While out running the other day I was pondering the end of the world. I was listening to After The War, an album by Gary Moore [the Gary Moore concert at Wembley Arena is another tale]. The songs made me think of all the times as a youngster I worried about nuclear war. I reached self awareness towards the end of the 1970s and with that came the realisation that I lived on a tiny planet orbiting in the middle of nowhere.
The news used to be full with suspicion of the Russians and what naughty things they might be up to. Russian invasion seemed inevitable and so did the possibility of mutually assured destruction. Spies and diplomats were being expelled from various countries in tit-for-tat manoeuvres. We regularly took part in war games as did the Russians.
I clearly remember talking with friends about what we would do if the 4 minute warning was sounded. Who would we try to see or spend our last minutes with. I grew up close enough to London to know that the blast wave might not get me but the radiation and collapse of society probably would. What plans could I make to ensure that like in the movies I ended up one of the survivors.
There was a film on TV in the mid-80s which started with a nuclear bomb exploding above Sheffield. This affected me. I don’t think I watched past the first few minutes but I was always bothered with the vision of a mushroom cloud rising above the city. My dad said probably the best thing ever to me, although he might have been lying. I asked him if there would be a nuclear war and he responded:
If I thought there was going to be a nuclear war I wouldn’t have brought you into the world.
I found this remarkably calming. Looking back I think the threat of war caused immense stress. However, I do wonder what adults thought about the threat of war. Was it as high as I imagined or was I too sensitive. I liken it to the threat of terrorism now. The public perceived threat is far greater than the threat of real events occurring.