Archive for July, 2019|Monthly archive page

Moon Shots

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission resonated strongly for me. I consider Neil Armstrong’s foot touching the moon one of the two most significant events of the 20th century. The other is the explosion of the atom bomb in Hiroshima.

I watched the moon in our back garden on the eve of Blast Off + Half-a-Century – it looked full, technically one night off I think. It was slightly yellow, the surface patterns visible from the suburbs of N2.

the moon london 15th July 2019

The moon, a eucalyptus and our garden shed

During the night I caught a bit of a BBC World Service podcast on Radio 5 – in the morning I started listening to the 11-part series, 13 Minutes to the Moon, presented by Kevin Fong.

But only in London, before the day was out, would you by chance cross paths with not only an Eagle lunar landing craft, but also a Saturn 5 landing capsule.

neil armstrong portrait photograph NASA

At 09.32 on 16th July, the time of Apollo 11 lift off, I published a photo of Neil Armstrong from the Wall of Honour in our downstairs loo. It is a signed photo, the smudged signature proving it is an actual individually signed document. The smudge was made by Mark Reynolds’ auntie in Leeds who thought it was a printed moniker so wet her finger and wiped it through in 1969. She was wrong. Mark Reynolds was my trusty editor in the 80s. We made a documentary together about the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman. I swopped the photo Mark wrote away for in his childhood for a signed Damned single from Loppylugs in Edgware. One of my better deals. I’m reflected in the moon in the photo of the photo.

In the evening I went to a screening by Netflix of the documentary The Great Hack about Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica outrage, coming out on 24th July on a data-driven, aspiring monopoly digital platform near you. It was an interesting evening which included taking a leak next to the CFO of Cambridge Analytica and bumping in to an old college contemporary of mine, Chris Steele, author of the notorious Trump-Russia dossier. A chat with Riz Ahmed. Sitting in front of Brittany Kaiser, the protagonist of the film.

But the highlight of the evening – in the Dana Centre of the Science Museum – was walking out past the lunar lander on the left, covered in the crinkly gold foil mentioned in Episode 1 of the podcast, and the re-entry capsule on the right. Not something that remotely crossed my mind as I enjoyed that first episode some ten hours before and ten miles away.

The replica Apollo Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), in the London Science Museum.

Apollo Lunar Excursion Module (LEM)

Apollo 10 Command Module | Science Museum

Apollo 10 Command Module

On the tube home from South Kensington I was sitting chatting to Dr Kevin Fong’s agent – Kevin had been at the Netflix screening unbeknownst to me.

When I walked up my street on the way back home I looked up and caught the moon, now fully full, between two suburban rooftops and the disc was halved by the shadow of an eclipse. Wondrous.

As I write this it is Day 3 of the mission. Little Dot Studios where I have been working the last couple of years has brilliantly produced a marathon 6-day live broadcast on the notorious Facebook and the dubious YouTube bringing us the transmissions from Apollo 11 and Mission Control from NASA’s archive, courtesy of my previous employer, Channel 4. Moon Landing Live. (I proposed this programme in 2014 when I was still at C4, a bit ahead of the curve.) If you shoot for the stars, you may hit the moon.

 

Coincidences quote

Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.

 

I’ve seen this quotation attributed to both Albert Einstein and Doris Lessing (the former seems to have the consensus). It links to my vague sense of being a Pantheist.

The last two weeks there’s been a Colombia thing going on in my life. It is not a country I have much personal connection with nor any experience of.

columbia wharf london river thames

columbia wharf horn stairs 1937

1937

As I was travelling along the Thames yesterday morning on the way to Ravensbourne university/media school to do some work on their MDes course, a postgrad masters programme which is kind of an MBA through the lens of Design, I passed Columbia Wharf, some way east out of the centre of town, on the south bank. This reminded me of, among several other manifestations over the last few days:

  • a documentary I am working on set on Tierra Bomba, a small island off of Cartagena
  • another documentary I have in the cutting room about Colombian BMXers
  • meeting a charming producer (in Waterloo a few days ago) from San Andrés, a small English-speaking island which belongs to Colombia but is much nearer Nicaragua – it was the stronghold of Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan, who was a thorn in the side of the Spanish and regularly ransacked Cartagena
  • several more minor sightings of Colombia and Colombian in shops and other places
Captain Henry Morgan

Captain Henry Morgan

colombian skull

Update 5/8/19:

model boat columbia

  • a model boat beside me at breakfast this morning in my hotel in St Ives, Cornwall is called Columbia
  • I turned on the TV in this hotel room the night before last and ‘Long Lost Families’ was on (one of my favourites) – the first story was about a UK woman being reunited with her birth parents in Colombia
  • the Tour de France finished a couple of days ago – the winner, the first non-UK one for a few years, was a young Colombian, Egan Bernal
  • I was at a play a few days ago, ‘Sweat’ by Lynn Nottage – it has a line where a man, Oscar, is assumed to be a Puertorican and he retorts: “Well, I’m a Colombian and I don’t know” (the question was do you know a fellow Puertorican who could burn my house down)

See also: 4 Pantheist Quotations including two more from Einstein

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