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Harking back to my Halcyon days

March 26, 2013

There’s no denying it – during my student days living in Oxford, I tried to be a hippy chick. I rode a rickety old bicycle (with no brakes) up and down the Cowley Road – affectionately nicknamed Cowley-fornia, wore an itchy yak-wool cardigan (often with clogs and a beret) like an impoverished Sarah Lund and was a ‘fairly’ strict vegetarian (after all Morrissey did sing Meat is Murder).

My draughty attic bedroom on Regent Street was piled high with flower power Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan cassettes and plastered with wacky Salvador Dali posters. And I loved John Lennon. They were happy days – but not without a care.

I had quite a heart warming flashback other day when circa 20 years on, living as a considerably better dressed carnivore in Ingatestone, a displaced but not unwelcome CND flyer landed on my doormat. As the red-ink headlines ‘Scrap Trident’ shouted out at me from the leaflet, I was transported back to a Camel Lights smoke-hazed era and it led me to realise how the world has – and hasn’t – changed.

During my student days under the Thatcher government I was an ardent supporter of CND – the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know that they still existed until last week. I’m ashamed to admit that I thought CND had fizzled out with the Cold War and the peace sign had found a new home as a fashion logo on Top Shop t-shirts.

Back in the early nineties, we lived in the shadow of a Cold War when nuclear weapons were strategically tested and ‘super powers’ pointed them across the globe. The Iron Lady spent gazillions on Trident warheads and said: ‘A world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us,’ which freaked us out. Headstrong women held fort at Greenham Common until the cruise missiles they so stridently opposed were removed in the early noughties. In short, we were all scared out of our wits by the ‘n’ word.

Years later we are much more comfortable with the word ‘nuclear’ and we accept its presence as energy sources dwindle with stations popping up around the UK. But CND  is still around and has a purpose. There are still plans to upgrade trident submarines and CND campaign against the loss of civilian life by armed drones. We were worried that Thatcher pushed the boundaries of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but now India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea aren’t even in it. I suppose you can say the little flyer on my doormat did its job and made me think about CND past and present.

Just an aside – do you know how the CND peace sign with the three lines within a circle came about? British artist Gerald Holtom designed it in 1958. The lines are derived from semaphore flag signalling – two lines down at 45 degrees for ‘N’ and a straight line up and down for ‘D’ for nuclear disarmament.

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