Plus Leeds United’s Bobby Ewing moment...
A LOT can happen in 26 years. Pop groups come and go, people move in and out of your life. Football clubs go from the brink of something special to embarrassing basket cases.
Can you remember what you were doing on June 4, 1989? Nope, me neither. Probably daydreaming my way through double maths and then watching Scott and Charlene in Neighbours before tea.
But one bloke in China has the date etched on his soul.
On that day just over two-and-a-half decades ago he was staring down the gun barrel of a tank that was ready to run him over.
Standing there in the street with a bag of shopping in each hand, he barred the tanks’ way to the anti-government protesters crowded in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
The soldiers inside the lead tank decided they couldn’t do it and tried to steer round him.
But when they moved, he moved with them. It was a show of defiance that stirred the soul. Even looking at it now the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Sadly, one man’s jaw-dropping bravery was never going to be enough.
The Chinese army moved in a short time later and shot dead several hundred of the young, unarmed demonstrators calling for democratic change.
It was a shocking, chilling illustration of the lengths the Communist regime would go to in order to crush opposition.
Twenty-six years on, nothing has changed.
China is still ruled by totalitarian despots who torture dissidents by starving them, electrocuting them and spraying chilli oil on their genitals.
Civil rights campaigners ‘disappear’. The only candidate you can vote for is the one committed to keeping you under the government’s jackboot.
So was any of this raised with Chinese president Xi Jinping on his visit to Britain this week?
Not by David Cameron and George Osborne. They were too busy rolling out the red carpet and lining up Chinese cash for everything from HS2 to a new nuclear power plant in Somerset.
They reckon the state visit will be worth £30bn worth of investment in Britain. Great. But doesn’t it feel a bit like blood money?
It doesn’t take a giant leap of imagination to conclude that in return for all that money, China will expect us to keep schtum about the human rights atrocities it’s committing on a daily basis.
One mention of chilli oil being deposited on your unmentionables and you can wave bye bye to all that cash.
Jeremy Corbyn mentioned it, apparently, but given that he’s got as much chance of being PM as Steve Evans has of handing out the Christmas cards at Elland Road, they can simply ignore him.
And is it just me who’s a bit uncomfortable with the thought of the world’s largest Communist state having a hand in running our train lines and nuclear reactors?
We’d all like to think those terror-filled days of the Cold War are over, but you only have to look at Vladimir Putin’s latest bout of willy-waving in Syria to realise relations are still on a knife edge.
China may have shifted to a capitalist economy, but politically they remain locked in an Austin Powers-style 1960s deep freeze.
It just underlines how desperate Britain is that we’re prepared to jump into bed with a super power whose political system is still fundamentally committed to the destruction of democracies like ours.
Still, maybe we should listen to Dave and George when they bang on about this being a “golden opportunity” to cement relations with China and count the readies.
We’re led to believe this is a great deal for Britain. Maybe it is.
But I’ll tell you who it isn’t a great deal for. That bloke who stood in front of those tanks one hot, bloody day 26 years ago.
For him, the sight of Britain cosying up to the regime that slaughtered his friends in cold blood looks a very bad deal indeed.
Hanging with Gary and the Girls
NAMING no names – you’ll have to buy me a couple of drinks first – some famous people aren’t always as nice as you think they are once you get them behind closed doors.
They may have been heroes of yours, or people you’ve always had a lot of respect for, but within five minutes it dawns on you that they’re actually complete and utter prats.
And that not only makes for a difficult interview, it leaves you with a horrible little hollow feeling inside.
So it was a relief to meet a genuine superstar the other day and come away thinking he was a pretty decent bloke.
I joined the Calendar Girls in London where they got a sneak peak at new musical The Girls before its premiere in Leeds next month.
In charge of meets and greets was the show’s co-writer Gary Barlow, who charmed everyone with his easy going nature and obvious rapport with the ladies from Rylstone WI. You could even forgive him those well-publicised quibbles over his tax arrangements.
He says he’s planning to come to Leeds to see the show at the Grand – we should make him welcome.
Of course, Gary was still no match for the girls themselves, who were on top form from start to finish.
The Prosecco-fuelled Take That singalong on the train home was particularly good fun. Although their Relight My Fire needs a bit of work.
If old age is going to be that good, I say bring it on.
Leeds’ Bobby Ewing moment
REMEMBER in Dallas when Bobby Ewing’s beloved Pam died, then he came out of the shower and it had all been a horrible dream?
Well, after this week from hell, Leeds fans must be the cleanest supporters in England. You never know, maybe one more shower will do it...
Remember when Liverpool had owners the fans were convinced were bad for their club? The protests and celebrity-backed campaigning never stopped.
United die-hards have been through that particular mill so many times in recent years that all they can muster is a collective shrug. As for the managers, they may as well do a Deer Hunter and start playing Russian Roulette.
Actually, all these film and TV references are misleading.
If you put down what’s happened at Elland Road over the last decade in a script, audiences would believe it even less readily than that Bobby Ewing shower.