Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Where was I when ... ?

(Please see UPDATE at end)

There's been one of these 'meme' thingies running around the British 'blogosphere' for the past couple of days seeking to get people to write about where they were when certain events took place, some of more importance than others, but all iconic in their own ways. I haven't been 'tagged' to do it by anyone, but am I going to let a small detail like that hold me back? No way, so here goes:

Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001
I was sitting at the desk in my study, cross-checking data in my PC for my tax return, with the television on up on the wall (it's on a wall-bracket in that room) when the broadcast was interrupted by a newsflash that a 'plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York; it was thought to be be a 'small' 'plane, but as we watched we saw the second 'plane fly into the other tower. It was obvious this was no accident - initial speculation was that it might be domestic terrorism (Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, had been executed exactly 3 months before on 11th June), but pretty soon this was discounted and the focus shifted to al-qa'ida. After my initial shock I 'phoned the local Conservative constituency office (I was still vice-Chairman at the time, but in the process of contemplating resignation and leaving the Party) and suggested they switch on the television in the upstairs office; I explained briefly what had happened and said I thought it would have major implications and 'a lot of things would change' as a result. Incidentally the bank for which I used to work had its main New York office in the WTC, but not in either of the two main towers, but instead in one of the low-rise buildings in the complex; it was evacuated with no loss of life, although was destroyed when the two towers fell about an hour later. The announcement of Iain Duncan Smith's election as Leader was delayed from the Tuesday until the Thursday (13th September) because of the attacks, and I resigned from the Party the following Monday after agonising over the weekend.

Princess Diana's death - 31st August 1997
I was up very late this Saturday night, watching something on the television (don't remember what, but it was on a BBC channel), when the programme was interrupted by a newsflash that she had been involved in a serious accident in Paris; I continued watching until her death was confirmed a few hours later. Then I went to bed. Although I was sad at her death, I did not get in any way emotional about it and was confused and somewhat disgusted by the public reaction which built up over the next few days; I could not understand why Her Majesty the Queen had to hot-tail it back down to London - I realised then, for the first time (though not the last) how out of touch I was with British public opinion - I knew what was going on, I just didn't share public sentiments in any way. When I lived in Paris, some years earlier, I had sometimes gone home through the Alma Tunnel, but didn't do it often because I didn't like the bend as you descend from the place de la Concorde end, so I knew what a treacherous little tunnel this is; I always parked my car in the underground car park in the place Vendôme, where the Ritz Hotel is located, because our office was very close by, so I knew the whole area intimately and had eaten lunch occasionally in the hotel.

Margaret Thatcher's Resignation - 22nd November 1990
I lived in Abu Dhabi at the time and so far as I recall I was up in Dubai at the time for a couple of days on business (a lot of my clients wished to squirrel away their considerable liquid assets - I was a 'private banker' then - in more secure parts of the world, so I was extremely busy); I think I saw a report on the television in my hotel bedroom. As Kuwait had been invaded by Iraq a few months before and the build-up to war was starting in earnest I had other things on my mind, quite frankly, although I did at the time equate her political 'assasination' with what had happened to Chamberlain at the start of WWII and thought how typically British was this kind of action in the midst of a military build-up, although I was fully behind what was happening as I always thought she should have bowed out after the 1987 election; it was after this that she went off the rails, having been an excellent PM until then.

England's World Cup Semi Final against Germany - 4 July 1990
I have 'zero' interst in football so have no particular recollection; I might have been on a business trip in the UK or Hong Kong at the time (from Abu Dhabi).

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963
I was 11 years old at the time; I had just started at secondary school a few months earlier. I was watching television in my usual spot in the kitchen, next to the Raeburn (a Scottish version of an Aga) after tea and before going off to do my homework when the programme on BBC was interrupted to say Kennedy had been shot in Dallas; the Cuba missile crisis had only been the year before so I was well aware of who he was. The first television pictures, I think, were the next day via Telstar II, the second satellite used for trans-altantic broadcasts; it was not geo-stationary, so pictures could only be received/tranmitted for about 15 or 20 minutes during every orbit of about 90 minutes; I had watched with great excitement the first live trans-atlantic broadcast only about a year earlier using Telstar I.

UPDATE: (Thursday 4SEP08 09.35 BST) I've just noticed, through a recent visit recorded by my site stats that I was in fact 'tagged' to do this by David at Freedom & Whisky - you can see his post on the subject here)

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