Happy Chinese New Year!

The year of the Ox in Chinese astrology commences today.

To be precise it’s the year of the Metal Ox.

And according to the Astrology Answers website, the year of the metal ox “will present its own challenges but just like the Ox itself, it will be a year of hard work, determination and building – or rather, rebuilding. After the chaotic moments of the Rat year, the Ox year will be about rebuilding things to make way for something better.”

Well that’s re-assuring, isn’t it?

After the global vicissitudes of 2020 and the Year of the Rat, it looks like the predictions are for improvements to our lives. Does that mean that the immunization programme in the UK will have great success and that it will be replicated all around the globe? Or will the Covid virus just tire itself out, stop replicating and mutating and leave us to get on with our lives and our apparent determination to destroy the planet!

You probably know that Chinese astrology works in twelve year cycles which prompted me to wonder what were the big events of previous Ox Years. I looked at the On This Day website and picked out the stand out event for me in each Year of the Ox.

2009

Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the US of A becoming the United States’ first African-American president.

For me, this was the same sort of moment as remembering where you were and what you were doing when the reports came through of the Kennedy assassination. I can remember the Obama inauguration so clearly. It was such a moving ceremony and at the time felt as though so much of the past in US history was healed. What a naïve view that was, I now realise. Recent events around the 2020 election have shown a society that is split down the middle. Just like the UK over Brexit, I guess.

Aretha Franklin sang “America, (My Country Tis of Thee) to the massive crowds gathered for Obama’s big day. She wore a bold statement hat which now seems quite discreet compared to Lady Gaga’s recent outfit; and she belted out the song. Hugely emotional and inspiring.

1997

Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in a road tunnel in Paris.

I remember just getting up on a Sunday morning in August and the morning News started to report the tragedy. News readers were actually weeping. And as each day passed it became worse. The total failure of the British monarchy to understand the feelings of we subjects was jaw-droppingly insensitive. And the sight of those two young boys made to walk through the streets of London behind their mother’s coffin was excruciatingly sad.

Elton John sang “Candle in the Wind” at Diana’s funeral with some adaptations to the words. Maybe now it seems a little sentimental but at the time it encapsulated the moment.

1985

South African President P. W. Botha offers to free Nelson Mandela.

The campaign to free Nelson Mandela from his incarceration in a South African jail inspired a truly amazing song. It was a protest against the imprisonment of Mandela by the apartheid South African regime.

Written by British musician Jerry Dammers, and performed by The Specials, the single “Nelson Mandela”/”Break Down The Door” peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart and was immensely popular.

Unusual amongst protest songs, the track is upbeat and celebratory, drawing on musical influences from South Africa and I guess it’s one of the most successful campaigning songs of all time.

1973

US President Richard Nixon announces a decision to end the Vietnam War.

The war in Vietnam dominated my student days with increasingly violent protests hitting the headlines regularly. What shocks me now is that the war actually started in 1955 only a decade after the end of World War 2.

The stand out song from the era is the 1964 “Eve of Destruction” by PF Sloan and recorded by Barry McGuire the following year.

“You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin'” refers to the United States law requiring registration for the draft at age 18, while the minimum voting age (in all but four states) was 21, until a Constitutional amendment changed it to 18 in July 1971.

“If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away” is referring to the threat of a nuclear war at any moment, and the damage that this would cause.

“You may leave here for four days in space, but when you return it’s the same old place” refers to the June 1965 mission of Gemini 4, which lasted just over four days. And the lyric “The pounding of the drums, the pride and disgrace” refers to the November 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination and his funeral, which featured muffled drumming as the casket was slowly taken to Arlington National Cemetery.

1961

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first person to orbit Earth (Vostok 1)

At the time, every little boy wanted to be Yuri Gagarin.

Like most other little girls in those days, I didn’t.

But now, courtesy of Wikipdia, I find that the first human to go into space had a rather fascinating life.

Born in the village of Klushino near Gzhatsk (a town later renamed after him), in his youth Gagarin was a foundryman at a steel plant in Lyubertsy.

He later joined the Soviet Air Forces as a pilot and was stationed at the Luostari Air Base, near the Norwegian border, before his selection for the Soviet space programme with five other cosmonauts.

Following his spaceflight, Gagarin became deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre, which was later named after him. He was also elected as a deputy of the Soviet of the Union in 1962 and then to the Soviet of Nationalities, respectively the lower and upper chambers of the Supreme Soviet.

Vostok 1 was Gagarin’s only spaceflight but he served as the backup crew to the Soyuz 1 mission, which ended in a fatal crash, killing his friend and fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov.

Fearing for his life, Soviet officials permanently banned Gagarin from further spaceflights.

After completing training at the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy on 17 February 1968, he was allowed to fly regular aircraft.

Gagarin died five weeks later when the MiG-15 training jet he was piloting with his flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin crashed near the town of Kirzhach.

I loved David Bowie’s 1969 “Space Oddity”.

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills
and put your helmet on

Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown,
engines on
Check ignition
and may God’s love be with you……

1949

My mum and dad got engaged and were married a year later. And very soon after there was the patter of tiny footsteps.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Yes, I know I’ve wandered a long way from the point but that’s what you can do in blogs.

As I said at the start, A Happy Chinese New Year!

Photo credit: Image from Pixabay

By Catherine Murray

I'm trying to write a blogpost every day, hence 3sixtyfive blog.