Archive for July 1st, 2009

Crude Britannia – the first drop

Really enjoying Crude Britannia: The search for North Sea Oil on BBC Four at the moment. It’s an amazing story and the choice of North Easter James Bolam for the narration is excellent. Which leads me to this little factoid…

BP Oil from 1975

Once thought the answer to all our needs

When travelling round Britain last year I stayed in a small rented cottage in the West Midlands. In a cupboard was a BP paper weight from 1975 containing a drop of the first extracted North Sea Oil.  According to Crude Britannia BP was the first of the companies to find natural gas, but came late to the oil game behind Shell. Still, they some how managed to strike oil first and get it back to shore through a 100 miles of pipe sometime in 1975.

The paperweight I held in my hand, according to the people I rented the cottage from, came to them via a friend of a friend who was high up in BP, and was produced as a commemorative edition. Remarkable to think that this tiny drop of fermented prehistoric plankton came out of the ground the year I was born.

But back to the programme. Also impressive was the designing of the drilling rigs, which were built in newly constructed ship yards in the wild north of Scotland. Built on its side the rig was still 200 foot in the air, and must have stood out a mile against the landscape. (which reminded me of this a bit).

Anyway, like a single subject episode of the Rock and Roll Years we barrelled through Ted Heath’s Government and Tony Benn’s attempt to claw some of the money back for the UK taxpayer, through the winter of discontent and the three day week, to arrive at the 1980s. The accompanying music to all this stock footage changed from prog rock to New Wave and suddenly there was Thatcher in a hard hat.

What came next was the standard 80s montage, culminating in this bloke drinking Rolling Rock and with a wodge of 20s in his shirt pocket. The clip has become a symbol of the 80s, and has been used across loads of programmes as a definition of the excesses of the period. I just wonder who he is? Does anyone know?

Yuppie Generic

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
July 2009
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