The 1980's

We have thus also ended a decade which was perhaps the most significant in my life. In the early 80's I had been working hard at my business, Comart, and in 1983, the IBM personal computer had been launched and was carrying all before it in America and promising to do the same here. I was struggling to hold together fellow-members of the BMMG and was unsure that my fellow executives in Comart had the talent, experience and dedication to help me manage Comart through another difficult transition of product development and market re-entry.

Expecting our third child, I was philosophical and looking for a change of pace of life. Elsewhere in 1983 we had seen a year of strange weather patterns with the British February gales that felled millions of trees and Ethiopian droughts that threatened millions of people. Bush fires in Australia and tragic Italian cinema and cable-car accidents and rising shooting incidents in the U.K. Union-bashing was then the norm with Murdoch and Wapping as one example and the Miner's Strike another.

Thatcher had won another term after the Falklands euphoria and was gradually introducing more-and-more extreme policies. We had the "benefit" of the first year of breakfast television.

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1989

The year brought the normal spate of natural disasters. Both the US and USSR suffered critical earthquakes and terrible gales sank a freighter with storm-force winds around the country sinking boats with lives lost. An earthquake in California killed 200 when the double-decker Bay Bridge collapsed. Hurricane Hugo left 25 dead and 100,000 homeless in Puerto Rico and threatened the US coastline such that half a million people have fled Georgia alone. The people of Afghanistan suffering another famine and drought and great typhoons ravage Thailand with more than 200 lost at sea from 20 missing vessels. On the other hand, the  UK had the warmest May for 150 years and then fantastically warm and dry summer to follow and its hottest day since 1976.  

The year saw the death and funeral of my father. He waited too late for a hospital ear operation, his skin cancer spread to his inner ear and he ended up in constant pain and deteriorating with his cancer. His wound  started to discharge and spread to the lymph gland and was then incurable after an appalling series of medical delays and decisions by Mr Campbell, the surgeon responsible.

Dad passed away peacefully with Mum and I on a sunny day in Room 20 of Weald House Nursing Home after several foggy and damp ones. Then, two weeks later, the thick fog cleared, and the sun came out to present an exceptionally still, mild and sunny day for my Dad’s well-attended funeral at St James Church, interment at Little Paxton Cemetery and reception for a coach load of mourners at The Hayling View.

Debbie took possession of her own pony Sundance. Debbie and Della do well at school with Debbie attending Pony Club events, she was winning rosettes horse-riding. Daniel had driving lessons in his new car, took delivery of his new £1,000 Commodore computer and his new speedboat; and then got offers to study Computing at the Universities of Sussex and Warwick but enrolled for Computer Studies degree at The UEA in Norwich.

The best summer for ages which was perfect for our cruising and we had two long boating holidays on the Norfolk Broads and locally on the Great but the fate of "The Lady" was sealed after the old girl failed to pass under Potter Heigham bridge; We attended the Southampton Boat Show, looking at various models and homing in on the Broom 37 as our next choice of craft but then bought the Rolyat Princess (soon to be called The Paxton Princess).  I bought Heronshaw in Horning and we moored the new boat there.

The year started with my completion of my Little Paxton History project continued with plans for the local elections as SLD Facilitator. The visit of Paddy Ashdown to The Hayling View was a big press and radio event and I was actively leading St Neots Museum and Little Paxton Village Hall fundraising I achieved victory for our candidate Derek Giles in the Eaton Socon by-election, an absolute humiliation for the Tories.

The good fortunes of Thatcher, buoyed after the Falklands War, saw the economy and her government soaring at first but then both plummeted later with rancour after her extremist and divisive policies alienated colleagues and opponents alike. The NHS and Ambulance service was in trouble after ill-advised ‘reforms’ and multiple fatal train crashes followed, blamed on manning level reductions and lack of public service investment, and an explosives lorry catches fire and explodes in Peterborough.

There was the tragic news of the Hillsborough football Stadium disaster with nearly one hundred Liverpool fans dead. The government blamed fans and implemented draconian crowd restrictions thereafter, but it later emerged that ill-advised policing decisions on the day led to the disaster.

Thatcher’s decline was seeded by the way in which she had undermined Former PM Ted Heath who then criticised Thatcher for ‘misleading people about the EEC’. Tories lost EU 13 Parliament seats to Labour and an anti-Thatcher coalition took charge of the new European Parliament. She was then isolated in Europe over monetary union and was outvoted 11 to 1 on the Social Charter during a special conference at the EEC summit.

Back home, after news of a £1.7 billion trade deficit, Thatcher was blaming her Chancellor Lawson for the 8% inflation rates as the pound sterling fell 3 ½ US cents in a day, which led to The Bank of England raising rates by 1% to 14%, the 10th rise during the year! Thatcher upset the House of Commons with her appalling treatment of Sir Geoffrey Howe and was besieged with union strikes and seemed rattled by poor opinion poll forecasts with her Poll Tax and Water Privatisation unpopular. By the Autumn, the government was trailing in the opinion polls with a 40% drop on the Stock Exchange, a £2b trade deficit and sky-high interest rates due to continue as Sterling falls despite Bank of England support.

Thatcher was plumbing the depths of electoral unpopularity whilst Neil Kinnock carried all before him at the Labour Party conference. The another radical decline of the UK’s economic prospects, with interest rates up by 1% to 15%, a nine-year high, and further collapse of share prices and the pound sterling. Thatcher lost Chancellor Lawson and adviser Prof Alan Waters, triggering a reshuffle with her lapdog John Major becoming Chancellor as Howe and Hazeltine spoke out Conservative MPs refusing to support Thatcher’s continued leadership.

The largest civil disaster left 265 people killed in the sinking of the Marchioness Thames passenger boat. After the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan and USSR rebel Boris Yeltsin won 87% of the vote to win a Moscow seat in  the ‘new-style’ Soviet elections the East/West hostility was easing. The US/Soviet summit talks seemed to go well but there remain arguments between Britain, West Germany and America over plans for upgrading NATO short range nuclear weapons and the allies are hopelessly split over arms reductions and on China.

Then Lech Walesa, forms a Polish government and Gorbachev tries to quell nationalism and ethnic violence in certain Soviet provinces. As a stark reminder of the risks of nuclear defence, as the result of a Russia nuclear submarine sinking, 27 of the 69 crew died but ‘they say’ that the two nuclear weapons and propulsion system are supposed to be safe.

There then began the start of the breakdown in the ‘Iron Curtain’, 30,000 East German refugees were allowed to leave for the West. This soon escalated as the great European Communist Blocs started disintegrating; thousands more East Germans fled to the West after openings in the Berlin wall had been created. A non-Communist was elected Speaker and the reformer Hans Modrow appointed as Prime Minister whilst 200,000 people marched in Leipzig in favour of reforms and free elections.

West German Chancellor Kohl assured Poland that their borders are safe but called for a Federation and German unification. The New Year saw half a million Germans from East and West celebrating the event by the Brandenburg gate. Not such a peaceful outcome in Romania; In an anti-government rally against leader Nikolai Ceausescu, clashes took place where ‘up to 2,000’ are claimed killed as troops use helicopters, tanks and guns to crush protestors. Then the army captured and executed the deposed President Nicolae and Mrs Eleanor Ceausescu for allegedly being responsible.

Chinese leader Teng Xiao Ping, failed to placate the populist Chinese student protesters risking the country slipping into political anarchy. The US shot down Libyan jets after Lockerbie but the US stock exchange took a 190-point dive in the last hour of trading on what was known as ‘Black Friday’.

In South Africa, tens of thousands of natives rejoiced at the release of Walter Sisulu in South Africa and 70,000 were then allowed to attend a massive ANC rally in South Africa calling got the same for others including Nelson Mandela

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December 1989

The month closed calmer after some strong winds and heavy rain, causing flooding the West Country and the snow in Northern England was later working its way south but the thick fog cleared and the sun came out to present an exceptionally still, mild and sunny day for my Dad’s funeral at St James Church, interment at Little Paxton Cemetery and reception for a coach load of mourners at The Hayling View.

I managed to settle Mum back into her Stanton mobile home afterwards with the help of neighbours and carers and visited her there as we drove to and from The Norfolk Broads to buy and commission our new boat.

Daniel and Deborah did well at Kimbolton School and pleased us accordingly. Debbie continued to enjoy her pony Sundance and we took delivery of Daniel’s new £1,000 Commodore computer; both of these luxuries being their incentives to work particularly now that Daniel was accepted for a Computer Studies degree at The University of East Anglia.

I still found the time to organise a victory in the Eaton Socon by-election for Derek Giles with a landslide majority and I took fifteen of us to St James’s Church for the Family Carol service before inviting them home to The Hayling View for tea.

Each year the burden as well as the joy of Christmas becomes ever bigger. More and costlier cards, presents, decorations etc. After Christmas, we cruised in our new boat and I took Diana to the Swan when we were on the Norfolk Broads for a nice meal as our anniversary event to mark yesterday; 21 years married!

The national news was of 50 fellow Conservative MPs refusing to support Thatcher’s continued leadership and she is now isolated in Europe over monetary union and was outvoted 11 to 1 on the Social Charter and during a special conference at the EEC summit. The cruelty of the first forced repatriation of the Vietnamese boat people still rankled but new Tory MPs showed their true colours by being  upset by the 140,000 Hong Kong people being given right of emigration. 

December saw the climax of the reforms that have been sweeping Eastern Europe and the New Year saw half a million Germans from East and West celebrating the event by the Brandenburg gate. The whole of the East German Politburo resigned en masse, and free elections are due next May as the peaceful democratic revolutions in East Germany continue. The Czechoslovakian Prime Minister resigned, and the deputy premier formed a government consisting of a majority of non-Communist’s being sworn in as Alexander Dubcek stands in the wings.

Not peaceful in Romania; In an anti-government rally against leader Nikolai Ceausescu, clashes take place where ‘up to 2000’ are claimed killed as troops use helicopters, tanks and guns to crush protestors. Then the Romanian army captured and executed the deposed Romanian leader and his wife President Nicolae and Mrs Eleanor Ceausescu for allegedly being responsible.

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