There's a soap on BBC radio that I occasionally listen to; it's called Westway, and is set in a small medical practice somewhere in London. I well remember the very first episode: it involved the sudden and unexpected birth of a child, who was to be called Liam.

A few days ago, I was a little surprised to hear Liam talking. Someone said it was his birthday soon. Father Gillespie, the wise and charming Catholic priest, asked Liam how old he was going to be. I thought to myself: "Must be three or four by now." The real answer, proudly announced by the young man, was six.

Six? My goodness, but doesn't time fly? I still think of Westway as an innovation, but in fact it's been going now for nearly six years. Six years of extra-marital flings and other mainstays of the average soap opera. I was still in my twenties when the series started.

It's been a horrendously long time since the Berlin Wall came down on 9th November 1989. A quick calculation reveals that that was fourteen years ago. People who were born in that month are even now worrying about their future careers. It seems scarcely credible to those of us who were already adults in those days that today's university students have no memory of President Reagan’s famous "tear down this wall" speech.

As November in Germany rushes inexorably on through its depressing litany of special days — the Sunday of the Dead being just one example — towards the mayhem that is Christmas (is it just me, or was it only yesterday that we were complaining about the blistering heat?), it's worth remembering that not all news is bad news. But also, perhaps, we might consider that no matter what we do, history sweeps us ever onwards, bringing change both good and bad — and will continue to do so after we have gone. As Billy Joel once sang (sacrificing grammar for scansion):

We didn't start the fire,
It was always burning since the world’s been turning…
We didn't start the fire,
But when we are gone it will still burn on and on…
Andrew has his own website: Visit for articles on a wide range of subjects
By: Andrew Bossom, e-mail:, website:
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