So Where Were You When …

As a Capricorn, I embrace the idea of the goat’s slow, steady progress up the mountain and although the zodiac sign insists on a sea goat, a mythological creature, I prefer to identify with the mountain goat – the kri-kri – only found these days on the island of Crete.

I am never the leader of the herd, always the one catching up after everyone else has reached the tape. Us Capricorns are renowned as late starters, but our finish is worth waiting for – however long it has taken us to climb.

So it tends to be with films. With a song. A singer or actor. Everyone seems to have discovered them before me.

And without doubt I am always the one lagging behind when it comes to tv series.

The whole nation appears to have inside knowledge of something that I have chosen to let pass me by. I might listen to friends’ recommendations, patiently endure their adulation for a particular actor or episode or scene, but do little about catching up.

Until the moment is right.

And then I become the bore, wanting to seek out people who watched the first series years ago and now have only distant memories of what I have just seen for the first time.

It’s been like that with The Crown.

Yes, I know all of you started watching it in a golden era when tiers only had connections with wedding cakes and the smell of hand sanitizer did not waft quite so freely on the wind, but I’ve only just got there. (Be tolerant – remember I’m a Capricorn …)

But I haven’t just been dipping a toe in – it’s been full immersion. I’ve devoured Series 1 and Series 2 on consecutive evenings through December. And it’s not so much the royal relationships and domestic side of things that hold me spellbound on the sofa each night. It’s the social and historical events we heard about as children that seemed to bear such significance for parents, aunts and uncles.

The abdication crisis. The coronation of the ‘young queen.’ The pea-souper fogs of London. Suez.

And just as I was about to lose interest in The Crown when I had to say goodbye to the incomparable Claire Foy and Matt Smith and attempt very unwillingly to believe in their new counterparts as series 3 took over, I was pulled back again with the appearance on the screen of the single word Aberfan.

And suddenly I wasn’t watching remote, historically interesting occurrences, but a memory.

An event that connects and takes its place along with those other startling days that never leave us. One of those I know where I was, what I was doing when I heard the news of Aberfan. Of Dallas, Texas on a November day. Heysel Stadium. Hillsborough. Lockerbie. Dunblane. The World Trade Centre.

Strange how we always seem to need to say where we were, what we remember. As if we want to make a connection with the tragic event, acknowledge the shadow it cast over our lives.

Say Aberfan and I am in maroon school uniform walking along the streets of Rickmansworth with my friend, Liz. We speak of it, I remember, in hushed tones of shock and horror. It is probably the first event of such tragic magnitude that we have ever known.

Say Dunblane and I am in the kitchen with my 18 month old son as the news on the radio seems to invade the safety of our home. The chance, random violence of the world hovers and I scoop up my child, wrap my arms around him in inadequate protection.

Of course it’s not only the tragedies we recall.

We all – well, those of a certain age – have our I remember getting up in the middle of the night to watch the moon landing story. But it’s tragedies that take us by surprise, intrude upon our mainly mundane lives in a way that suddenly make the mundane rather an attractive feature.

And now here we all are, in the middle of making our own memories along the lines of I remember the Christmas of the pandemic when we had to share a 20 lbs turkey between the two of us, when the prosessco stocks lasted well past Easter, mince pies were compulsory at every meal and the sound of constant cracker pulling in an effort to get through the wretched things affected our hearing.

I wonder what we will all make of it, how we will talk about it once we are out of the metaphor of the dark tunnel that every politician seems to insist on using.

Already, I can tell you where I was when I first heard an item on the radio in January about some virus in remote China – something of so little relevance to me that I dismissed it as news of no importance and waiting patiently for the theme music of The Archers.

Just as well the scientists were a little more pro-active than me and actually engaged with the unfolding news or 2021 would be looking as desperate as 2020.

A very happy Christmas – and I am trying not to say that ironically …!

Leave a Reply