1988 - A stormy and wet year before August sun heralding a very autumn and early winter, with the children doing well at school, my electoral success and increased local influence as Thatcherism experiences irreversible decline, East/West conflict moderat

The year started stormy and wet with our moorings flooded, it continued cold and windy and then wet and miserable before a warm and muggy start to the summer followed and then the record wet month of July before a warm and sunny August heralded an unseasonably mild autumn before the mildest December in more than 50 years.

Daniel and Debbie were doing well at school and Della was settling into Playschool. Debbie was enjoying her horse-riding, and Daniel enjoying his own boat and taking good career advice and both taking part in their Kimbolton School events. After I had spent a lot of time working on The Lady, renovating the sliding roof and fitting new glass windows, we were enjoying blissful times cruising on The Great Ouse and Cam. The swimming pool was very popular, and the new games lawn was in use in time for the Spring and later, the new conservatory and fish pond provided sheltered amenity as the year closed. My father’s ear cancer and my mother’s shingles were a worry and Diana was often under the weather but the children were normally in good health and I was unfazed by a nasty fall. My highlights and accomplishments for the year included my election as Paxton Ward District Councillor, my Little Paxton History authorship and contrasting purchases of a new Raleigh bicycle, an old historic Reliant and my Rolls Royce Corniche convertible, which together with my Range Rover, brought much more style once I also purchased the VXD-1 and YXD-1 number plates.  We took the Range Rover to Blackpool for a family visit and enjoyed their Pleasure Beach amusement park.

Following my landslide election win, my influence in local public affairs grew with attendance at all three Parish Councils Meetings in my Ward, actions following, and with my contributions to all the key committees of HDC; progressing dog fouling controls, grass cutting, planning controls and elector grievances. Also working with my Cambridge Liberal colleagues regarding FOCUS leaflet printing by use of Apple Macintosh’s and with local SLD colleagues for distribution. I eventually swapped my trusty Comart micro-computer for an Apple Mac to work on this and my history book.  Daniel loved it this new computer, but I had little time to use it for my Local History project; working instead with the St Neots Museum and LHS committees and organising slide shows and talks; the first being for the Little Paxton Friendship Club.

This was a big year form Margaret Thatcher as she started the year losing the Spycatcher case, suppressing the mis-deeds of the security services after promoting a ‘shoot to kill’ Irish policy and then suffered an unprecedented level of industrial unrest with Thatcherism becomes daily more extreme. Prescription charges soared by 8%; even the suppliers of electricity were being sold off and the ILEA was controversially abolished amongst worsening economic news. Nurses were demonstrating and striking over their pay reduction and the parlous state of the NHS and were joined across industry in a TUC day of action, The Pit Deputies shut down the coal industry, Fords and Vauxhall workers do the same for the motor industry and the NUS seamen halt the ferries until they had to back down and negotiate after their union is fined. There are unprecedented strikes and protests from NHS professionals and three presidents of Royal Colleges but Thatcher refuses to allow increased funding or an investigation into NHS finances. Chancellor Lawson’s ‘give-away budget’ favoured the rich with no more money for the NHS, which was judged to be struggling for funds by the health service unions, Royal College of Surgeons, an All Party parliamentary committee, with even the Queen Mother expressed distress at hospital closures. The Lords defeated the government over child benefit levels and the government were also in trouble over their new benefits system where some elderly, sick and poorer people were made worse off. Thatcher kept talking about her planned Poll Tax, and wanted to increase, not reduce, nuclear weapons. Doubts were growing about the standards of safety on board the cross-channel ferries. A raft of poor economic statistics and factory closures are blows to the UK economy and interest rates rose to a dizzy 11 ½ with a record trade deficit of £1.2 billion which had sterling falling sharply.

The main domestic news of the summer was of the North Sea oil terminal tragedy, where Echo Bravo, an older oil rig, exploded killing 1-200 people, with only 60/70 surviving as a hundred and fifty men were trapped screaming and roasting to death with no means of escape. Texan Red Adair’s team finally put out the fires and stemmed the leaks. The Tory Government was presiding over an over-heating economy causing a record trade deficit and falls on share and property prices. Their battle with the IRA escalated to a new level, with an effective bombing campaign at home and abroad killing a dozen British soldiers and injuring many others, Also, after the Government lost its ‘Spycatcher’ case, it was revealed just how the security services plotted to undermine Harold Wilson’s Prime Ministership. The Ulster troubles continue with the 2700th victim killed after the Northern Ireland troubles had been exacerbated by the government’s ‘Shoot-to-Kill’ policy. IRA suspects cannot now be extradited to the UK because of our contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights for detention without trial and now Welsh extremists are suspected of fire-bombing five London Estate offices over second English homes there. As the year ends with a month of disasters, namely, The PanAm Lockerbie crash, and the Clapham Junction rail crash, the aftermath of which was poorly handled by government ministers.

The threat of an EEC/US trade war increases. Better news as the USSR are withdrawing missiles from East Germany and in Brussels the NATO Summit seeks a fudged compromise concerning nuclear weapons. The outgoing USSR leader, Gorbachev visits the US to say his goodbyes and announces huge Soviet conventional arms cuts and the US agrees to support direct talks with Yasser Arafat of the PLO as positive developments. The government of Israel are now in even worse odour over the suppression of Palestinians, Significantly for Middle East affairs, the right-wing Likud party in Israel under Jitshijk Shamir wins the national election after their recent violent excesses with the Orthodox Jews sustaining them in government. Reagan was causing havoc with his interventions in South America, Hurricane Gilbert, at Force 5, is the worst Caribbean storm in history but George Bush wins the US presidential election, as the US venue of the UN comes into question with united condemnation from all other United Nations countries after The US bans Yasser Arafat from entering to speak in the Middle East debate.

The Gulf War is continuing as the oil tanker, The Haven, was shelled and set on fire and Iran claims Iraq used mustard gas.  Man-made disasters include the Amoco oil spill off Brittany which costs them $85.2 million of damages and then a giant 4.5million gallon fuel spill on a river 16 miles long in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh forced 1,000 people to evacuate their homes. August was a month for airplane crashes; one killing Pakistan President, Rajiv Zia, together with 5 Brigadiers and 5 Generals, and the Ramstein Air Crash Show disaster, in Germany, killing 70 spectators and injuring 500 when three Italian Air force display planes collided. Even these disasters are overshadowed by the massive flooding in Bangladesh, which killed over 500 with 20million made homeless and the human disaster in China followed where the toll has risen to nearly 1000 dead after large earthquake on their border with Burma. The Armenian earthquake tragedy left 40 to 45,000 dead. South African police shoot dead a young man accusing them of torture and then tear-gas his church funeral but arch-bishop Tutu lead an anti-apartheid services in heroic defiance.

By month …

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