Monday 12 April 2021

History is wasted on me

 So today is the 60th anniversary of the first manned space flight – the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's single orbit of the Earth. I would have been in my last year of primary school at the time, and I have only the vaguest memory of the event, which I think I found mildly exciting, if, like so much else in life, rather bewildering. History is wasted on me. 
I think I was more excited by Christopher Cockerell's Hovercraft making its first Channel crossing – this was in the hot summer of 1959 when I was on holiday at Bexhill-on-Sea – and by the unveiling, the same year, of Alec Issigonis's Mini car. These, for some reason, had more impact on my boyhood self. What had no impact at all, as far as I can recall, was the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, by which time I was at grammar school and should have been paying more attention. The world may have been holding its breath, crossing its fingers, cowering under tables in expectation of the Big One, but this boy's soul was untroubled by a moment's anxiety, and I can't even remember the grown-ups talking about it. There you are – as a witness to history and chronicler of my times I am entirely useless. I seem to have lived through these moments in a state of what Dr Johnson would call 'stark insensibility'. Hey ho. 


  1. I remember the Cuban missile crisis rather well, though I was younger. The range circles on the map that appeared in the Cleveland (Ohio) Plain Dealer suggested that we could be reached by missiles based in Cuba. I have a vague recollection of discussing this at the sandbox with a neighbor of about my age, and agreeing that this was not good.

  2. I have a very vague sense of some mild anxiety among the grown ups that might have been the Cuban Missile Crisis but I have a much stronger memory of the so-called 6-day war. I was made aware of it one afternoon by a friend who I considered totally unswitched on and who I thought until that moment only thought about ponies, like me. We were sitting in her bedroom and she suddenly told me that she was sure the world would end by Sunday evening because Israel had done something or other involving fighter planes. I was 11 at the time and what she said made me quite worried for a day or two. But she turned out to be wrong so I went back to paying absolutely no attention to anything unrelated to ponies. Heaven alone knows where she'd got the idea from. She never again showed any interest in current affairs in my presence and went on to become a stout country matron. I never completely forgave her for giving me such a fright.