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My life in 1984 (not the novel). - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
My life in 1984 (not the novel).

There is another meme going about, the ‘year’ meme.  Leave a comment, or so it goes, and you will be assigned a year on which to peg personal reminiscences.  (And so we shall: comment and be recognised.)


The crafty tree_and_leaf assigned me, in Orwellian wise, the year 1984.  It is a dire thing to realise that, had I been so oriented, and procreated in that year, I should have a child of twenty-three by now.  (Had I additionally been one to commit treason, and had the lady in question been interested on her part, I could in theory have fathered a prince born in September of that year.)


1984 was one of my partially expat years (I continue to hope that these will cease, but every so often I find myself again ripped untimely from the womblike confines of Home.)  As so often, much of the year was dominated by my grandfather. 




My grandmother had died in the summer of 1979 (you will recall that I went up to university in 1980).  My grandfather had begun his decline rather swiftly thereafter, as he never recovered from his loss of her, and by 1984, it was clear to my father and to me that he was in the grip of Alzheimer’s disease.  There was no point in expecting much of Uncle George – there never has been – and my uncle, after all, even with the best will in the world, was then as ever wholly in the bottomless and devouring pockets of his wife Caroline and their spendthrift children, the Terrors of Lake, Anne, Mary, James, and Richard.  It fell, then, to my father and to me to take up the reins, with such assistance as we could presume from my bankerly godfather (the longsuffering husband of my madly extravagant godmother).  Over the years, in addition to his incessant acquisition of agricultural land, my grandfather had acquired or inherited interests in everything from petrol companies to local newspapers to banks.  No small part of 1984 was spent by me in such unlikely locations as Yell, Pennington, Elgin, Montrose, and even as far afield as Virginia and Texas (although I managed to evade Kuwait).  What was more, of course, I was expected to decide what to do with my life with university behind me and my father still going strong, with various familial pressures being exerted by factions who wanted to see me at the Bar (against when Cousin David should have died and we should be in want of a man of law in the family), in the Army, in Orders, or elsewhere.  Foolishly, and in part to keep the peace, I turned my face from an offer that would have left me ensconced in donnish luxury at my old college with an assured academic progress before me.  Instead, I spent time dealing with disobliging or hidebound agents from Yell to Houston to Elgin to Westbury to a howling wilderness north of Ashby de la Zouche to Staunton.  Additionally … well.


I must impress upon you what 1984 was like.  Last Autumn, if, as I did do, I had a sudden urge to enjoy schnitzel, spaetzel, and red cabbage at a thankfully obscure Austrian restaurant I know, nothing could have been simpler than to up and go (and find myself crowded in between golden American lads and elderly, beery Austrians).  In 1984, Europe – the world – was an armed camp.  Two, in fact.  Not that I didn’t manage to go abroad in search of schnitzel, mind you.  And whilst three of that year’s by-elections were satisfactory (Mr Portillo comes to mind) or not unexpected (Mr Benn in Chesterfield), one was a cloud on the horizon (Portsmouth South).  The greatest PM of my time was facing down the EEC, the miners, the PRC (over HK), and Mikhail Gorbachev (that we later ‘could do business’ with the man meant only that we could eventually do business with the man, not that he was a decent fellow); more pertinently still, Mikhail Sergeyevich was not yet come into his own, and Andropov and Chernenko were still heading the great dictatorship whose fall under the weight of its internal contradictions (and not as a gracious gesture by a falsely-thought-democratic Mr Gorbachev, despite later legend) could not then have been foreseen.


And I, like a good little Cold Warrior in training, was beavering away at my Russian, and chatting with Bud McFarlane at a con in Annapolis, and All Sorts, and monitoring as best I could the re-election prospects of the indispensable Mr Reagan: all in addition to my filial duty.


I look back on how different a world it was and stand astounded.  Thank God that I was training for a war that was already, had we but known, over, and victoriously over.  The present noiseless tenor of my days would be a dream had that not come to pass.



19 comments or Leave a comment
velvet_tipping From: velvet_tipping Date: January 26th, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
"No small part of 1984 was spent by me in such unlikely locations as Yell, Pennington, Elgin, Montrose, and even as far afield as Virginia and Texas (although I managed to evade Kuwait)"

oh please. details! we starve without them!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 27th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

In good time. And speaking of time...

... 2001 for you, young person.
thatwhichiam From: thatwhichiam Date: January 26th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know Russian? I always find it interesting to hear things about the Cold War from people who were there at the time - books always distance it so far from now, when it really really isn't.

(Go on, tag me then, please. Bear in mind I wasn't born in the year you were tagged, and I won't remember much worth writing about until about 1997)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 27th, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Know? No....

I could not, nowadays, read a page of Lermontov if my life depended on it. Unlike the primitive Church, I have not the gift of tongues.

But discourse to me of that year 1999.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: January 26th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Garryowen in 1984

Texas, eh? Ever stop by First Cav, Fort Hood, maybe?

That would have been me, much slimmer, sitting on top of an M113 APC, knitting German lace, making periodic guerilla raids on the malls of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.

I am much older than your good self, and had already lost interest in the workings of the real world...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 27th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

That, my dear, is another topic.

YOUR topic for the moment is that far-famed year, 1976.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: January 28th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: That, my dear, is another topic.

Huh. This will take some research. In those days, record-keeping was casual, and drugs were involved.

If a time-traveler to that year needs to find me in the meanwhile, he should pop over to the Metropolitan Opera House anytime between the last Tuesday in April and the first Sunday in June (the Royal Ballet's New York season) and inquire of any of the odd-looking idlers there. I will either be among them, or someone will know what performance I can next be expected to grace with my presence.
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wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 27th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Cosmopolitan? Pffft.

Tell me if you will of your 1981.
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: January 26th, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
People forget what the Cold War was like. I remember as a young kid, even before watching the gritty, miserable The War Game, hearing a strange airplane go overhead late one night and wondering if I was going to be obliterated. And my parents had grown up and been influenced by watching the Hungarian Uprising and the Prague Spring getting crushed and knowing that in both cases, as much as it agonized them to stand by, it wasn't worth risking the world to go in and stop it.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 27th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

All vy true, and wretched.

Let us turn instead to your life in 1994, o dear and glorious physician.
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 27th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

I look forward avidly to it.

And for my part, assign you 1997, for your sins.
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: January 27th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC) (Link)
You must be about my husband's age, then.

I remember 1984. My youth orchestra went to Scotland that summer, and played in Aberdeen, Stirling and Edinburgh. That was also the year my mother and I fell in love with York, and I made the Richard III pilgrimage throughout the North while reading Sharon Penman's The Sunne in Splendour for the first time.

It was also the year of memorizing Siegfried and seeing it performed in San Francisco. The year, as were most of the eighties, of Cold War fears and wondering, when I went to bed, whether I would be obliterated in a nuclear flash by morning. Also the year of switching schools and moving from an upper-middle-middle class environment to an upper-upper-middle class region. It was a shock.
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: January 27th, 2008 12:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I associate Stirling with a particularly bad bout of personal Cold War terror, because that was where I read When the Wind Blows for the first time and it STAYED with me. All night.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 27th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

You were a child bride, I take it.

How was 1995 for you?
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: January 27th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: You were a child bride, I take it.

A child bride? Not at all! Just a believer in long engagements. I married the day before I turned forty.

Hmm. 1995. In many ways, things haven't changed much since then, so it's hard to remember. My grandmother had died a few years previously, and we were all looking after my grandfather. I had been working at my current job for a year or so, and got nicely settled in. I was with my current partner, though we hadn't officially decided to marry yet, that wouldn't be until 1998. I wasn't doing anything musically, but I was reading a lot of Usenet. I can't remember if I'd discovered the Web at that time, but if I had, I was using Lynx. We didn't get a powerful enough computer or a monitor that could handle images for another few years. We were either between cars or we were driving the Mercury, I don't remember which. I know that we were using the ancient VCR that had to be turned on its side and manually spun for it to start working, and that was probably when the TV had a one-third wonky screen. Politically, I was irritated at Clinton for wasting his White House opportunities, and what I had to say about Congress was unprintable.
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 27th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, heavens, no.

I was at the time being pushed towards intel, but the need dissipated (thank God) before my incompetence to perform such functions could become apparent.

Now: what were YOU up to in, say, 2002?

From: tree_and_leaf Date: January 28th, 2008 08:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I remember practically nothing of 1984, except such things as playing with a bucket and spade at North Berwick. And the first bit of important public events I remeber is Chernobyl, probably more because of not being allowed milk for a period thereafter than because of the impact of the story on 'Newsround'...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 28th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

What, then, pray...

... Do you remember of 1996?
From: tree_and_leaf Date: January 28th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Mostly familial and gloomy, I'm afraid

It wasn't a tremendously good year, as it happens. The most positive bits were that school became a lot more interesting as I started the Standard Grade course (and could drop subjects like Home Ec, although I rather missed techy drawing and woodwork), and I was on the school debating team, which was good fun all round, especially when we beat Mary Erskines. Other things were less good: my father had fairly severe depression, which was difficult in itself, but as he'd been unable to work for three years by that stage, and needed my mother looking after him more or less all the time, it had financial inspirations. I remember wanting to go on a school trip to Pompei that took place in the Easter holidays, but I didn't even tell my mother it was happening, because I couldn't ask for the money (actually, the school was prepared to help out pupils who couldn't go on financial reasons, but I was too proud to ask for charity and I thought it would humiliate my father if I did, anyway). Then in the summer my grandfather died - this was my first bereavement, at least of someone close to me. It was very unexpected, and my grandmother (who had had mild heart trouble for years) had difficulty coping - I think she had convinced herself that she would die before him, even though he was ten years older than her. I don't think she's ever really recovered.

And I think it was that year that my other grandfather was involved in a car crash - not his fault, it was a couple of young idiots who came through a red light, but they took him to court, in the hope that it would be assumed that it was the OAP's fault. They didn't get away with it, but Grandad was very upset, and never drove again. He became increasingly housebound thereafter.

Gosh, I'm glad it's not 1996 again - and my father recovered fully, though it took nearly six years before he was both fit to work and found an employer who didn't mind the CV gap (good job he's good at foreign languages, really).
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