I remember 1989.
Twenty years. I guess it seems that long.
So much has happened since the Berlin wall fell in a colourful spill of people, but it’s also kind of gone fast. In fact, I wonder whether the intimation in Jon Snow’s tone tonight was that it’s hard to imagine a world with the cold war now – a fact perhaps astonishing after so little historic time. Whatever, Channel Four News gave tonight’s celebrations in the German capital a slightly misty-eyed lead story status. And rightly so.
It’s poetic to suppose that of all European nations emerging from the 20th century, Germany should be the one to give the world one of the most potent symbols of reconciliation – that footage of teenagers dancing on the Brandenburg gate in November 1989.
Or was it Wind of change by The Scorpions?
Anyway – no, east and west are not fluidly one country yet. Not in the fullest sense. And I’m not sure if they can be – no slashed wound heals without a scar where the tissue knitted back together. But the practical cost, as in South Africa, is still worth paying. Surely. Living apart is ultimately more unsustainable than working together. It just is. Your identity has to be strong enough to cope with the change.
And I’m pretty sure most Germans think the same in the end. They’re very sensible people. They made Wind of change the 10th best selling record in Germany of all time.
I remember reading something in a text book while still at school, some while more than twenty years ago. I remember that reading it at that time seemed a little shocking. Just bold. Ballsy of the writer, I thought.
Because he said something almost blithely about how history warned us that the Berlin Wall could not possibly stay standing for long. That one day it would surely fall.
Now, if you weren’t around then, this statement will probably seem self evident. To be filed under ‘Duh!’ – along with other statements, like: ‘Cod sci-fi TV soap Defying Gravity walks a fine line between likeably daft and annoyingly stupid’ or: ‘Gordon Brown’s government is already putting things in boxes’. It’s just obvious.
But, really. Back then the wall seemed immovable. Utterly. A symbol of a status quo beyond any challenge. This writer’s worldly wisdom seemed simply audacious to my 15-year-old self; back then, the only way to combat the Berlin Wall from Bournemouth was to buy a nuclear bunker for the garden. I remember seeing them for sale at the Hurn air show, next to the only just retired Vulcan bomber.
And yet, just a month after my 19th birthday, down it came. Surprising everyone – not least of which the important handful of soon-to-be-former soviet state heads, which duly rolled in the coming two years.
Annoyingly, I almost got to go to Berlin that summer. Some church thing. I could have seen the wall in all its terrifying actuality for myself to marvel my kids about years later, if I’d been put on the right list. Or if I’d had kids.
I ended up in Düsseldorf. Singing hymns in the town square or similar. And, weirdly, Caroline happened to be passing through the city with her family at exactly the same time; I remember calling her from a phone box and almost being able to meet up. But not.
Not a great ‘I remember 1989’ story, I know.
Still, to celebrate, 20 years on, I’m going to Düsseldorf without her again next week. Re-live the important personal moments. ..Of how we weren’t in the right place at the right time on at least a couple of counts.
While I’m there, hunting for that phone box, I may also see if I can squeeze in some site visiting with Jules for our client’s show.
Either way, I know one thing. I still want to wave a flag when I see that footage. Or when I hear the 10th best selling German record of all time.
Yes, I remember it well.
Well, no. Of course I have no idea where I was on the actual night. I mean it was ages ago…