This weekend, fifty years ago, I went to stay with my school friend Gabrielle. We were both at Basingstoke High School, and she lived not far away in the neighbouring village of Old Basing. School finished at 3.30 pm, as usual, and as we left the school grounds a horrible smell drifted up the hill, from the direction of the busy A30 road. At the bottom of the hill there was a big pond called Black Dam. A number of small streams ran into it, and on a good day it would have been teeming with pond life, fish, ducks, moorhens and other water birds. But this was not a good day, Friday, 21 October 1966, because a tanker had careered down the hill and overturned into the pond, spilling its foul smelling chemicals into the water, which then trickled out into the tributaries, eventually killing everything in its wake.
The smell of the chemicals hung in a pall over the area all weekend, adding another horrible layer to my memory of the disaster of catastrophic proportions which had taken place earlier that same day, in Aberfan,130 miles away. For me, the two events are inextricably linked and have always stayed sharp in my memory, in the same way that everyone remembers what they were doing, where they were, and, in my case, what I was wearing when I heard that JFK had been assassinated. How could any of us forget the scenes of devastation and desolation on the faces of the people of Aberfan, as they fought to come to terms with the fact they had lost a whole generation of children from their village.
So, with another image of my childhood, here is Peter Pan, in memory of all those children, who will remain forever young.