Why We Grew Up Strange

by on Mar.10, 2010, under General, Horror

If you were born in the early seventies then you’ll probably feel a short, sharp sting in your lower back when I say the phrase ‘Protect and Survive’. It means you spent much of your childhood wondering if the world might end, in approximately 4 minutes. The threat of nuclear war was very real, particularly in the early eighties, and at age 10 you’re not really even sure why it’s happening, all you know if is – if your hear the siren it’s over.

Whether you Protect, or Survive.

How do you know? Well, because you either watched Threads, or the whole family sat down in 1982 to cap off the evening with the weekly of episode of Q.E.D. And with a title like ‘A Guide to Armageddon’, you know you’re in trouble.

This episode tells you that you’re fucked. Really fucked. If you’re in central London and a bomb drops you’ll die instantly. If you’re a couple of miles out, you’ll burn alive, and in a matter of seconds, you’ll be dead. Sure, you can paint the windows white, and deflect 80% of the heat, but it won’t really matter as your house will explode in the blast.

This documentary systematically deconstructs the entire protection pamphlet. Nothing works, unless you’ve got the top of the line Fallout Shelter – then you’ve got a nuclear winter to look forward to…

What I find so interesting about this documentary is how brutal it is. True, you don’t have a shred of hope, but it practically revels in telling you that. It’s *so* eighties. This is why we grew up strange. The narrator attacks us like 5th year Algebra teacher two weeks before an exam. Wonderful lines like :-

‘Are you prepared to use force to keep others out?’

‘Would you find it possible to forget the destruction you’d seen as you scrambled into your shelter?’

Um, I’m not sure any of us has an answer. If we’re hopeful, we’re wrong. Ha Ha.

And if you’re not already petrified, he sternly reminds you that there is no existing society waiting for as you emerge after two weeks underground. Your friends are dead, cities are demolished. (Forget Mad Max, it’ll never get that far.) The credits roll with a Satanic Choir howling their way through a series of bleak photographs of the world in ruins…

Right, who’s for an Ovaltine! 🙂

Or not.

If this sort of programme were aired now, it’d have Cheryl Cole narrating and she’d be focussing on the positives. The entire show would feel like Daytime TV. Lots of bullet points, fade in, fade out. Just like a website. Let’s hear what today’s favorite comedians have to say on the topic? It can’t be all bad?

But it was back in 1982, and you were meant to grit your teeth and bear it. Just like the Miners Strike, just like the Falklands War. Here are the facts, sooo listen up!

If we got upset, Margaret Thatcher would have called us a bunch of ‘Moaning Minnies‘. What a lovely lady she was…..

So, here it is, in all its gruesome glory. If anyone recognises the musical score at the end, please post the title.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:


5 Comments for this entry

  • Dave C

    For years I had a great idea of building a nuclear survival shelter from a door propped against a wall and covered in meringue. I figured that if Baked Alaska could survive the heat of an oven then it should work to save me 🙂

    On reflection it seems I may not have been taking the impending apocalypse seriously 😀

  • Jared Earle

    The piece at the end is “Missa Brevis in D Op. 63: Benedictus” by Benjamin Britten, probably the Kings College Choir version.

  • dava

    I actually think this program might even have been shown to me at school! I guess it’s all very well educating children of the dangers but really what is the point when the knowledge cannot be applied in any shape or form. If a child is going to be vaporized by a nuclear blast, then I guess it’s better he knows as little about what is going happen as possible.

    Protect and Survive was really just about false hope. You were dead before realised it was all crap. Perhaps the government hated this program for this exact reason. ‘Well done, QED – thanks. There’s not a single person in the whole of the UK who has a single chance of survival, and now they have to carry on their day to day lives, knowing it”.



  • Liam T

    Don’t forget the classics BBC’s “Threads” and “The Wargame” both hideously frghtening as well as “Day after tomorrow” and Shutes “On the Beach”.

    All fantastic works that managed to fuck me up, mix that with bbc’s “day of the triffids”, I was a virtual insomniac.


  • dead_roses

    I remember “Day After Tomorrow” and the controversy it caused- the network couldn’t even get advertising for the second half of it – but played it anyway. It was depressing to say the least, but it was “Threads”, I believe, that was downright devastating. Talk about envying the dead! So, yeah, I distinctly remember growing up and knowing that I wasn’t likely to live to a ripe old age, due to nuclear war.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks for this entry


August 2022
« Sep