Arriving in Thatcham this evening I had just enough time to capture some interesting Rorschach-like images of the sun going down with the crystal clear reflections of Taffy’s pond. I wish I could have stayed longer to give the sky more of a chance to develop its colour range, but it was not to be, and in any event I wasn’t here on the common looking for reflections. At least not of that sort.
Taffy’s pond lies at one end of a long stretch of open land that is reminiscent of Windsor (but without the parrots). There is natural beauty aplenty, but the patches of coppiced trees serve as a screen to what lies beyond.
Approaching the open space from the south there is a sprawling business park, many of whose buildings have a utilitarian look that hints at the former residents of this site.
The occasional piece of public art does little to soften the impression given by some of the objects here that there is more to the place than meets the eye.
Yes there are some typical business park residents; business specialising in food distribution for example, yet it was a different type of logistics and distribution that gave this place its notoriety. I’ve written about the place before, but this was my first visit to Greenham Common, a place synonymous with the cold war and an era when Frankie’s Two Tribes was a guaranteed number one. From here, American cruise missiles with nuclear warheads would have been deployed to counter any Russian attack. My friend Annette was one of the protesters of the women’s peace camp. The wide open space was once Europe’s longest aircraft runway.
It seemed strange being here today (4th March) when a group of unarmed men were faced off by soldiers in Sevastopol. The attempt by Ukrainian forces to enter the base where their armaments were stored being prevented by Russian soldiers on a “humanitarian mission” by firing live rounds over their heads. West and East tell different versions of what is really happening out there, and I am in no position to suggest where the truth lies, but the implications for the world should either side lose control are in many ways more chilling than the constant threat that many of us lived through in Greenham days.
That base may well have been the same one visited for one by the inane clowns of Top Gear in their recent attempt to cross Ukraine in small economical cars, culminating in trying not to run out of fuel whilst within the contaminated zone of Chernobyl. The tasteless stunt which made no reference to the massive human cost of the tragedy has now acquired the added irony of having used a former Soviet submarine base for a bit of fun, just days before Russia is exerting its power in the Ukraine for real.
Perhaps they should stick to the knitting and just focus on the cars and related items. Perhaps I could help them out with this line-up that I spotted when working for a different client this morning. These are the tractor units that distribute tyres to the teams during the European races of the Formula One season. Going by the amount of rubber that Clarkson and co burn each week, perhaps they could do with one of their own.