said 'Oh, my goodness me, four minutes, that's not a very long time'. Well, I would remind the doubters that some people in this great country of ours can run a mile in four minutes".
And in case you think the madness stopped back in the 1960s or 1980s, don’t forget: the Tories plan to spend somewhere between £20 and £35 billion on a replacement for Trident. Thank God I kept up my running.