Stan Hey: Where were you when the boot went in?

There may even be people who will recall yet another world turning event that occurred on 22 November
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The Independent Online

I'm no student of Nostradamus - the ancient sage predicted that I wouldn't be interested anyway - but you have to admit that weird things do seem to happen on the same date on a recurring basis. Take 22 November as the prime example. For a certain generation, by which I mean older, it connects instantly with the assassination of President John F Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. This past weekend has rightfully witnessed an orgy of reflection on what was probably the first traumatic public event for the postwar baby-boomers.

Meanwhile, many people of a younger age will now associate the date with England beating Australia in the rugby union World Cup final. In 40 years, they'll be stopped in the street and asked, "Do you remember where you were when Jonny Wilkinson kicked his tournament-winning drop goal?" Most will recall that they were in the bar of the Dog and Duck, or in the clubhouse of Old Cartesians RFC, though obviously a sizeable few won't remember anything because they'd drank too much, too early on the day.

There may even be people who will recall yet another world turning event that occurred on 22 November - in 1990 that is. It fell on a Thursday. And it marked the end of the reign of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, this being the day when she decided not to submit herself to the second round of a leadership contest having been told by cabinet colleagues the night before that she would certainly lose.

To those of us of a different political persuasion to Mrs Handbag there was a delicious irony that she was forced out by the "market forces" at work within her own party, a fear that the Conservatives couldn't win the next election with her leading the team. This was, in part, a political assassination too, though you could also see it in the gentler light of a rugby idiom, of someone being "kicked into touch".

Indeed had all three seismic events taken place on the same 22 November, there would have been a terrible battle for front page headlines and photographs. By current standards, the tabloids would probably have stuck with "Golden Boots Wilkinson" as their lead story, relegating Thatcher's demise to an inside feature, with perhaps a front page picture box of Kennedy overlaid with a tactful graphic of the crosshairs of a rifle-sight. But thankfully, they were separate 22 November dates.

Of course numerologists will probably tell us that as there are only 365 days in most years, so the odds on a certain date repeatedly making history are not as huge as might be imagined. There might be a case for 11 September now but I'd contend, in a pub conversation way, that 22 November still takes the biscuit, with this trio of events.

Personal memories come into this assessment, enlarging the impact. I was 11 when I heard of Kennedy's shooting, by way of a crackly broadcast from a transistor radio on the shelves of a new local shop that had been dubbed a "supermarket". I dropped my basket in shock and ran round the corner to our house to break the news to my mum, for whom I had volunteered to get in the Friday groceries.

It seems an over-sensitive reaction in hindsight, but I remember that the Cuban missile crisis, a year earlier, had heightened a personal fear that the earth was going to get blown up before I could, in Scouse parlance, "get my end away" or buy my first pair of Cuban-heeled boots. Kennedy being shot seemed to an 11 year-old like the overture to Armageddon.

Now, 40 years on, you notice little historical footnotes that take the edge off such memories - the fact that Kennedy beat Richard Nixon by only 120,000 votes in the 1960 election, or that when Wall Street resumed business on 26 November 1963, shares soared by a record $15bn [£8.8bn]. Over to you on that one, Oliver Stone. Not to mention the fact that our little corner shop was called Tesco, which has now become a global supermarket chain. If only I'd bought their shares back then instead of fretting about my imminent extinction.

No hindsight is required to enjoy 1990s' date of destiny. I know exactly where I was when I heard that Thatcher had resigned - on the way to Wincanton races. Here the surge of relief was like a volcanic explosion. The long march had begun in 1972, with street protests about an education secretary cutting school milk, chanting "Maggie Thatcher is a Cow, We Want Milk". Now she was gone.

The only regret on the day came when the bookies at Wincanton priced-up her successors - Michael Heseltine as 5-2 favourite, Douglas Hurd at 7-2 and somebody called John Major at 10-1 - and I failed to follow the first rule of betting always to back the outsider in a field of three. Oddly, I'd also intended to back "the draw at 80 minutes", at 20-1, for England's game against Australia on Saturday, but forgot. Just another reason for remembering 22 November for a very long time.

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