Thursday, 11 February 2010

why I skipped lectures

I was a student in Newcastle when President Jimmy Carter came to visit the UK. I think it was 1977, and he'd chosen to visit the North-East, where unemployment was high and morale wasn't. The Prime Minister , James Callaghan, came with him. Newcastle United were doing well that season, so everywhere there were black and white banners with 'Howay the Lads'. Employees from one of the engineering works had turned out too, with their placards demanding the contract for a new power station. And half the city had turned out, just because. The bus to college crawled in nose to tail traffic from two miles out of the city, so I decided I may as well get off and walk.

By the time I reached the Civic Centre I knew that (a) I'd be late for the first lecture anyway and (b) I didn't want to miss this. I stood in the throng, wide-eyed, like everyone else, at the armed security men with walkie-talkies at every corner and on every rooftop, and the television cameras trained on the high up podium at the Civic Centre. The motorcade glided past, and presently Jimmy Carter stepped on to the podium. There was wild whooping, cheering and applause, and finally an awed silence. Into that moment, with perfect delivery, the President of the USA stepped into our hearts with the most magic words he could have said -

'Howay the Lads'.

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