Princess Diana’s death – 31 August 1997
I was living in St Andrews at the time without a telly. A friend however, who had a room in what used to be the old Buddhist Centre at the bottom of Cromwell Road, had cable TV. And more importantly Sky News …
I can’t remember exactly what we’d been doing that evening – although in all probability we’d been drinking in Montpelier pubs – but we were back at Cromwell Road and up late, as I still used to smoke quite a lot of dope back then, when we got the news flash about the accident in Paris.
Perceptive as ever, I came out with something along the lines of “Wow! That’s big news” and we waited around for further updates. I don’t recall whether I heard the official announcement of her death or stumbled off home but it was pretty obvious she was dead anyway.
The next day we were drinking at the Cadbury House at lunchtime and hooked up with the Saturday night/Sunday morning party crowd. I remember an afternoon of good humour and bad jokes where nobody seemed particularly bothered about Di, let alone distraught as sections of the media wanted us to believe.
Margaret Thatcher’s resignation – 22 November 1990
I was living in Toronto at the time, without a telly, so I guess I would have read about it in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s only national broadsheet.
Obviously the news wasn’t on the scale it was here although I recall a lot of people asking me about it as I was English. Thatcher was a lot more respected and popular among ordinary people there than she ever was here and many people were surprised by the vehemence of my dislike of her.
Even on the left Thatcher had a bit of a following. These were the days of the rise in Canada and especially Ontario of the New Democrat Party – a sort of proto-New Labour Party – which had grabbed power in the state that autumn under Bob Rae. They subsequently spectacularly imploded I believe.
Better than the Thatcher resignation itself, I can recall a long conversation with a New Democrat, who had briefly worked as the foreign editor of the Toronto Star, about who was likely to succeed Thatcher. In my naivety I claimed Hurd would, only to be told that it would almost certainly be Major as he could win an election for them and the English Tories were all about winning elections.
The same person told me the following spring that there was likely to be a war in Yugoslavia. Like many at the time I was focussed on the first Gulf War and never really registered the significance of this.
Attack on the twin towers – 11 September 2001
I was working in Easton at the time and a colleague came in and said that a plane had been flown into the World Trade Center by terrorists. Probably for the first time – for a really big news event at least – I tried to find out more from the web.
I can’t remember whether I was still using dial-up or we had just got broadband but it took about ten minutes to get on to the BBC site. And once I had seen the still pictures I went in search of a TV.
There wasn’t one in the building but a colleague was listening to the radio – Five Live I think – where the soundtrack of noises, screams and cries of anguished Americans sounded like something out of a Hollywood movie.
At some point Cliff from The Plough arrived and announced he’d opened the pub early. A few of us went over, had a pint and watched the towers collapse.
England’s World Cup Semi Final v Germany – 4 July 1990
My first thought on hearing this was that I didn’t see it because I was at Glastonbury. I can definitely remember listening to 1986’s ‘Hand of God’ there as we were sat outside the tent with it on the radio and were getting so much interest from passers-by we eventually started pinning updates on the tent.
But having checked the dates, it seems the match was a week after Glastonbury. This is a shame as this was the year rave hit Glastonbury with a vengeance – The Happy Mondays played and a large, raucous travellers site could be found just the other side of the fence – which would have made for some entertaining stories.
The upshot of this is that I have no idea where or if I saw the match. I actually spent most of the summer living in the suburbs at my parents on the rebound from a spectacularly ill-judged and doomed relationship that had inevitably collapsed with some assistance from a small mountain of cheap gak and the kind of strong liquor I don’t usually drink, much.
The plan was to get some money together and clear off abroad. To this end I was working in a scummy little factory building air conditioning units where an ex’s schoolfriend was also working. He too was at his parents trying to fund his way through a degree in contemporary literature at Bournemouth University by working in the butchery department of Sainsburys at weekends and building air conditioning units during holidays.
Very little money was actually ever saved though as we both used to leave work every night and go straight to the pub for six hours. We favoured this 1970s brick built dump, whose name escapes me, used entirely by middle aged alcoholics and losers where we could sit quietly in the corner and talk morosely about Milan Kundera novels.
President Kennedy’s Assassination – 22 November 1963
Before my time.
I also have to nominate five others to do this. As we’ve had a local Labour Party member do this, we might as well have a Green – Vowlsie – a Tory – James Barlow – a Lib Dem – Neil Harrison plus a couple of random locals – someone from Connecting Bristol and Matt at PRBristol.