In 1958, an episode of the BBC’s legendary Goon Show featured a trip to the moon by Seagoon, Bloodnok, Eccles et al. The somewhat unlikely vehicle for the trip was the Albert Memorial, Queen Victoria’s magnificently ornate tribute to her beloved consort – usefully pointy but probably not airworthy, let alone space-worthy. In 1958 the odds against a moon landing in the near future were probably several thousand to one. So did Professor Seagoon and the resourceful Major Bloodnok make it to the moon? I doubt it. In fact, when I checked it out last week, the Albert Memorial was still firmly anchored in its usual place in Hyde Park, opposite the Albert Hall. Spike Milligan, scriptwriter extraordinaire and main creator of the Goon Show was famously bipolar and reportedly, alcoholic. His flights of fancy were often beyond bizarre and took him to many strange worlds.
In 1958 I was a teenage space cadet and had already been to the moon many times, mostly to the dark side. My rocket fuel was a mixture – a spliff would give lift off, whisky for the long haul and a few pills for touchdown. It was pretty dark up there alright. That was where things were done differently; where nothing was real, where people were just faces, where actions were simply reactions, where the past was a crater-strewn plateau of failures and the future an opaque mountain range of anxiety. In such a country, the only currency is illusion – reality is just too painful to use. Indeed, what is the point of reality when you are not capable of taking sensible action? Better to stay in wonderland, in the Xanaduian dreams of the addict where anything is possible and nothing is do-able; where unrealistic thinking rules.
So what has changed since then? Well, a Saturn rocket twice the height of the Albert Memorial, put a real man on the moon in 1969 – a triumph of technology, project management and joined up thinking that Major Bloodnok no doubt appreciated. As for my own space travel, perhaps I have been learning what true reality is and how the earth-people deal with it; how to achieve my needs rather than my desires; how to dream, but make my dreams achievable; how to be responsible for my own life. For me today – I am still a traveller but perhaps more a star sailor than a space cadet – I can navigate and I have a destination. We are in a joined up universe but we live on earth.
In the words of the Goons again:
Seagoon (trying to explain gravity) to Eccles:
‘Jump in the air…… So, why did you come back down?’
‘Well, I live ‘ere’.
That’s the reality.