What’s the last thing you would do?

Posted by in September's Magazine

He loved speculating about radiation sickness when I was a kid. Gangs of us, scoofing Kwenchy Cups, on idling BMXs, under the sodium glow of a South Lanarkshire street around 1985. Arguing the toss about how long you’d survive a nuclear winter after Reagan and Chernenko had duked it out for real (and not on MTV). It was a fickle fatalism though. Because two minutes later you’d be listening rapt to someone’s account of some heavy petting after double French.

Yep, those were the days – the time of cast-iron global geo-political certainties and a concrete narrative on the domestic front. In reality, the final hurrah of the Cold War and the dreaded Thatcher were not far away. Yet, at that moment, all seemed locked into place. We knew the lines off by heart, when to applaud and who to boo. It was a ludicrous panto really. Except with nuclear missiles instead of cross-dressing. And it didn’t help that everyone in my street had seen Threads.



For the uninitiated, Threads was a stark 1984 docu-drama about the lead-up to and aftermath of a nuclear strike, specifically on the city of Sheffield. You can still watch snippets on YouTube and, to be honest, it’s not shocking by today’s standards. But at the time, it gave you a bad case of ‘warhead’: our name for a tendency to fixate on the impending apocalypse. As if there’s a giant finger hovering over a big red button at all moments. Just. Waiting. For. The off.

Me? I was more of a ‘Jobby-On-A Stick-Head’ kind of guy; forever fearful of being daubed by the vile instrument of excremental dread brandished by pursuers in our X-certificate version of ‘tig’. Indeed, arching the back on demand to avoid a scraping of dog eggs was something of a skill round our parts. You could spot practitioners a mile away, their skinny curved frames like nervous boomerangs. 

Maybe I channelled all my existential dread into that torment. For outside of the urban vignette described at the outset, I can’t remember getting particularly animated about the prospect of being vaporised by a flash brighter than the sun. Being knocked back by Elaine Stevenson in my feverish imagination – never having had the guts to ask her out proper – already had that eventuality covered.

Then, like a bad fart at the back of Bible Class, the noxious mists of nuclear meltdown – once as stubborn as they were rancid – just sort of…ghosted away. The 90s while rammed full of massacre and genocide were, or seemed, blissfully nuclear-free. The only ‘boom and bust’ you were likely to experience was a drop in house prices; although for Daily Mail readers that was the equivalent of a nuclear winter.

So, generally speaking, the only mushroom cloud I feared seeing around that time was the Psilocin plumes from a pan in some radge’s kitchen, as they went to work on their ‘own brand’ herbal tea. If only the two roasters, Trump and Kim, who have decided to resurrect the prospect of thermo-nuclear annihilation could be force-fed such a brew. Maybe they’d stop waving their cocks and start waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care. Although in Trump’s case you wouldn’t notice. He could borrow a foam hand from one of his rallies. He already has the hood and the cloak, so why not go the whole hog? Some kind of heavy sedation might be called for to dampen down that playground scuffle. Schooooool’s out for…ever.

Actually I don’t think it will come to that. I think the big knobs will get around the table and thrash out a deal. The yanks will agree to send the North Koreans a crack team of barbers in return for some peace and quiet for the rest of us. Although joking aside, maybe bad barnets is driving this – that cockwomble Trump’s just about matches Kim’s in the ‘dodgy do’ stakes. Somebody call the lads over at Boombarber on Bernard Street. This whole showdown could be resolved with a number three and a bit of product on top…just for the weekend.

But for the purposes of…oh…around 200 or so words indulge me as I imagine an epic conflagration is about to engulf us all.  What’s the last thing you would do as the siren sounded? I don’t mean the old guff about shagging your dream girl/boy or getting under a kitchen table with a wind-up radio and baked beans; I mean if you could click your fingers to make something happen before the bomb hit, what would it be? I bagsie go first with this wilfully stupid list of hate…

  1. Boris Johnson to be used as a jizz mop. While being verbally abused. In Latin.
  2. That John Inverdale to be lightly flayed with tennis rackets on one of the outdoor courts at Wimbledon, maybe 16 or 18. Nothing premium.
  3. Use of text-speak to be punishable by death. Obvs. Angry face.
  4. Gerard Butler to be forced to confront the reality of his Gerard Butler-ness.
  5. The Daily Mail to be drowned. As a building. In its entirety.

There. That’s better. I feel human
again. Now where did I put my wind-up radio? 

Masks by Landon Meier at hyper flesh.com

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