I was born in September 1956 and quickly became part of the first generation in our country not to have to go and fight a war for somebody else, somewhere else, not unless you wanted to anyway, if you wanted to you always had the choice to volunteer, join the Army and go get yourself shot at for money, but for the rest of us children of the 50s we missed out on National Service or conscription and simply has a life of leisure to look forward to.
I was four years and seven months old when Yuri Gagarin clad himself in tin foil and sat on top of a very big rocket. launched himself sky wards and kept his fingers crossed that when his tin can fell back to earth 100 minutes later it might do so slowly and that he might hopefully survive.
Mrs Whiteman our first schoolmarm would have written on the blackboard our diary event for that day, each day she wrote a single line of news on the board for us to copy into our exercise books, usually something bland garnered from one of the other children in the class (I never volunteered any news for her) something like “Robert went on a ride at the fairground yesterday” but one morning in April 1961 she would have written “Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space yesterday” and we all looked at each other with puzzled faces all thinking the same thing “Yogi Bear, in space ?”
I was four years and eight months old when President JF Kennedy made his speech to announce the Apollo space program and how his country intended to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, Mrs Whiteman would have written on the blackboard “That nice Mr Kennedy is going to the moon, soon” and we kids would have looked at each other and smiled, ours was not only the first generation not to have to fight somebody else’s war, we were going to go to the moon.
I honestly thought that by the time I left school in the 1970s that I would probably be leaving a moon school and going to work in a moon factory or a moon office in a moon bus, my life would be one of ease on the moon, I wouldn’t have to cook for all food would be in tablet form, I wouldn’t have to worry about mundane things like laundry or even dressing myself for we would have moon robots to do all of that stuff for us, in fact my utopian existence in a workplace was hardly required at all for robots would perform all functions for us humans, even probably going to the toilet for us, “Robot, take a dump for me please, I’m feeling rather stuffed”, and our trusty robot butler would scurry off to the toilet on our behalf with a “Roger over and out” followed by some unsavoury robot straining noises and bad smells from the moon toilet.
See, even Steve Zodiac had a robot, Robert the Robot, they added “the robot” to his name just in case anyone forgot he was an actual robot and in many episodes of Fireball XL5 Robert the Robot can be seen heading off to the space toilet with a robotic “Roger over and out” and a cheery wave of his robot arm as he goes and takes a shit for Steve, seriously, this was on our kiddies TV every week, this of course being back in the day when kiddies TV was half an hour in length just before the 6 o clock news and usually consisted of a cartoon and some crappy quiz program with kids in school uniform answering questions in posh accents – Fireball XL5 was a breath of fresh air to us moon-kids, even the toilet scenes.
The sort of moon existence that I imagined for my teenage years was summarised perfectly by “Space Patrol”, a city under domes where men went to work in glass tubes and there was a glass tube to take you to any location, in fact to this day I just do not understand why the glass tube method of transportation was never adopted, why for instance should I not have a glass tube connected to my front door into which I can be transported to wherever I like, Asda for instance, my glass tube would join up with other glass tubes and all glass tubes would lead to Asda, unless you wanted to go somewhere else in which case there would be intercepting glass tubes to take you to, Sainburys for instance, or a glass tube to take you to Marks and Spencers, Waitrose would of course have their very own dedicated glass tube with their own name on the side to make you feel very special.
But alas none of this came to pass, by the time I left school in 1974 several men had indeed walked upon the moon but as yet there were no plans to allow me to do so, nor were there plans for robot butlers or for glass tube transportation, it just seemed that as a generation we had missed an opportunity and sadly we are no closer to achieving these aims then we ever were, more is the pity.
Instead we had to make do with David Bowie who as far as my father was concerned may well have been an alien and would certainly have been paid off if he’d ever played at Meanwood Con Club…