Post Atomic Tel
Britain is dead. Europe is struggling on life support. The planet is reeling from the pointless self abuse known as nuclear war. The empire has been reduced to rubble. Foundations are visible, along with unfathomable yards of corrugated steel and monstrous elevations of, well, who knows what they were. The skies above are a menacing battleship grey and a veil of ruby red hangs on the horizon. The sun’s rays will deny the earth for some time to come, but the radioactive particles that litter this dead world glisten in what remains of available light and form a crimson miasmic haze of gloom. This apocalyptic landscape is a dehydrated old husk, inconsequential and obsolete, a bit like Rula Lenska or a seven inch copy of Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce in its original picture sleeve.
The year is 2019 and it would appear that the second Cold War became quite a heated debate. Urchins, looters and the lost wander without reason among the decaying urban remains of London. The shells that are left crave their old lives back. Desperation takes on many forms. Ex-dustmen empty obliterated bins into non-existent carts, postmen post phantom letters into wide open spaces, milkmen flounder like hapless lost souls in search of an elusive doorstep, and most poignantly of all, NHS workers bandage the dead. A lost race in a lost land full of losers.
In Wood Lane, London,W12, the once home of BBC Television Centre, now a far cry from its halcyon days of old, a voice can be heard. A familiar voice hidden from the outside world and all of its post nuclear horror by tonnes of rubble and filth that was once the aforementioned central hub of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Where the building once stood is a mammoth crater. Beside this concrete grave is a volcano of masonry. It’s as if the building had been scooped up out of the ground and unceremoniously dumped in the car park that had once held the automobiles of the stars. Oddly, the only movement in this bleak, traumatised arena is the lonely arm of the car park barrier that unremittingly goes about its business rising and descending allowing yet more ghosts of a pre atomic era a moments servitude. Beside the barrier stands the attendant’s booth, miraculously neither of the two have been affected by the blast and subsequent wave of radioactive pulverising hell that has so efficiently dealt with this area of the capital. Coming from inside the booth is the unmistakable cackle of static. How this could be occurring in a land where electric power is effectively a thing of the past was quite baffling. But there it is. And that’s not all.
From behind the static a voice continues to rally. Quirky, happy and eccentric. A stupendous contrast to the gargantuan amphitheatre of annihilation that now serves as its audience. This voice must have an origin. As the old blueprints would have informed, the BBC canteen was in the basement of the building beside the unused and somewhat prehistoric Studio 2. The foundations to the structure itself surrounded these two cellar-like constructions and, it would seem, also provided a degree of protection in the circumstance of an extinction level event. Below both of these subterranean rooms was another space. Not really a room as such, as there was nothing else within the confines of its walls other than mechanisms, motors, circuits and pipes. Lots of pipes. In fact to the untrained eye, pipeage was the protagonist in this room. One cannot underestimate the value of this particular small square box filled with heat, pipes and electricity. This box had saved a life, the life that belonged to that lonely voice within the static.
This was the emergency back up generator for, not the BBC’s headquarters as one might expect, but for the building that existed on the site beforehand, a rather dank and miserable post second world war bingo hall. Long forgotten as the Beeb celebrated its success throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, the generator continued to run on low power providing the necessary juice for absolutely nothing, until now.
“Greetings fair listener” he prattled in his gentle Irish drawl, “It’s been a while in the making, but with the help of a Protect and Survive pamphlet that I picked up some years back from the not-so secret Nuclear Bunker in Kelveden Hatch, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of dos and don’ts that may keep us hardy few alive for a while longer. Or at least until all this silly radiation goes away.” Our erstwhile DJ, denying despair and doom at every juncture continued, “To be sure it’s a bracing Tuesday morning out there, I’m in fine fettle me self, let’s have some 70s Eurovision fun with Brotherhood of Man. Will you fine folk out there Save All Your Kisses For Me?” As his dust encrusted digits expertly faded his own laughter and segued beautifully into his chosen disc, the makeshift studio and adjacent food source in the form of a few fridges from the canteen, that had taken him the best part of a month to manipulate into living and working space, lurched and groaned under the colossal weight of the broken building above. He grinned inanely, oblivious to everything except the execution of his next witty comment.
The source of the voice was a sorry sight with much in common with the desperados above ground. He had shut out the reality of post apocalyptic Britain and immersed himself in his old routine. For in Studio 2, using ancient and heavily traumatised equipment powered by a generator that had hibernated for the last 70 years, and surviving on a diet of Ginster’s Pasties, Cadbury’s Cream Eggs and Dandelion and Burdock from the old canteen next door, the man who had come to personify the institution known as the BBC had actually survived the holocaust. Could it be that veteran broadcaster and flagship for Auntie Beeb, Terry Wogan, was one of the last human beings alive?