Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The day the wall came down

It was one of those "where I was" moments, like the death of Diana or for us oldies, the shooting of JFK. In the case of the demolition of the Berlin Wall, I vividly recall watching Olenka Frenkiel depositing part of it in front of Peter Snow (described here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/8350830.stm) in a temporary Newsnight studio in Berlin. That evening twenty-five years ago I was sitting in a flat in Findon Village, in front of a Sony Trinitron recently purchased from a shop in the parade below. (That TV, and a few other goodies I bought from the earnings on a lucrative contract in Worthing, came back with me to South Wales and gave up the ghost only a few years ago.)

The Independent a fortnight ago ran a series of articles - the first of them here - mirroring the events leading up to the breach, reminding me that mechanical diggers had actually taken their first bite out of the wall. However, it was the gleeful way that ordinary Berliners, using whatever tools came to hand, joined in the destruction of the barrier which inspired millions around the world. For those of us who had lived through the fearful days - much more ominous than the Cuban missile crisis in my experience - after the Wall had been thrown up with Prussian efficiency overnight, it was especially uplifting.

That winter was exceptional in another way. The sun-spot cycle hit such a peak that the Northern Lights could be seen as far south as Sussex. Another abiding memory from that time is of leaving the London and Edinburgh buildings after a spell of overtime and being greeted by those shifting green curtains of light, remarkably the first time I had ever seen an Aurora. Now we are in another period of lively space weather - and a leader in Russia is attempting to nibble back what his communist predecessors lost in 1989.

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