One small doorstep delivery
I do not remember where I was when JFK was shot, but I do remember where I was when his pledge to put a man on the Moon ‘in this decade’ was fulfilled. I was in the lounge of a customer of my father.
My father was a self-employed milkman and my helping with his deliveries was almost as rare as flights to the Moon, but for some reason the Apollo 11 landing jettisoned my lethargy, and that morning I was the crewmate in his Morris Minor excursion module.
When my father was born the Wright brothers had not undertaken the world’s first powered flight. By the time he died twelve pairs of human feet had walked on the Moon. He was understandably impressed when on 20th July 1969 Armstrong and Aldrin made out-of-this-world history. It was six hours later at 02:56 GMT on 21st July that the first human footprints were imprinted on the surface of our silver-white satellite.
It was the first time that British Television had transmitted right through the night, with both the BBC and ITV staying on air continuously for 11 hours until 10.30am on Monday 21st. I’m sure I must have switched our television on as soon as a I got up, but I don’t remember that. What I do remember is sitting in the living room of one of my father’s customers and listening to the old man who lived there echoing my father’s incredulity, whilst watching the grainy black and white images kangaroo across the screen.
Being two months shy of my thirteenth birthday, and obsessed with all things aeronautical, the earth-shattering achievements of pilots who became astronauts and fell to moon was a gravity-shedding boost to my fascination. That premier lunar landing has frequently revisited my consciousness, always brandishing a comet tail of genuine stardom.
Fifty years on the boy is over the moon to have a few words included in a celestial collection of poems inspired by the heavenly milk face that has delivered inspiration, awe, and reassurance every night – which is, of course, all of every day.
Pale Fire is a collection of works by over fifty poets, expertly collated and edited by Alexandra Loske, ethereally illustrated by Fergus Hare, and published by The Frogmore Press. My contribution is a mere puff of thought from tiny attitude thruster, so I feel weightless enough to offer a status report on the mothership.
This anthology, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing, is a glistening compendium in a capsule to remind us of just how influential our only natural satellite has been. We tend to forget its regulatory pull, not only on our oceans, but on all our substance, including our own body mass. Just as influential is its tug on our imaginations and emotions. Pale Fire encapsulates that and re-inspires by association.
There are foxy moon walks, birds, bats, lovers, cutting crickets, clichés and moon police. Gods, phantoms, prophets and astronauts assemble and disassemble. There are silent moons, blue moons, blood moons, rose moons, pearl moons and a writer’s moon that parabolas among many writers’ moons.
Here are mystical and meaningful musings the moon has illuminated. The moods it has pale-fired. The secrets it has unhid. Eclipses, lunacies, Clair de lune, a cut out moon, a broken moon, a supermoon and a chipped china moon.
Pale Fire is a companion that can be peered at time and time again. Dock with it and you will be enlightened in familiar yet unexpected ways and also experience enhanced gravity. You will find craters and mountain ranges you recognise while seeing them for the first time. You may feel weightless. You may wish to take samples away, or just stare back at our world from an unworldly perspective.
It is a milky way of literary discovery. This former dramaturg beamed extra wide on reading of Martin Malone’s productive moon that drops Fresnel / onto slate roof and Jessica Mookherjee’s pub crawlers who see the chemical plant’s lights jazz-handing them from across the bay.
The volume’s title is arrantly robbed from that most unmitigated poet pickpocket of Stratford-upon-moonlit-Avon. The moon’s an arrant thief, Shakespeare tells us. All of the nineteen words I added to this poetic payload were shamelessly stolen from the transcript of the radio communication between Mission Control and the Apollo 11 crew.
Links and acknowledgements
Pale Fire is to be officially launched at an event at Fitzroy House at 10 High Street Lewes, BN7 2AD East Sussex, on 9 June 2019 at 7.30pm
Pale Fire can be ordered directly from The Frogmore Press, 21 Mildmay Road, Lewes, BN7 1PJ . 96 pages, ISBN 9780957068889, £10 + £2 for postage and packaging in the UK, at cost to other destinations. Email orders to: Alexbythesea@hotmail.com
The book cover and all illustrations within are by Fergus Hare
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