In The Firstborn, British author Laurie LEE – famous for his autobiographical novel Cider with Rosie – wrote – about his newborn daughter Jessy:

Looking at those weaving hands and complicated ears, the fit of the skin round that delicate body, I can't indulge in the neurosis of imagining all this to be merely a receptacle for Strontium 90. The forces within her seem much too powerful to submit to a blanket death of that kind.

Try as I might, I cannot make sense of the phrase 'blanket death'… Is it a death that is slow in coming? a death that touches everyone? Does the phrase exist or did Lee use poetic licence?


Strontium 90 is a fission product produced by nuclear bombs. It is readily absorbed into bone marrow when ingested and can lead to bone cancers and leukaemia. Since strontium is chemically similar to calcium, it will be present in milk in significant quantities. The term "blanket death" is almost certainly an allusion to the global effects of an all-out nuclear war.

Wikepedia: Strontium-90

  • something like 'blanket bombing' meaning that no one is likely to get away unhurt? – user58319 Oct 23 '16 at 18:12
  • I had checked and understood the meaning of Strontium 90, but that still did not tell me whether 'blanket death' meant 'death you could not escape from' or 'slow death' or ? – user58319 Oct 23 '16 at 18:17
  • It will probably be both. If strontium 90 gets into the food chain, and it will, it will certainly be in breast milk and will hit infants hard. Anyone planning to have a child should lay in a stock of milk powder sufficient to wean it, but no government is going to tell the general public that. – Mick Oct 23 '16 at 18:47

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