THE 80s are back in vogue at the moment. As the General Election approaches, Labour has accused the Tories of wanting to drag the country back to that decade.
They’ve illustrated the point with a poster of David Cameron sat on the bonnet of an Audi Quattro.
Apparently this is a reference to a fictional character by the name of Gene Hunt, a detective in a TV programme called Ashes to Ashes.
I understand this show is very popular at the moment as it takes nostalgic viewers back to the glorious 1980s.
I don’t watch TV programmes that aren’t about politics or football so you’ll pardon me if I seem on shaky ground here.
In any case, the point stands. The 80s are back.
But if you want to get a real throwback to those long gone days, I have some advice. Don’t sit there watching Dynasty repeats or sewing shoulder pads onto your jackets, get yourself up to York.
Because in that fine city you can walk around a proper concrete reminder of the way things used to be. I’m talking about the York Cold War Bunker, a fascinating monument to the days of four-minute warnings and nuclear winters.
My girlfriend Jenny and I went there a few weeks ago to take a tour around what is now an English Heritage site.
The first thing that strikes you about the bunker is its strange location. You think of a bunker as being either deep underground or way out in the middle of nowhere. But the York bunker is mostly above ground and is sited on a residential street about a mile from the city centre.
The bunker was in operation from 1961 to 1991 as one of a series of regional monitoring stations which would be used in the event of the Soviet Union pressing the big red button.
The idea was that when the Big One – or Big Ones – dropped, the stations would check the exact location of the bombs and the extent of the fallout.
Armed with this information, Whitehall officials – safely buried in some other bunker – would then direct food and medical supplies to the most needy areas.
Civilian volunteers from the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) spent an evening a week in the bunker in York doing training exercises to make sure everything was in good working order in case of a special delivery from Moscow.
The ROC kept 120 men and women on-call in the York area, though the bunker could only hold half that number. The plan was that, when the big day came, the volunteers would be summoned to the bunker and a strict first-come-first-served policy would swing into action. The 61st person to report for duty would literally have the door slammed in their face.
Once inside, the lucky 60 people would have enough food and water to survive for a month before having to venture out.
Strolling round the bunker, it struck me that cabin fever would have set in pretty quickly.
At any one time a third of the people would be working, a third off-duty and a third asleep. There were only 20 beds in the bunker, forcing the volunteers to adopt a ‘hot bedding’ system. The only recreation space for the 20 people off-duty but not in bed was a small training room that looked like a rather dull office canteen.
Spending a month in the bunker would not have been pleasant, though it would have been a damn sight nicer than four weeks outside.
English Heritage runs hour-long tours of the bunker, including a look around the control room which is a must for any fans of 80s technology and interior decorating.
It’s well worth heading up there for a glimpse into a time which seems a world away now.
It’s strange to think that only 25 years ago Britain lived under threat of annihilation from the Soviet Union. The modest bunker in York was part of a national network designed to ensure that something of Britain would survive a nuclear war.
I am old enough to remember the Cold War but, walking around that bunker, those days seemed more than a lifetime away.
Perhaps it’s good to reflect how quickly times change, how swiftly justified fear can become harmless nostalgia.
Maybe one day there will be a War on Terror Museum where you can look at old airport security devices and chuckle as you recall how you used to queue up for the metal detectors, anxiously holding your belt and shoes.
Stranger things have happened.