Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
Somehow, I managed to spend a lovely afternoon, the sunniest and warmest so far this year, in a pub and walking on Hampstead Heath, discovering that the ideal accessory for someone who needs to meet other people is a ten-week-old toy poodle (not mine: my friends’).
I also finished a kind of autobiographical essay for the Postscripts magazine in which I’m the featured author. It’s called How Was The Future For You? and starts like this:
In July, 1969, it seemed to me that the road to the future was as straight as a monorail line, as predictable as an eclipse. Harold ‘white heat of technology’ Wilson was prime minister. The long years of austerity that had followed the Second World War were slipping into history; London was swinging like a pendulum do. The British prototype of Concorde frequently overflew my school, piloted by the inimitable Brian Trubshaw. Nuclear power promised unlimited electricity too cheap to be worth metering. A hovercraft service linked Dover and Calais. The first decimal coins were being struck in the Mint, replacements for the half crowns, florins, shillings, sixpences, thrupenny bits, and copper pennies, halfpennies and farthings of the l.s.d. system inherited from the Romans.
I was fourteen. I read science fiction to the exclusion of almost everything else, and watched every episode of Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Thunderbirds Are Go. I’d switched allegiance from the Victor, a comic that endlessly refought the First and Second World Wars, to TV 21, which promoted a future full of big machines and bigger explosions. My mind had been expanded by 2001: A Space Odyssey, which (setting aside the stuff about monoliths) laid out the game plan for the thirty years: shuttles owned by Pan-Am; wheel-shaped space stations in Earth orbit; giant Lunar cities; expeditions to the outer planets; brilliant, almost human computers; quietly competent scientist heroes. And now, July 16 1969, in the lunch hour of one of the last days of the summer term, I was sitting in warm sunshine on a grass bank of the school playground with several friends, listening to a transistor radio tuned to a live broadcast from Cape Kennedy, Florida, USA, the launch of Apollo 11. The future would never again be so hopeful, so full of promise.
But in the blue and sunny expanse of the sky which the Apollo astronauts left behind on their way to the Moon, a small cloud about the size of a man’s hand was beginning to drift towards the sun.