Archive for Christiania

Tanks for the Memory

Posted in Biographical with tags , , , , on March 3, 2012 by telescoper

I was walking into work yesterday morning, quietly minding my own business, but when I turned arrived at Queen Street I was suddenly confronted by a scary-looking armoured vehicle.

I’m not really up on this sort of thing, though there’s no doubt someone out there in internetshire who can tell me not only what kind of tank it is but what regiment it belongs to. Anyway, once I realised it wasn’t aiming its gun at me, I calmed down and figured it was probably taking part in some sort of display somewhere in Cardiff rather than heading towards the Senedd to participate in an imminent Coup D’Etat.

Tanks make me uncomfortable. A worse example than this happened when I used to live in Nottingham. Returning by train from somewhere or other I missed the connection at Derby and was stuck there late at night for the best part of an hour waiting for the next train home. As I sat there waiting there was a rumbling in the distance, and locomotive approached very slowly along the track pulling what must have been dozens of tanks perched on flat railway trucks. It was quite an impressive sight, but also a bit alarming. Where were they going? What were they up to? Is it really so unthinkable that one day vehicles like this will be used against civilians, as they have been in, say, the Middle East?

Although the thought of violent repression bothers me a little, it’s not the main reason why tanks make me nervous. Years ago – and I mean 20+ years ago – I was a long-term visitor in Copenhagen and during the course of my stay there was invited to a party in Christiania, a self-proclaimed autonomous region of the city. Things have probably changed a lot since then, but in those days it was quite a wild place and the drug-fuelled party I went to was definitely on the far side of out. Unbeknownst to me, someone spiked my drink with some sort of psychedelic substance (probably acid) and the subsequent trip was one of the worst experiences of my life. Terrified by grotesque hallucinations, I ran out of the house and was confronted in the street by dozens of (imaginary) tanks.

I woke up the next day under a bench in a public park, with no idea of where I was or how I’d got there. Presumably I had thought that the hiding place was so good that the tanks wouldn’t find me. Maybe one day they will…

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