Dear Finn and Fabe
Two days from now sees the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech - one of the most powerful, moving and inspiring you'll ever hear. You can watch it all in the video above (you normally only get excerpts), listen to the MP3 or read the transcript. The fact that this historic address happened almost a year after my birth has left me thinking about the other events that were going on while I - totally ignorant of the world around me - was learning to crawl in terry towelling nappies... This blog is a summary of what I found - it's perhaps also an admission to both of you that, yes you're right, I really am that old. Anyway, I hope you find something interesting here - it really was a historic period - and don't forget to watch the video.
To set the scene, it's worth recalling a few things that happened while I was still in Nana's womb: Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev danced together for the first time; Moon River won the Grammy for best song with West Side Story getting the Oscar for best movie; Bob Dylan released his debut album and the Rolling Stones appeared on the scene; Harold Macmillan rid himself of a third of his Cabinet in the infamous 'Night of the Long Knives'; Marilyn Monroe died from an overdose on the same day that Nelson Mandela was arrested in South Africa; and, four days before I arrived, Sonny Liston thrashed Floyd Patterson to take the world heavyweight boxing title. Closer to home, Ipswich had edged Burnley to win the First Division (Chelsea were bottom), Spurs had won the FA Cup (again, Burnley were the runners up) and Scotland (yes!) had taken the British Home Championship.
President Kennedy didn't notice that I'd been born on 29 September 1962 in the Scottish borders town of Dumfries. No, on that day he'd got bigger things on his mind - he was authorising the use of federal troops to support James Meredith's struggle to become the first black American to attend the all-white University of Mississippi. The next day he sent in 3,000 of the troops, ensuring that James was able to register at the university and start his studies in early October. The following August, Meredith became the first black American to graduate from the University, a couple of weeks before Martin Luther King delivered his epochal speech to more than a quarter of a million people in Washington DC. The fight for racial equality in the USA was to be the bookends of my first year, with the UN's November condemnation of South Africa's racist apartheid policy in between.
My first Christmas arrived as Britain endured the Big Freeze - no frost-free nights until March in what was the coldest winter for approaching 300 years. (You thought it was cold here last year?) But the real Cold War was something way more serious. Before my Dad had taken Mum and me home from the hospital, the US had started a ping-pong series of nuclear tests with the Soviet Union. The US on 2 October, the Soviets on the seventh and then the US again on the twelfth - two days before the fortnight-long Cuban Missile Crisis kicked off, taking the world to the brink of nuclear war. In December, the UK agreed to buy Polaris nuclear missiles from the US.
Have you heard of the 'Red Telephone' that links Moscow and Washington and is supposed to save us from them blowing each other (and us) into smithereens? It arrived in my ninth month but it wasn't red and neither was it a telephone. No, it was a teleprinter (Google it), which itself was replaced in the 1980s by a fax (please, please tell me faxes aren't so old that you need to Google them too) before being superseded by email. With his red telephone safely installed, one week later JFK headed to West Berlin to make his 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech. And a month after that, the Soviets announced that British spy Kim Philby had been granted asylum in Moscow.
Elsewhere on the geopolitical stage the Viet Cong won their first major victory at the start of January and, at the end of the month, Charles de Gaulle vetoed the UK's application to join what we used to call the European Economic Community. Around this time, Harold Wilson became leader of the Labour Party. Talking of the economy, when I was born the average house cost around £3000 (£57,000 in today's money), pay was £800 (£14,500), a loaf of white bread - in old-fashioned £sd - was almost a bob (worth 83p now), half a crown bought you a pint of beer (equivalent to £1.80 today) and 20 cigarettes set you back thruppence (22p).
Plenty was happening outside the world of politics too. The first James Bond movie premiered six days after I did (Sean Connery will always be the best Bond), on the very same day that the Beatles released their initial single, Love Me Do. (Their first album, Please Please Me, was released in March the following year on the same day that poet Sylvia Plath took her own life). In December Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their work on DNA, with John Steinbeck picking up the prize for literature.
What else was going on? Joining me on Planet Earth during these 12 months were folk like Jodie Foster, Ralph Fiennes, Johnny Depp, Quentin Tarantino, Eva Cassidy, Seal and Fatboy Slim. Another birth happened - the term 'personal computer' came along less than a month after me - and France and the UK signed a deal in November that would lead to the arrival of Concorde. Alcatraz was closed in March; the first woman went in to space in June; and the Great Train Robbery happened in August, a year to the day before my sister was born. Last but not least, Christine Keeler was arrested for perjury for her part in the Profumo Affair a couple of weeks before my first birthday party - a party that, incidentally, was overlooked by everybody in the US because it clashed with the debut edition of something called the The Judy Garland Show...
OK, reminiscence over and I'll shut up now!