At the End of the Day

The last post before this one was delayed by ten minutes. The reason is straightforward, but hard to credit: in using the French extension cable in our house here – to ensure I could blog on a table as opposed to my lap – I managed to connect the extension to itself.

That is to say, instead of plugging the multiple-socket thingy to the mains, I put the plug into one of its own sockets.

If you’ve got most of your wits about you, it’s quite hard to achieve that level of incompetence. But as the years pass, the amount of wits about you tend to be associated with the company one keeps, rather than oneself. We had two younger friends around for lunch today, and there is no doubt that most of the wit was theirs rather than mine. It was hugely enjoyable, and I was able to play surrogate dotty grandad to their kids. However, one notices among even small infants that their reaction to one’s observations is a disturbing mixture of  puzzlement and sympathy.

Anyway, the result was a message saying my pc was about to hiber

The ‘nate’ part was lost in a swirl of black as the computer went to sleep. I lost half the post, and no matter how many recovery methods I called upon, the loss was irretrievable.

So it came as something of a shock to me soon thereafter to stumble upon a CD review, and realise that – although the film is now 47 years old – I can still remember whole chunks of Dr Strangelove by heart.

Convinced that the Soviet Union is weakening US resolve by fluoridating its water supply, a US air force commander (Sterling Hayden) issues World War III combat instructions to a US nuclear bomber – to the effect that the US has been the subject of a surprise nuclear attack by the Russians. The pilot (a masterly vignette from Slim Pickens) is gung-ho to drop the bomb on Moscow.  The film tracks Pickens’ duel with the USSR’s air defences alongside attempts by frantic US generals and politicians to negotiate their way out of Armageddon.

Dr Strangelove was probably Peter Sellers’ finest hour – not counting Being There, his swansong. He plays three roles – an RAF twit trying to talk Sterling Hayden into giving him the return to base code for the Slim Pickens plane; a US President wrestling with the Soviet leader (“Dimitry”) on the one hand, and hawkish General George C Scott on the other; and the deranged Nazi rocket scentist Strangelove, a man who dreams of virgins in a subterranean paradise after WWIII…but can’t quite stop his arm from saluting his lost and much-beloved Fuhrer.

About as black as film noir gets, Dr Strangelove still looks good today. It has managed to carry forward a sense of that time: an epoch when we had the Cuban Missile crisis, Aldermaston marchers keen to ban the bomb, and a generation about to grow up into sexual cynics who must live for today, because we’d probably all be blown to smithereens at any moment. But my abiding memories of the movie are Sellers’ as the urbane RAF Johnny nervously watching Sterling Hayden unravel, George C Scott telling the President that “Screw gettin’ ’em back Mister President, we can catch these Goddamn Commies with their pants down”, and Sellers’ Presidential riposte, “Thank you General, but I have no desire to go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Ay-dolf Hitler”.

I will check all plugs, lights, oven hobs and locks carefully tonight to ensure I haven’t done anything daft before I retire to bed. But I will at least sleep sound in the knowledge that, whatever any Islamist loony might do in the next 24 hours, he’s unlikely to take the whole world with him. In 1964, such an outcome was all too possible.