Let me say at the outset that this post is not intended to be either political or controversial but is borne out of something that I have been thinking about and have discussed with friends and colleagues.
I think every generation has a tumultuous event to contend with that will stay with them for years. I can only shape this in terms of my experiences, my parents experiences, my Grandparents experiences and my children’s experiences.
My paternal Grandfather survived Ypres whilst my maternal Grandfather was an officer in India, China and an artillery gunner in Gravesend who shot down one of the first Zeppelins over the UK.
Both of them in their advancing years reminisced about the First World War to some extent fondly if that is the right word. As they neared their final days both of them had recurring hallucinations that dispelled the fondness which must surely have been a front.
My mum and dad born in 1931 and 1929 respectively were both too young to be active in the war but have vivid experiences. Birmingham was a target for nightly bombing raids and they clearly recall the air raid shelters.Mum was evacuated to a family in Somerset but Dad was not so lucky. He often recalled to me the night of the fire bombing of Coventry – 20 miles away he said the sky was a vivid Orange for a number of hours. They both endured rationing for a number of years after the war and I think theirs was a very different austerity to the one we have endured more recently.
I was born in 1956 – the first crisis of my childhood was the Cuban Missile Crisis which I was too young to recall but which must have been terrifying. The earliest international crisis I recall was the 6 day Israeli/Arab war and the ITV newscaster clearly saying that if the superpowers became involved there would be a possible World War. At 11 years old that was enough to scare the wits out of me. After that I remember the troubles coming to the mainland and being in Birmingham the night of the pub bombings.
Later I recall the Reagan Years and the frequent changing of Soviet leaders – Brezhnev, Chernenko and Andropov in quick succession – the latter two probably dead for days before the death was announced.
The downing of the Korean Airliner and Reagans Evil Empire speech. Thankfully the sunlight years of Gorbachev came afterwards but then there was the momentous fall of communism and the taking hostage of Yeltsin that were potential flashpoints.
In 1990 my son was born and his early childhood was relatively free of any serious flashpoint until 9/11 and the horrific events that followed. He was scared witless and I felt powerless to diminish those fears.
He was 11 and experiencing the same fear that my 11 year old self experienced at the time of the 6 day war. A new age but a repeat of the past.
My daughter was born in 1999 and again relatively free of any real tumultuous event until this pandemic. In relation to the Cold War, The Cuban Missile crisis and other events how does this crisis compare? For what its worth my daughter is self isolating in London, furloughed from her job, studying from home and we pay her rent so she is actually quite sanguine about the situation although not about the government.
So the point of all this is I guess that we all have to face critical moments in our life where the situation is completely out of our control and we have to grin and bear it with fortitude.
As a child my biggest fear was war, as an adult my biggest fear was having to fight in a war. As I am now 63 that risk has passed. Now my biggest hopes are that neither of my kids has to experience war in their lifetime – the rest we can overcome. I am not a fan of lockdown but I guess sitting in front of Netflix with a glass of wine is preferable to running to an air raid shelter.