Through the eyes of a child

4 September 2006

Doctorvee writes about the news he remembers as a nine-year-old (which should probably become one of those taggable meme things), and it made me think about my own blurry recollections of news at the time. Although the more I think about it, the less blurry they became – looking at the Wikipedia pages for the period between April 1990 and March 1991, I’ve realised – gosh, what an exciting time it was. Loads of stuff happened, loads I tell you, and I remembered it all:

  • The Poll Tax Riots (technically this happened just before my ninth birthday, but I’m including it here anyway)
  • Launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (being a big space geek at the time, I remember watching every possible programme on television to do with it, and Voyager’s visit to Neptune, which happened the previous year)
  • Start of the breakup of the Soviet Union (though perhaps the geopolitical implications evaded me slightly, I did go through several world atlas posters in my bedroom drawing on the new borders and countries)
  • The 1990 World Cup (I was allowed to stay up dead late for all the matches, including the epic semi-final, which was probably the first time that happened)
  • The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and the resulting Gulf War (probably the first time I started reading newspapers)
  • Official reunification of Germany (though the Berlin Wall had come down a year earlier)
  • Thatcher’s resignation (my history class at school was interrupted with a colleague of my teacher, dashing into the room with a grin on his face and an especially early copy of the Evening Standard with the headline THATCHER RESIGNS)
  • Completion of the Channel Tunnel (I have a sneaking suspicion I actually watched this live on TV, although this maybe one of those made-up memories)
  • IRA attacks on the London Stock Exchange and Downing Street (the last assassination attempt on a British PM, which makes Major harder than Blair – FACT)

Many of these events were either televisual or very close to home; more surreptitious events passed me by; the only death I really do remember acknowledging was that of Roald Dahl, for quite obvious reasons. That apart, I don’t remember many of the cultural changes or landmarks at the time; for example musically, the emergence of mainstream dance music, baggy and the early stirrings of Britpop skip past you when you’re a suburban nine-year-old.

With all these events sandwiched in between the Tiananmen Square massacre and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the total dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 and you can kinda see why people at the time were bandying around the phrase “the end of history”. Of course, we now know it was wide of the mark, but even current times are nothing like the epoch-ending events fifteen years ago.

This has led me onto more pondering on what my first real recollection of a major news story was; not just in recalling it, but being able to have some understanding of the situation. I’m not sure if I remember the 1986 Challenger disaster properly; I do recall the Hungerford massacre in 1987 but I’m not sure I really understood what happened, and though it’s impossible not to remember the severe storms of October 1987, it was an event that I directly experienced. The first remote news event I can definitely recall hearing about and understanding was probably the King’s Cross fire the following month, and understanding the likely causes; although on second thoughts, these were probably explained to me by my parents as a warning on the dangers of smoking – it’s very hard to remember the act of learning, isn’t it?

Perhaps there’s a point in that; we tend to think the “media” as just newspaper, TV, blogs etc. but other people also act as media, as conduits to particular events, though everyday social contact. Obviously that’s a lot truer when you’re nine than when you’re twenty-nine, but the way we’re led to stories, facts and knowledges is still dependent on the social networks you have when you’re an adult.

Right, I said this I liked the idea of it being a meme to ask others to do, but I don’t know the ages of very many other bloggers and I wouldn’t want them all to produce the same set of stories, nor make possibly insulting assumptions. So… I’ll just ask any of you reading this to go ahead and write; link back to this post and I’ll find it via Technorati and link to it from here…

Update: Ben and Phil willingly oblige with nice summaries of what they recall.


6 Responses

I was nine in 1990, and I barely remember any of this stuff. The World Cup, and maybe the events – other politicians saying things, resigning possibly – around Thatcher’s resignation, but not really anything else. Or at least, not as happening when I was nine.

I would like to be smug and say I was an especially precocious child but the more likely truth is that I watched an awful lot of television when I was that age…

A lot happened in ’97!

Mark

Good grief, Chris, you are younger than I thought.

I’m not a blogger, so I can’t join your meme. But here are ten clear memories of the equivalent time for me. (The first two were before my ninth birthday, and the last is after my tenth, but you also cheated like this, so hey…)

1. Harold Wilson resigns.
2. A long, long summer.
3. Jimmy Carter
4. The Sex Pistols
5. The Space Shuttle riding on the back of a 747
6. Silver Jubilee parties
7. Virginia Wade wins Wimbledon
8. Elvis Presley dies
9. So does Bing Crosby
10. And Charlie Chaplin

Spanish democracy, Baader-Meinhoff and Steve Biko rather passed me by at the time…

huh… funnily enough, I remembered Hungerford as a distant memory, just a couple of days ago. I remember my Dad trying to explain the miners’ strike to me. From the point of view of a naval officer.

I definitely remember Challenger. I was watching it when it happened.

It was 1993/1994 for me, and I can definitely remember Nelson Mandela winning the South African elections (his inauguration was shown on TV in my primary school class), John Smith and Ayrton Senna dying, Blair becoming Labour leader, the first abortive IRA ceasefire and a few other minor things.

The first big news event I can remember distinctly is John Major winning the Tory leadership in 1990. Odd one, I know; no Berlin Wall or Tiannamen. Guess things work that way.