The ramshackle buildings of the school my sister & I attended in the 60s, in Bushy Park, Greater London [in transit to which, we passed by Hampton Court Palace], had served as Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II, where Ike & the Yanks hammered Gen. Sir Frederick E. Morgan’s plan, “Operation Overlord,” into a viable strategy for the invasion of Europe. The Kindergarten classroom had been the erstwhile “Eisenhower Room.”
By March 1961, JFK had succeeded Ike as President, and inherited from him the never-viable plan, “Operation Pluto,” for a CIA-caper [the invasion of Cuba by anti-Castro counter-revolutionaries], known since its spectacular failure as “The Bay of Pigs.” Two days before the debacle, Radio Moscow, in an English language broadcast aimed at listeners in the UK, had predicted such an “adventure” [and its failure]. So too, it turns out, had the British Ambassador to the US, warning that UK intelligence sources advised that the Cuban populace were overwhelmingly pro-Castro; and they were likely to meet an intrusion onto their soil with hostility, not joy & gratitude. Nobody @ the CIA passed his message along to JFK, though.
We & our Bushy Park classmates [most of whose parents worked in or for the US military in London] were humiliated at our nation’s fiasco, and terrified by Moscow’s predicted anti-NATO ballistic retaliation [since the UK was likely to be their proxy whipping-boy]. Almost to a child, we became Nihilists, refusing to do our homework, since “What’s the point? We’re all going to be blown to smithereens by the Russians, anyway.”
So our beloved teachers, most of whom had been through the London Blitz about 20 years earlier, gathered us together and shared their experiences of Back in the Day, when actual bombs were actually falling [not just maybe, mind], every night, sometimes on friends & family, before the Yanks condescended to become Allies. “Of course we all thought about giving up,” they said. “How trivial & pointless homework seemed, when London was burning every night. But, if we hadn’t just kept on doing it, we wouldn’t have been able to go on to University and become your teachers, now would we? And where would you be then, eh?”
Concrete, but compelling role-modelling, is what they offered us. Not any of your “Not to worry. Everything is going to turn out fine.” Just the Existential question, “What if we don’t all get blown to smithereens? Maybe it would be best to have done your homework, JUST IN CASE (of survival).
So we pulled ourselves together and did our homework.
Zanzibar is sitting in a Flight Bag [also known as a Chart Case], which pilots always carry with them, even to this day, so that if their more sophisticated methods of navigation “go down,” they can still figure out where to land safely. Just in case.