I was four when Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins landed on the moon – and they landed on it; deal with it – and I had already shown a huge interest in the Space Race. My folks were fairly convinced that I would become some kind of engineer, following in my father’s footsteps and nurtured my interest, waking me for the televised landing. I’m forever grateful for that and can remember it like it was …well not yesterday. I remember it even though I was desperately fighting the urge to sleep.
The summer before starting school was spent in a large crate in the back garden with me pretending it was a lunar module and shouting “The Eagle has Landed” a lot…
School started and excitement simply didn’t diminish, so when November came round and there was another landing scheduled, I was out of my mind with excitement. I watched the second landing and rushed to school the next day to talk excitedly about how we would probably have day trips to Pluto by the end of Big School.
Monday mornings we did “News and Stories”, the non-Americanised version of “Show and Tell”. We’d draw a picture, take it to the teacher, tell her what it was; she would the write what you had said it was and you would copy it down as part of learning to write. You would then stand in front of the class at tell everyone what you had drawn.
So, naturally, having watched the moon landing . . .
You have to understand that at the time, the language of the space missions was not commonplace. Terms like “apollo” and “launching pad” were well known but anything deeper than that was only known by big grown ups and precocious four year olds.
I presented the teacher with drawing of the lunar module, on the moon with Conrad, Aldrin and Armstrong bouncing around outside – I know I was mixing the crews up, but dammit drawing this was important. She looked at it, screwed her nose up and said “What is it?”
Slightly crestfallen, but still bursting with pride at my masterpiece, I said “It’s a Lunar Module”.
She sighed. Look at it again, grimaced and said “You can’t just make things up! You can just make WORDS up!”
I protested and tried to explain that this was real, by but Miss Mitchell refused to believe me, tearing my picture up and sending me to sit in the cloakroom “until I could tell the truth”.
I never did become an engineer.
I became an artist and poet instead.
I doubt the two things are connected.