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Thursday, 5 May 2016


Memory is a funny old thing. Sometimes I can't remember something from last week. Sometimes I forget birthdays and other important stuff. But, for some reason, in this cavernous filing cabinet that I call my head, random things have stuck.

Today, 5 May, is the anniversary of the 1980 Iran embassy siege in London. I was living in a flat in Crouch End and working in BHS Wood Green. The 5th was a bank holiday Monday, a day off, and in the early evening I had settled down to watch the western Rio Lobo starring John Wayne.

At a point in the film there was a newsflash interruption and live pictures of an incident at the Iranian embassy.

Five days earlier, six gunmen had taken over the embassy and held hostages in their bid to force the release of ninety-one prisoners held in jail in Iran. They also wanted a plane to fly themselves and their hostages out of the UK. After one hostage was shot dead by the gunmen, the Home Secretary, Willie Whitelaw, authorised a rescue mission at the embassy and, as the live TV coverage was showing, the SAS moved in. I was watching in awe at the activity on the embassy balcony and the fire-flash of exploding grenades. This was real danger and, it has to be said, excitement happening right before our eyes in those very moments. It was nervy but thrilling television coverage and I know how crass that sounds.

The thought occurs to me now that, unlike today's live coverage of events, I don't recall endless commentary from news presenters or reporters. The pictures were telling the story and we viewers could see it and understand it on our own without unnecessary blether.

Apart from recalling the siege and rescue, the memory bit that amazes me is that I also remember Rio Lobo and John Wayne. Trivia. What's that all about?

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