More Poetry for Pandemics, including thoughts on things that scared me when a kid.
When I was young
I wanted to see the world ending
If I couldn’t live forever
And it has to finish sometime
Then why not with me
I don’t know what
Fun times I envisioned
But did once dream vividly
Of a nuclear mushroom cloud rising
Above where I used to go to school
Me back there stood watching
Being caught in a very real feeling moment of
Oh fuck what do I actually do?
Which I’ve had in real life too
When they tested the warning sirens
And I didn’t get the memo
Rarely reading mail
Unless a glaring red bill
Panic, loss of breath
It wasn’t fun at all
Hearing that sound wind itself up
Then hang in the air
Screaming death is coming
As in World War II
Just a bit more
So . . . maybe shut the windows;
Close the balcony door too?
Thankfully neither real
When end days appear to be here
Plague and famine in the form
Of a child’s lunch box lacking
For the sake of couldn’t care
But not incompetence
A money pit dug out of children’s
I don’t know what I expected
Mad Max Armageddon
Is no less miserable
If you think of it
It might look fun
All that racing around
Though imagine being there
That being the day to day
Of course they were all hungry
Didn’t have enough to eat
But for cinemas films about
Just an old potato
And a couple of carrots
Don’t put bums on seats
So there we are
Lots of cars crashing instead
When really what’s being said
Is the same
In fact come to think of it
Max did indeed eat Dinki-Di dog food
In the second one
Reached a place in hunger
Where we too are now there
Rotten to the core
So many unwilling to wear
For the sake of others
Preferring to potentially pollute
Which in many ways
Is so much worse
As a very young child
Way before the whacky fantasy
Or mushroom cloud dream
The scariest thing I ever saw
Was on TV
Space 1999 or Dr Who
I can’t remember precisely
To recall exactly which
Except to say there was certainly a time
That the music of the latter
Had me diving behind the settee for cover
An invisible alien enemy was the cause of the fear
It couldn’t been seen
But the aghast anguished looks of
Those faces on the screen
Said it was most definitely horribly there
Somewhere . . .
Which was more than plenty enough
Of that thank you very much
Then there was the scariest film ever
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
(the Donald Sutherland version)
I built up the courage to watch it
A few years later
Thinking it about aliens grabbing people
Like in H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds
Faced with the unseen again
Until a perfectly normal looking person
Opens their mouth and screams
Much like the reaction of people
When asking where their mask
Or for that matter face shield is
If they can’t wear the former
Here I am then
Biggest dream the worst nightmare
Mad Max II: The Dinki-Di Food Chain
From Ken Loach’s film I Daniel Blake, the food bank scene, particularly from the 2:30 mark, made 2016, when comparatively things might be considered better (the volume is unduly low on this video)
On a lighter note:
(please don’t forget about unduly quiet video above)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers the final scream
Scary Doctor Who theme
Finding the precise opening credits that had me diving for cover was quite eye-opening. Those above belonged to William Hartnell (63-66) and Patrick Troughton (66-69). Its change coincided both with my birth and the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee (70-73); a point that also saw the introduction of colour episodes.
But it’s the eerie black and white that I vividly remember seeing when young, with Pertwee feeling like he came along something like the mid/late 70s. Worse came when discovering Tom Baker was Doctor from 74 to 81, when there was no doubt in my mind he was all early 80s. K-9, the Doctor’s robotic dog companion wasn’t, as I’ve always thought, a product of the 80s, but the 70s instead.
1977 to be precise; meaning that K-9 was onscreen outwitting the Doctor at chess, the same year the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK was being banned from our radios.
Do you remember the spin-off series K-9 and Company?
I thought I did until it turned out only a pilot ever got made (not surprising watching the credits below; how the f-lip did K-9 get up on that wall btw?), but at least that was in the 80s (81).
While the way memory has placed things is certainly askew, there’s no doubting it was black and white episodes I remember first and foremost. Given there wasn’t even VCRs (an ancient method of on-demand television) back then, what really speaks with most volume here is the BBC’s love of showing repeats, especially at a time there wasn’t much it could repeat.
Doing a quick search now, I can find nothing to pinpoint the exact chilling episode of invisible aliens that the mind’s eye remembers, but I am sure it was in fact Space 1999 despite the Doctor’s music having me dive for cover.
On reflection of watching the credits again, I don’t think it was the music per se. It’s chilling and foreboding, with a high-pitch squeal like an insect is eating your brain, yes, but at the end of the day does have a groove to it, albeit a dark one; and after all, I didn’t think twice about helping the Timelords (a.k.a. The KLF) get ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’ to number one in 1988.
I now realise it was a fear of Rorschach tests being triggered by those old black and white on-screen graphics; possibly the worst phobia to have, for there’s nothing that can be done for it: go to a shrink and what’s the first thing they do?
That’s actually a question, btw; my phobia of Rorschach tests means I’m unable to find out for fear they’ll start flashing cards about the second I sit down.
Space 1999 (75-77; another surprise to me; it never made it past two seasons – though, tbf, each season was 24 episodes back then) might have been many things, but it did have the legend Martin Landau at the helm years after establishing himself as the real deal in North by Northwest and the U.S. TV show Mission Impossible.
It wasn’t short of numerous equally already or soon to be established guest appearances, either.
While I’m sure this was the show, there can be no questions about doom and gloom in title music here. Being a Gerry and Sylvia Anderson production it benefited from the genius of Barry Gray, the composer responsible for themes such as Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet to name but a few that can be found in my music collection.
Though that changed in Season Two when Derek Wadsworth was given the role; which included composing new (and equally groovy) title music.
In the late 90s, I found myself working in a lovely house with instruments seemingly everywhere. On the wall of one room was—lo and behold—a framed Space 1999 poster no less. Forgetting the lesson I alleged to have learned in Killing Joke & How I Might’ve Almost Ended-up Being a Porn Star I exclaimed surprise to see it, and said it’d been one of my favourite shows as a kid.
The bloke whose house it was—I hadn’t paid the slightest to his name at this point; and tbf wasn’t aware the Andersons had used anyone but Gray at this time either (I was about to find out)—looked at me surprised and replied that he didn’t think I was old enough.
“Oh, yeah. It was brilliant; especially the music.”
That was when his face really lit up. I was standing in Derek Wadsworth’s house with no idea. We had a fantastic chat about his career and working on that show in particular; I’ve always felt humbled that he was so open about it all. I’ll also never forget getting home that night and pulling my albums and CDs relating to TV theme music out to see what I’d never noticed before; it wasn’t all ‘Barry Gray’ in the credits for Anderson productions as I’d somehow
concluded assumed. There was Derek’s name—albeit not quite so much—too.
According to Wikipedia Derek Wadsworth unfortunately passed away in 2008. An honour. R.I.P.
More pandemic related poetry:
Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan
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15-megaton Castle Bravo explosion at Bikini Atoll, March 1, 1954, showing multiple condensation rings and several ice caps.