Yes, really. I sat down and did the calculation a couple of weeks ago, being vaguely aware that it was around now. And fifty-four years (fourteen of them leap years), nine months and one day takes you from 26 April 1967 to 27 January 2022. In better times, I would have planned an unbirthday party for the evening; but local conditions don’t quite allow for it at the moment. So instead, I’ve looked back through my life at thousand day intervals.
1000 days: Tuesday 20 January 1970
I was two and three quarters, living in Belfast. The Troubles were going through a deceptive lull – the first violent deaths of the year in Northern Ireland would not be until June. The Biafrans had just lost the Nigerian civil war. The first commercial Boeing 747 took off the next day.
(Between episodes 3 and 4 of Spearhead from Space.)
2000 days: Monday 16 October 1972
I was five and a half, attending primary school. The Troubles were in full flow with four people killed by the British Army that day, two IRA, two Loyalists, and Maze prison inmates starting a fire which caused serious damage. Congressman Hale Boggs died in a plane crash in Alaska (at least that’s what we think; the wreckage was never found). The first episode of Emmerdale was broadcast.
3000 days: Sunday 13 July 1975
I was eight and a quarter. I remember being at my grandparents’ in Dublin later that week, watching the Apollo-Soyuz mission; possibly we were already there on the 13th, avoiding the Twelfth. Two people were killed in the Troubles that day, a Catholic teenager shot by the Army and a loyalist killed in in an internal feud. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) process was nearing an end, with the Helsinki Accords signed on 1 August.
4000 days: Saturday 8 April 1978
I was nearly eleven, in my last year at St Anne’s primary school. The IRA kidnapped and shot a Catholic man from Twinbrook that day; his body was not found until 2014. Star Wars had just won six Oscars, to four for Annie Hall. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was released the following day.
5000 days: Friday 2 January 1981
Weirdly enough, I remember actually working out that I was 5000 days old on that day. I was thirteen, still enjoying the Christmas holidays, in the third form at Rathmore Grammar School. We were in the lull between the two hunger strikes; the IRA killed a Castlewellan man the previous day. Jimmy Carter was preparing to hand over to Ronald Reagan. Greece had just joined the EEC.
(episode 1 of Warrior’s Gate was broadcast the next day)
6000 days: Thursday 29 September 1983
I was sixteen, in Lower Sixth at Rathmore, with a long-distance girlfriend in England. The previous weekend 38 prisoners escaped from the Maze Prison, the biggest prison break in UK or Irish history. Neil Kinnock was about to be elected leader of the UK Labour Party.
7000 days: Wednesday 25 June 1986
I was nineteen, working on an archaeology site near Heilbronn in Germany, still with the same long-distance girlfriend. That evening West Germany beat France and Argentina beat Belgium in the World Cup semi-finals (Argentina won the final on Sunday). I actually remember that we had a barbecue at work the next day, lots of roast meat and beer.
8000 days: Tuesday 21 March 1989
I was 21, single, preparing nervously for finals at Cambridge, and had just been elected Deputy President of the students union for the following year. The previous day, the IRA killed two policemen in south Armagh. Serbia was about to revoke Kosovo’s autonomy, as Communism crumbled across eastern Europe.
9000 days: Monday 16 December 1991
I was 24, living in Belfast again and working as a researcher on the project that became my PhD, long-distancing with Anne, my future wife. The following day a Belfast bar manager was killed by a leading INLA man who had been thrown out of his bar. The Soviet Union was formally dissolved on Christmas Day (though functionally it had collapsed months before).
10000 days: Sunday 11 September 1994
I was 27, had been married to Anne for almost a year, in the middle of my PhD; I actually had a 10000-day party that evening, having done the calculations in advance. We were in ceasefire time, with the IRA having announced theirs two weeks before, and the Loyalists preparing for theirs a month later. I was already active in the Alliance Party as the grandly titled Director of Elections.
11000 days: Saturday 7 June 1997
I was 30, working in Bosnia, nervously ready for the arrival of B a couple of weeks later – I think we already knew by the 7th that Anne (who had stayed in Belfast) would have a Caesarian on the 19th. The Irish general election was the previous day, with Bertie Ahern placed to start his eleven-year term as Taoiseach. The IRA ceasefire was reinstated the following month.
12000 days: Friday 3 March 2000
I was 32, working at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels; we were still getting to grips with B’s disability, and F was a happy seven months old. I think this was actually the weekend that I went to Hungary to meet with the Serbian opposition. My first visit to Kosovo was later that month. The Northern Ireland Assembly had been suspended again. George W. Bush and Al Gore clinched their respective presidential nominations the following Tuesday.
13000 days: Thursday 28 November 2002
I was 35, working for the International Crisis Group, expecting U’s arrival a few weeks later. We had just published a report on [North] Macedonia and NATO. Back in Northern Ireland, the Assembly had been suspended after Stormontgate the previous month, and did not come back for years.
14000 days: Wednesday 24 August 2005
I was 38, still working for the International Crisis Group, briefly at home between our holiday in Northern Ireland (including the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon) and a particularly fun trip to [North] Macedonia which started the following day. The USA was about to be hit by Hurricane Katrina. As part of the ongoing Northern Ireland choreography, the IRA had declared a permanent end to its campaign the previous month (which had also seen the 7/7 bombings in London).
15000 days: Tuesday 20 May 2008
I was 41, working with Independent Diplomat, just back from a trip to Montenegro and Albania, and reading lots of Doctor Who books. B had moved out a few months before, and into the place where she now lives the previous month. Bertie Ahern had just stepped down as Taoiseach, followed by Brian Cowen, and Ian Paisley was about to step down as First Minister of Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson had just been elected Mayor of London.
(Between The Unicorn and the Wasp and Silence in the Library)
16000 days: Monday 14 February 2011
I was 43, still working with Independent Diplomat, probably took the evening to celebrate Valentine’s Day with Anne. In Ireland, voters were preparing to give Fianna Fail a massive kicking, and across the Arab world governments were toppling.
17000 days: Sunday 10 November 2013
I was 46, at Novacon in Nottingham with F, having a damn good time. Still working with Independent Diplomat but actively looking. Preparing for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who two weeks later…
18000 days: Saturday 6 August 2016
I was 49, on holiday in Northern Ireland from my work at APCO Worldwide, where I had been working for almost two years. I have a note that I went to Tyrella Beach and Downpatrick that day. The Rio Olympics were about to start.
19000 days: Friday 3 May 2019
It was the week after my 52nd birthday, and I spent all day in the BBC TV studio in Belfast commenting on the results of the previous day’s local council elections.
20000 days: Thursday 27 January 2022
Here we are in the plague times. I’ve had a bit of a cold all week, so didn’t have energy for much more celebration than writing this – and as you can tell, I ran out of steam towards the end!
Anyway, if I make it to the second month after my 82nd birthday, you’re all welcome to help me celebrate 30,000 days on 14 June 2049.