Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon is far better known for the historic words he said when taking his first steps on the lunar landscape.
That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.
Actually, a dispute still rages about whether those words were pre-planned, or off the cuff and whether he said …’one small step for a man..’ or ‘one small step for man…’
To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me. I was born in 1969, a few months after Apollo 11’s moon landing. Once I asked my father, who had hoped for a boy in the way fathers do, what I would have been named if I had been a boy. He said, ‘Neil,’ and then, perhaps seeing my grimace added, ‘or Oscar.’
I had not really made the connection between the proposed name of Neil and the moon landing until seeing a BBC documentary about Neil Armstrong earlier this year. I wonder how many little boys were born in 1969 or 1970 and were named Neil? Plenty, I imagine. It’s a good name and the BBC documentary really gave a flavour of how big the moon landing was. How it gripped the psyche of a nation, of the world. Born, post moon landing the whole thing becomes like, yeah, whatever, man on the moon. Or even, man on the moon? No way, big conspiracy, I mean, what cast those shadows man? Back then in 1969 it was taken for an amazing feat of space exploration.
The quote from the title of this post is taken from a conversation Neil Armstrong had with his younger brother before the Apollo 11 moon mission. ‘How deep is the dust?’ was Neil Armstrong’s primary concern. As it turns out, I am not named Neil and I will never go to the moon, but every time I start working with a new group of people, exploring what goes on in people’s brains I get anxious. It’s because its entering the orbit of another’s thoughts, it’s the unknown and yes, I wonder, how deep is the dust…
I would not say it hangs, nor hovers; the former is too unpurposeful, the latter too predatory. Even when time seems completely still, as it appears out of the window this morning (is it morning?) it manages to pass anyway. How does it do that? Perhaps in the same unseen way I can stand quite still, silent, but my heart keeps beating; measuring out my unknown reckoning. I am still, but there is the counting down inside. One day, it will stop, the heart. For now, time is still, the heart beats some and I hear a new drop of rain fall. Or is it an old one?
On Christmas Night I opened the window of the back bedroom, fully. I looked at the Moon with the children and showed them Jupiter which was beyond bright, close to, at the Moon’s right hand. The clouds swirled around and over the pair, coming and going, creating that oil on water rainbow effect like a puddle at a petrol station. I thought about that book, The Moon’s a Balloon. *Robert Morley or *Derek Nimmo, some raconteur or wit at any rate. I’d never really understood the title before but it made sense looking out of the window with the children, watching Jupiter, and the Moon drift upwards in the clouds.
The window would not shut properly. In time, all the windows here will have to be replaced. Earlier on Christmas Day I had travelled past some fine windows that were once replaced: over twenty years ago, now. I knew the person that made the replacement frames. Those frames, the windows, have outlived their carpenter, by more than twenty years. Maybe that’s why some people have a Christian faith – to avoid that fate – the one of being outlived by inanimate objects. I can’t see it for myself, even if it is all wrapped up in a story about a carpenter called Jesus. One day I might change my mind about that, the greatest of all hedged bets. I hope not. In the meantime, perhaps I will outlive a balloon, at least.
*Turns out it was David Niven.
As I edited this I saw the odd phrase that would stand as evidence of the passage of time. One day modern people will laugh at the once prehistoric habits of filling our internal combustion conveyances with fossil fuels and Derek Nimmo will be, sadly, long forgotten…
The last time the moon was this close to the earth was eighteen years ago, at the beginning of Bill Clinton’s administration. Then, it was not even a full moon. I whizzed out tonight to witness the supermoon, in its full state (which it was not eighteen years ago) to see if I could fully appreciate its entity, plus tonight’s extra 14%. I could not exactly, but the illumination of the estuary mud was a sight worth seeing even if the camera could not quite pick it up.
It was pretty damn cold tonight too.
or the map is not the territory…
i.e. whatever we seek, the path we take is not it. Therefore religion is not spirituality and a philosophy is not enlightenment.
It’s amazing what a night in a Fortnum & Mason box can do for the blog’s meditative state.
Sometimes when I am too tired to read and too wired to sleep I listen to Radio 4 @ bedtime. I know I am getting older because I used to catch the last shipping forecast of the day in my twenties. Now I am lucky if I make to the Book at Bedtime at 10.45 p.m. Is it me or does Bill Nighy read them all?
Anyway last night I have a dreamy remembrance of the report about water being discovered on the Moon. There are a few snags with the discovery as Professor Jack Mustard told us (I don’t think I imagined his name, I have possibly invented his title). Snag 1: the water is in a solid state in the Moon’s matter and would need extracting – they may have explained how but I can’t remember. Snag 2: there is far too little of it in the matter for extraction to sustain some thirsty spacemen after a day’s hard yakka on the Moon.
He went on to explain that none of this mattered because the plan now would be to try and find more concentrated pockets of the stuff on or in the Moon. This might take 20 years “under the current funding arrangements”.
In a way I think, why waste our money? On the other hand, that is what humans are all about, isn’t it? Wondering stuff. Trying to find out the answers to questions. That’s why I am able to sit here typing into cyberspace!
If I had my way, I’d call in all those bank loans and finish off that zombie stock that people are STILL trading on, and send it to the space programme. Maybe then my children’s children could enjoy a swim in a pool on the Moon for their summer holidays.