I’M ALREADY interrupting my self-imposed break from blogging, because I’ve been nominated by Iain Dale to reveal my memories of five major events as part of his “blog meme” exercise. Quite an intriguing idea, so, for what it’s worth…
Princess Diana’s death, 31 August 1997
I wasn’t even aware this had happened until fairly late the next morning. On the Saturday, Carolyn and I had a friend, Steven Moffat (now of Doctor Who fame, but not at the time) round for dinner. I had gone to bed somewhat the worse for wear and was woken by a phone call from my friend, Craig Tulloch, who broke the news. We could hardly believe it. We immediately switched on the TV and sat in front of it, bewildered, for the rest of the day.
Margaret Thatcher’s resignation, 22 November 1990
The person who broke this particular piece of good news to me was the then shadow trade and industry secretary, Gordon Brown. I had only recently been appointed as press officer to the Labour Party in Scotland and had almost immediately decamped to Paisley where we were fighting twin by-elections in Paisley North and South, with polling day on 29 November. The whole campaign had been overshadowed by Heseltine’s challenge for the leadership, and the number of national journalists present in Paisley had been steadily reducing as their news desks had recalled them to London, where the big story was. On the morning of Thursday 22 November, the daily press conference with our two candidates had gone ahead as usual, with not much interest from a distinctly antsy press pack. Gordon had been our guest speaker at the news conference and had gone into a private meeting straight afterwards in the room that accommodated the campaign HQ’s only TV. He emerged after ten minutes and made his way to the exit. Then, almost absent mindedly, he paused, turned round, looked down the corridor at me and another party staffer, and said: “Oh, and Thatcher’s resigned.” Then he departed, leaving us stunned. I immediately organised a photocall with our candidates, Irene Adams and Gordon McMaster, celebrating her departure by opening a bottle of very fizzy Champagne. Someone found a tape of Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone” and shoved it in the tape deck of one of our loudhailer cars, and the campaign poster on the roof of our HQ was quickly changed to the same words. It was all very surreal. She had been the only prime minister I had known in my adult life and for a long time I could hardly believe she was really gone. Anyhoo, we won both the by-elections.
Attack on the twin towers, Tuesday 11 September 2001
I had bought Carolyn a few days at Stobo Castle hotel and spa as a Christmas present the previous year and what with general election campaigns and such, she had only got round to going now. I was working from home in Glasgow; my researcher Donald Campbell was with me and we were discussing local constituents’ cases when the phone rang. It was Carolyn and she said, rather cryptically, to put the TV on. I could tell something big had happened and I must confess, my initial, totally illogical, fear was that the prime minister had been assassinated! Donald and I stood, gobsmacked, watching the drama unfold. When we heard about the attack on the Pentagon, I told Donald I feared that more – and worse – was to come. By the evening, I couldn’t bring myself to watch any more, so with Carolyn still away, Donald and I watched “Hannibal” – the kind of movie Carolyn refuses to watch.
England’s World Cup Semi Final v Germany, 4 July 1990
I’m sure I watched this, because it was the first World Cup where I had finally beaten my Scottish programming and was actively supporting England (at least, after Scotland got put out). But football really isn’t my bag, and I probably got bored half way through and started channel hopping or something (wouldn’t it have been West Germany anyway, given that reunification didn’t happen for another three months?).
President Kennedy’s Assassination, 22 November 1963
Six months after my conception, I was drinking up them tasty amniotic fluids. Hmm-hmm – taste like chicken…
Apparently, I have to name five others to go through this exercise (isn’t the blogging world quaint?). So I’ve tagged:
So that’s that – back to my sojourn. Speak to you in a few days.