Monday, 15 August 2011
From Russia With Love
The Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear" was for much of the post-war period the symbol of the Cold War. These sinister, silvery machines were regular visitors to British airspace in the 1970's and 1980's, and would often be pictured in British newspapers being gently shooed away by Royal Air Force jets. The missions that these planes undertook were nominally reconnaissances, but their real purpose was intimidatory, and it was intimidation that worked.
The "Bear" was a nuclear bomber, and its appearance was a constant reminder that the UK was easily within range of even the most basic Soviet nuclear capabilities. But what the Tupolev delivered was not bombs or missiles, but small, pearlescent balls of dread that would fall to earth and roll into the national nervous system. This submerged dread was never at the forefront of public consciousness, but always seemed to tick away in the background, a kind of ultimate nightmare that hid behind the more pressing social issues of the day.
It was another form of dread, immersed in the sounds imported from Jamaica that was to allow its expression - a hesitant, febrile leaking of psychic poison. The sound of screams suppressed by social convention.