This is me, returning from my night of triumph at the annual awards night of Northwood Boys Club. So many certificates, cups and shields, huh? To be honest the two cups were for winning the clubs snooker tournament. The big one has my name etched on it. The little one was to keep. I must have been about 12 or 13 years old. I did pretty well with a cue. Be it snooker or pool.
The school I went to back then was a small prep in north west London. It almost backed onto a massive NATO headquarters, at the time called HMS Warrior. You’d hear them testing the sirens every so often, and we had a teacher explain why. Or, to the point, explain the Cold War. He reassured us that we had nothing to worry about. “If there’s a nuclear war, that base will have bombs rained down on it. We’ll all be instantly vaporised. Best thing, really.” Or words to that effect.
About the same time that photo was taken, a movie came out, called Threads. You might think it’s prophetic. I’d say it’s more a reflection of how little has changed over the last few decades. There are new YouTube versions of World War 3 for our entertainment these days. But still, I didn’t overly worry myself about the possibility of a nuclear holocaust. The very idea made no sense to me whatsoever. As a kid, even I knew that this was utterly stupid. And I had faith in the grown ups to let me and other kids get on with stupid stuff, while they got on with the sensible stuff.
Alas, the lesson I’ve learned since then is this: in the adult world stupid is closer to being the rule than it is the exception. And more than 30 years on we’re still on the brink of nuclear devastation, for pretty much the same reasons. I think there’s a perfectly workable solution to this madness. Every nuclear power should be allowed to have a man with a nuclear device stand next to the leaders of every other nuclear power. Mutually Assured Destruction of Culpable Asshole Politicians. MADCAP, for short. Make it more a suicide pact kind of a deal.
But anyway. I shan’t start to really panic until I see the stock price of tea companies shooting through the roof as the British government buys up the entire global supply. Or the launch of a new US company called Trump Bunkers, boasting special nuclear proof panels – probably made from painted polystyrene. At that point I shall stock up on tins of beans, coffee and cornflakes. And a catapult in case anyone comes for my beans. I’d buy a gun rather than a catapult, but they aren’t on sale here. Perhaps we do need a Second Amendment here after all. Then I shall build a den in the New Forest and live off what Mother Nature provides. After the bombs have dropped that will probably be five legged rabbits and glow in the dark trout.
By the way, I appreciate MADCAP isn’t a plausible solution. A better real life solution would be to let Russia have Syria, but with conditions. They have to take responsibility for Iraq and Iran too. Then we in Europe find a new non Russian supplier for our gas and oil. Isolate them economically. Then we let nature take its course. Russia can get on with building all those expensive new bases, paid for through an increasingly non existent budget. They can flex their military muscles until their supply of financial steroids runs dry. This is pretty much what ended the original Cold War.