When I was growing up, my bedroom was in the loft of my parents house. I had to ascend a steel ladder, and If I so wished could shut a hinged trapdoor against the rest of the house. Hermetically sealed and Ten years old, I would read Arthur C Clarke novels and listen to Mike Oldfield albums. I would dream of space, and travelling in to space. I dreamt of flying cars and colonising the moon, and to this day I still carry a Players cigarette card depicting a ‘Moon Pod’ from the Race in to Space series. The early 90’s promised me what the poet Simon Armitage calls ‘clean cities and silver drinks’, and my adolescent eyes and imagination drank it in.
I am now 33 years old, and never venture in to the attic of my rented house because my tenancy agreement asks me not to. The Space Race is dead. The clean cities and silver drinks have not materialised, but I still listen to Mike Oldfield albums. In my imagination I still drive flying cars and inhabit glass spaceships. I also now listen to other people a great deal more than I did back then. Yesterday, I spoke to an older gentleman who told me that he stayed up all night to listen to Sputnik on the radio, and that he recalled his father staying up all night in the pub to watch the moon landings. I envied him. I only remember the shuttle Challenger blowing up, and one of the Mars landers falling in to a crater. I felt bereft and let down. That was yesterday.
Then this evening happened, and brought something wonderful with it. Cursing my internet service provider (the signal went down), I resorted to putting on the CBeebies channel for my son’s post-supper TV fix. There is always a bedtime story read at 7, usually by a TV presenter past their best or a minor celebrity probably in need of some cash. We have stopped watching. Yet tonight was different. Slumped on the sofa, I sat up, and held my son closer. The person reading the bedtime story was Tim Peake, recorded on the International Space Station. In space. Actual space. Floating, with cloud-shrouded Earth revolving beneath him, Tim read a story about a little boy dreaming of becoming an astronaut. My four year old son’s eyes were wide as dinner plates, and I felt 10 again. I could have wept for joy.
We live in a world suffused with dire reality TV bedroom ruttings and programmes that plumb the depths of boredom. Yet I saw something magical tonight. In his unassuming way, at the end of the story Mr Peake looked out of the TV screen and said to my son ‘Maybe you will go to bed and dream of becoming an astronaut’. For all of the lack of Interstellar flight and shiny beverages, I felt the wonder of space travel again, and I hope my son did, too. I hope that he really is dreaming of becoming an astronaut. I will be.
© Tom Tide 2016