EDitorial ± 5-Jul-2008
Cold War Kid
Mum's gonna kill me.
Hunched on the lavatory, lid down, he felt as clammy now as when his biology teacher had announced what they'd be doing to that poor frog.
"This is the final call for Duncan, Carol and Matthew Brunswick travelling on British Caledonian flight BR795. Please report to gate 17 immediately."
Final, the tannoy lady had said: if only. Again, he fumbled with the child-proof bottle top. Again, he failed to get a grip.
His mind took off, back to that nothing November day when Mum had padded upstairs into the darkness. There he'd been, stretched out, using his torch to project aircraft silhouettes on to the ceiling.
"Matt," she'd opened, "I've got some news."
He hadn't looked up. "If it's about the nose probe on the Flogger, I'd already noticed." Often he'd pleaded with her not to dust the models on his shelf. From his very own bedroom, Mum was one part Bruce Kent to two parts Bruce Wayne, a disarming force for direct action at the 1:72 scale. Maternal Assured Destruction, Matt called it.
"Lots of these are MiGs, aren't they?"
He'd nodded, trying to tell a Foxbat from a Tomcat. Mum, he could take or leave. Mother Russia, that was more like it. Sorry, Mrs Douglas had said, Everyone does French and the bright kids can choose to do German Thursday lunchtimes.
No matter. Hoping to pick up some basic phrases, he'd set the video at the weekend for Battleship Potemkin. Couldn't find it come Monday evening: Oops, said Dad, Was that the one I taped Bergerac on?
"Anyway, Matt," Mum had persevered, your Dad's had a job offer that's too good to refuse. So ..." - she straightened his HMS Victory, a nearly but not quite gift from Aunty Maria - "... we're moving. To North America. Canada. Well, near Canada. Er, Alaska, actually."
As his torch rolled to the floor, the beam had hinted at landing lights under his bed. Wow, he'd thought. This. Is. Mega. Until now, the closest he'd been to anything Soviet-sounding had been the Ski strawberry yoghurt in his packed lunch. But Alaska? Didn't that used to be part of Russia?! Wow.
Then it hit - what about Jane? Her picture was hidden in the Sukhoi section of his prize Observer's Book. True, they only spoke during double maths, mostly for Jane to crib his answers and admire his digital stopwatch. His Mum's weekly magazine had advised him to play hard to get. He'd be even harder to get when 4000 miles away.
Another salvo - in Alaska, he'd have to do up his Parka.
Strike three - goodbye, Air Cadets. Farewell, kickarounds at The Rec. Do svidaniya, life.
What a schoolboy reaction to wait until the big day, then hide in a Gatwick toilet. All he needed not to get through this was to hand: alcohol and pills. Well, a lukewarm can of Top Deck shandy and Dad's iron tablets. To think that they'd badmouthed Gary Powers for not having the guts to go through with it.
There came a frantic rap at the cubicle door. Something clicked inside. He wiped his brow and slid back the latch.
"Hold on, Dad, I'm coming."