1987: Michael Fish says “Go fly a kite!”

1987 will always be remembered in the UK for the famous ‘Storm of 87’ in which the country was literally devastated by immense gale force winds that uprooted trees, overturned cars and generally left the place looking like a nuclear war had just taken place. And the man who will forever be associated with the storm is red-faced weather forecaster Michael Fish who gleefully popped up on TV before the storm hit and cheerily assured us (and I paraphrase slightly) that some ‘mad foreign woman has just phoned up and said there’s a storm on the way but, don’t worry, there isn’t – it’s just a mild breeze, get out there and enjoy it is my advice; go fly a kite!’

There is a fair amount of revisionism going on concerning Mr Fish’s pronouncement (…check it out on wikipedia and elsewhere!) with Fish furiously shifting the blame elsewhere, denying he ever said what we all remember him saying. This attempt at revising history is both hilarious and decidedly odd. I actually watched the infamous broadcast live at the time and remember it well. The tone was distinctly of the ‘ooh these funny foreigners, what do they know…there is definitely no storm coming’ variety. It struck me at the time as a hugely smug bit of cheap xenophobia that just might come back and bite the clown saying it squarely on the bum. And – lo and behold – shortly thereafter: total hurricane-style devastation! For the record: sadly twenty people died in the storms, 15 million (yes, million!) trees were uprooted and the total cost of the damage was estimated at £1.5 billion (with a ‘b’). Mr Fish really should have had a unicycle and a flower that squirts water and appeared on our screens juggling – and his “there is no storm” announcement remains (and will forever remain) my TV highlight (or lowlight!) of 1987.

1987 also saw yet another general election in the UK (in June) that was won by Mrs Thatcher – for a record third time – when she defeated Labour’s Neil Kinnock. However, in 1990 Thatcher would be gone from office – toppled by a combination of the Poll Tax Riots (when the blatant unfairness of trying to get poor people to subsidise bankers and other rich folk finally brought the lid off the pressure cooker among those people with their principles still intact) and being stabbed in the back (metaphorically, that is!) et tu Brute-style by her colleagues.

Other notable events in 1987 include the Iran-Contra affair in the USA (in Feb), the tragedy of the Zeebrugge Dover-Calais ferry disaster (in March – the worst maritime disaster involving a British ship since the Titanic; sadly 193 passengers and crew died when the Herald Of Free Enterprise sank), the ‘Black Monday’ stock market crash (October 19th) and the bizarre spectacle of former Champion jockey Lester Piggott being jailed for tax evasion (also October).

The music of 1987 was so bad I did not buy even one single or album that entire year! On the other hand, the movie world more than made up for it. 87 was a bumper year for films – and Michael Douglas was clearly the ‘actor du jour’. Box office smashes included Fatal Attraction (introducing the term ‘bunny boiler’ to the general vocabulary – and I’ve been out with quite a few of those since!), Wall Street (which was actually meant to be a critique of the scumbags in the financial sector but in fact ironically ended up being something of a recruiting video for them – and their uniform of red braces) and Hellraiser (in which the character Pinhead showed us all the darker side of acupuncture!)

Away from the box office, 1987 also brought the following to the silver screen – Angel Heart; The Last Emporer; The Lost Boys; Planes, Trains & Automobiles; Prick Up Your Ears; The Untouchables.

This was also the year of two of my favourite movies – Wim Wenders’ highly atmospheric Wings Of Desire and the legendary comedy Withnail and I (aka the film that launched 1000 catchphrases). Yes, I’m a ‘Withnail bore’: “We want the finest wines known to humanity, we want them here and we want them now!”; “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake…we’re not from London!” etc!

Right then, here’s a pic of yours truly in 1987 (…complete with cat imitating parrot!). See you all in 1988 on the next blog post.

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