Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Open Channel D

By the park that used to be on the Middlefield Lane estate - captured below in my post Where did your heart go? - there is this small triangle of land. 

In the 60s this land was fenced off, and on that square of concrete was an electricity sub-station that hummed quietly to itself all day. As a kid, the fence appeared to be magic: no matter how much all the kids around there grew, the fence always remained too high to climb over. Within this compound, there was also a tall steel mast that soared some sixty feet up into the air. 

The mast is gone now, but back then it was adorned with a tangled mess of H-shaped TV aerials, in a time when the 405 lines were still alive. This was the estate’s communal television aerial, another little piece of post-war, modern, municipal benevolence on an estate where only a few tenants had their own aerial fitted to their chimney. This communal aerial transmitted my first eye-popping taste of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I used to stand outside the sub-station, pick up the big padlock on the compound gate and imagine that the back of the padlock could slide away to reveal a secret key-pad. I'd pretend to punch in a five-digit number and stand by as both the gate and sub-station door simultaneously clicked open. I'd walk through the door, and straight into a secret lift that took me underground into the Lincolnshire H.Q. of U.N.C.L.E. At the reception desk I'd pick up my identity badge – No.6 for Napoleon Solo of course – which could invisibly attach itself to my jumper, next to my Milky Bar Kid badge. A childish imagination perhaps, circumscribed by a very adult environment, but those times, and those everyday spaces helped to create my identity - new spaces and new things, from the strange and very modern mast that loomed over the estate, to Solo's pen that opened Channel D. It was the future then, full of promise. Where did it go?

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