MB Reed

Author and mathematician


Footnotes for 'Events of 1968', Chapters 14-20

Chapter 14: Meditation

  1. Senate House in Bloomsbury, housing the University of London Library, is a monumental Art Deco skyscraper, built in the 1930s. George Orwell used it as the Ministry of Truth in 1984; his wife worked in the Censorship dept there when it housed the Ministry of Information during the War. There’s an urban myth that Hitler spared it from the Blitz because he wanted it as his Party HQ after the invasion of Britain. In the Nazi-victory novel Dominion it houses the German Embassy.

  2. The Maharishi Yogi speech is taken from his quotes.

  3. Harold Wilson was often seen wearing a Gannex raincoat as a favour to his friend the industrialist and manufacturer Joseph Kagan. In his resignation Honours Wilson ennobled him to Baron Kagan. Kagan later served 10 months in prison for tax evasion.

  4. Morecambe and Wise were hugely popular entertainers. In Autumn 1968 they moved from ATV to BBC2, as the only channel broadcasting in colour.

  5. Janice’s sick relative in Banbury perhaps reminds Alex of Bunbury, the imaginary invalid whom Algernon uses as an excuse to escape to the country, in The Importance of being Earnest.

  6. In our world the premises on the opposite side of Craven Passage from the Ship and Shovell was a grocery shop. The pub acquired it in the 1990s and turned it into a second bar. From the cellar between the bars there is a door to Hungerford Lane, once a street but now an underground roadway running beneath the Charing Cross railway lines, leading to the Embankment Tube station. I am grateful to the helpful landlord and staff of the pub for giving me a virtual tour of the cellar.

  7. Harold Wilson as Prime Minister was increasingly convinced that he was being spied on by MI5. This has been thoroughly investigated and denied by the Security Service.

  8. Viscount Chesterfield bears a strong resemblance to Tony Benn, who renounced his title Viscount Stansgate in order to become an MP. In Wilson’s 1964-1970 government he was first Postmaster General, overseeing the construction of the P O Tower, then Minister for Technology, overseeing the development of the Concorde airliner. He became a left-wing hate figure for the media, despite (or because of) his practical achievements and avuncular pip-smoking manner.

  9. D-G is Director-General.

Chapter 15: Recreation

  1. The Public Order Act was passed after the 1926 General Strike, to outlaw the Blackshirt paramilitaries.

  2. The cross-country running is based on my own school experiences (including the short-cut).

  3. The infamous Oz Schoolkids issue is available here.

Chapter 16: Infiltration

  1. Gleichschaltung was a National Socialist policy

  2. The Berufsverbot was used by the Nazis against the Jews, but on 28 January 1972 the German federal government instituted the so-called Radikalenerlass (Anti-Radical Decree). Under this decree, people who were considered to be a member or aligned to an extremist organization, were banned from work as civil servants, which includes a variety of public sector occupations such as teaching. The decree was declared as response to terrorism by the Red Army Faction. It is still in force in Bavaria. Wikipedia

  3. The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was an undercover unit of Greater London’s Metropolitan Police, set up in 1968 with the approval of the Wilson government to infiltrate British protest groups. Its Tradecraft Manual was published (heavily redacted) in 2018. This appears to be the basis of the summary which Frankie found.

Chapter 17: Education

  1. In our world the Colossus computers were used to decode German communications, and after the War they were dismantled and their existence kept secret. But in Tommy’s world they gave a head start to the development of machine learning and ‘big data’, leading to the algorithms employed by Cambridge Analytics.

Chapter 18: Assassination

  1. I remember that at this time the Right-wing Press had latched on to the sneer ‘The worst Prime Minister since Lord North’ (who lost Britain her American colonies) to attack Harold Wilson.

  2. The takeover of the Schools Action Union by young Maoists was mentioned in Chapter 9 notes.

  3. Tommy is studying Rhinosceros by Ionesco.

  4. After Harold Wilson’s humiliating devaluation in 1967, he gave the explanation cited here about ‘the pound in your pocket’.

  5. The Tate Gallery’s purchase in 1972 of Equivalent VIII, a rectangular arrangement of 120 firebricks, brought ridicule to the whole Modern Art movement.

Chapter 19: Retaliation

  1. I remember that Watney’s produced a white-on-red corporate signage for their pubs, associated with the execrable keg beer Red Barrel. The long article here includes a photo of an advertising poster with Chairman Mao holding a pint in one hand and his Little Red Book in the other.

Chapter 20: Liberation

  1. I recall sitting in the Student Union TV room watching an unchanging featureless vista of Pacific Ocean, awaiting the splashdown of the latest Apollo mission, while the commentators wittered on like cricket pundits when rain has stopped play. This could last all afternoon. This was before daytime TV had been invented.

  2. You can find the Monty Python Military Fairy video on Youtube. There are some GIFs of it here.

  3. The Workers Revolutionary Party was another Marxist splinter group, more like a cult, famous mainly for being joined by the actress Vanessa Redgrave.

  4. It seems that Prince Harry took some of the phrases from the *King’s Speech, when he announced Megxit.