Tuesday 2 July 2019

Forgotten Dreams

Photo taken by Apollo 11 crew of the Moon surface with Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 landings marked
Unexplored Territory by Pipistrello
Photo Credit: NASA

The closest I have come to joining my name to Apollo comes from last year's archæological dig when the Lovely L and I picked over the leavings of a Sanctuary to Apollo in Greece (where has this year gone??). But I had never dreamed once that that would be the sum of it; I was sure I was destined for a Life in Space, p'rhaps as did we all of a certain vintage.

Regular reminders of Destination: Space! in the form of auction lots pass across my radar, including an opportunity this month to bid for a circa 1973 Sokul-KR spacesuit (never used!) and the greatest prize, a pocket watch designed in 1979 by Master Watchmaker George Daniels, Space Traveller I! Conceived at the height of Space-Fever, this magnificent sidereal & solar timepiece suitable for use by a Riche & Dandified Astronaut could be yours for around, ahem,  One Million Pounds. But it is most unlikely this shall end up in my hot little hands, admiring glances, notwithstanding.

Sotheby's 2019 catalogue photograph of George Daniels Space Traveller I pocket watch, 1982
George Daniels' Masterpiece
 Instructions Included!
Photo Credit: Sotheby's

Let me take you back, Dear Reader, to a time when everything seemed possible: My very earliest Career Advice came from my Mother. I have a strong recollection of her telling me that when I had grown up, people would be living on the moon. Yes, Optimism does run in the family! As I handed her pegs while she hung out washing on the trusty Hills Hoist in our backyard, she advised that I would need to Learn about Computers, as that would be key to one day becoming a Moon Dweller.

Black and white still photograph from the 1957 film, 'Desk Set'
Pointing the way to the Future

It all seemed extremely likely to a child of my era. While there were classics aplenty in the Pipistrello home, one of our three sets of encyclopædia was circa 1950s and dedicated to Science (and full of thrilling b&w photographs) and Science Fiction novels featured very strongly on our bookshelves (alongside some Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Drina Ballet books for more terrestrial adventures).

Publicity photo for 'Space 1999'
A day at the office on Moonbase Alpha,
Space: 1999's HQ

Our television diet was a well-balanced Futuristic Feast of Dr Who, Lost in Space, Star Trek, the über-chic Blake's Seven* and my favourites, UFO and its American spin-off Space: 1999, where we got to see what, exactly, Life on the Moon would entail and, more importantly, what we would wear. UFO's purple bobbed wigs accurately predicted the flattery they give when the youthful bloom has passed, but the head-to-toe beige for Moonbase Alpha's uniforms could, frankly, do with a colour lift as it's not what one would choose with an ageing complexion. And surely, the best ensembles were always reserved for the Aliens?

Photo still from Space 1999
Space: 1999 Aliens,
Futuristic Charlie's Angels

We were all prepped to go - eating with relish our NASA-approved Deb instant potato, Tang powdered orange juice and our Space Food Sticks (caramel for me, always) - and wearing our 100% synthetic fabrics in uni-sex styles, courtesy of a Mother whose wardrobe veered toward the necessary André Courrèges Futurism. We dabbled in weightlessness experiments by jumping off furniture and tested our mettle with lethal playground roundabouts (sadly, nausea would always be my Handicap in the Space Race), so all the trappings of our future home should be rather familiar once we'd arrived.

But the dreams of the 70s fizzled out, and Destination Space fell from grace. What happened? I think it was the Glamour falling to the wayside that did it for me. Dwindling Space Programme budgets made it apparent that it would be only a select few who'd continue as astronauts, and they'd only be shuttling about in low orbits for the foreseeable future. And the nearest to a Lunar Office Job would be as an engineer at NASA Mission Control. But as the lithe 70s figures generally gave way with time to a tad more Portly physique, the dashing uniforms I envisioned wearing have been replaced by a very sorry substitute. Cheap and shallow, I know, but these things do matter. But if Elon Musk had been around to push things along in the 80s, things might be different.

TV show UFO Moonbase Officers Uniforms
Dressing-for-Success UFO-Style
Or, what could have been for NASA Mission Control,
if waistlines had stayed in check

So to the pressing question: Did Pipistrello ever Learn about Computers? You may be surprised to learn that it's a Yes! to that. Pure Mathematics and Computer Science were indeed my areas of, ahem, expertise at University, but they led me to another path so I never got to rub shoulders with the likes of the next batch of be-uniformed astronauts destined for the International Space Station later this month, pictured posing in the Red Square in Moscow. Bon Voyage, boys!

ISS Expedition 60 crew at Red Square, photo credit NASA
Good luck, chaps! 
The latest International mix is American, Russian and Italian! 
Photo Credit: NASA

* Watching an old episode of the ever-amusing Toast of London a couple of weeks ago, I immediately recognised Paul Darrow, a.k.a. Avon! Sadly and strangely coincidentally, it was very near to the day I believe he died.

Avon Calling!


  1. I vaguely recall as a wee lad watching Neil Armstrong take one huge leap for mankind whose 50th Anniversary is a couple weeks away. My boyhood dreams consisted of being the next Mark Spitz followed by similar disappointment on dry land.
    A man who precedes you at Univ of Sydney by several decades has recently become one of my favorite people. His health has reportedly been in steep decline for years but thankfully he still lingers even though I have scant hope of ever meeting him. I've listened to 3 of Clive James audiobooks (Cultural Amnesia, Latest Readings, Northface of Soho) 2 of which he himself narrates and love hearing him tell of his love of literature, movies, and the interesting life he carved out for himself. I've even had a dream of meeting him at Hugh's Bookstall in Cambridge where even recently he'd venture every week and lug back an armload of little darlings he couldn't bear leaving without. His high praise has prompted most of my recent and future reading lists.

    1. To follow in the footsteps of Mark Spitz would have taken hours of dedication, GSL, not to mention selfless parents to do the pre-dawn shuttle to and fro a pool, but if you can at least splash out a few laps you've got yourself an invaluable life skill!

      Clive James is quite the National Treasure and we had a copy of "Unreliable Memoirs" at home when it was first published. He's a wonderful raconteur and very listenable in the audiobook department. So glad you've made his acquaintance! But I suspect, like you, that our paths will never cross, sadly, as he'd make a Brilliant Friend.

  2. I had this crazy idea when I was young that I wanted to be an astronaut or astronomer. Sadly, it was just a childhood dream. I ended up becoming a pharmacist but have ended up working as a regulator in the pharmaceutical industry. A far cry from the moon. I had sent you an email about commenting. Did you get it?

    1. Hello Loree,

      Not so crazy, really! A common dream, I imagine. I do own a Dobsonian 8" telescope from our days living near the sea but it doesn't really get a whirl as the best nights for stargazing are in winter, when it's too brrr!!! for summoning the will to stay out, plus the city skies are rather brightly lit here. I imagine there are plenty of clear skies for stargazing on Malta, and if you don't have already, do get a telescope. Fun for the whole family! It would make for a relaxing break from the pharmaceutical industry, haha!

      Thank you for your email, and the reminder to check, and I'm going to rejig the comments again today and see if it gets sorted.

  3. Too. Much. Fun. (You know I love a musing on the careers that never were...)

    Love the Desk Set still!


    HIP HIP HOORAY!!!!!!!!!

    This brought so many MEMORIES back to me!YES, I can recall MY Mother saying too ONE DAY WE WILL BE LIVING ON THE MOON!I can remember the MOON LANDING as well and my FATHER taking me to a window to LOOK AT THE MOON!I of course wanted to see THOSE BOYS WALKING ON IT with my OWN EYES!
    Same thing happened at Buckingham Palace!Why wasn't THE QUEEN in the window waving at ME!WE SHARE THE SAME NAME!!!!

    Greece seems like yesterday to me!I'm eyeing a couple of KAFTANS from CYPRESS!!
    Google YUMELIVING and see what comes up!
    Of course I will need an under garment if NOT LEGGINGS etc as the slits are SUPER HIGH!

    NOW off to see if MY COMMENTS TAKES BELLA!

  5. Get thee to the Future, D.A.! And the fashions for the Computer Room, as it used to be so quaintly called, are right up my alley these days. Funny how in the abandonment of all hope of ever being flung into space, I've found solace in the fashions from earlier times, when all things still seemed possible, haha!

    Bienvenuta, Contessa! Those trying days of radio silence are hopefully over for you, but my replies now have to come in a different format, so doesn't look as Conversational on the page. Oh well, swings and roundabouts...Glad your Mother had the same optimistic outlook about Progress as mine did. It's always good to have a parent who hopes for Beyond Exciting Times for their children's lives and can give a subtle nudge in the right direction....Sorry to hear your brush with ERII didn't happen. You can see her every day if you subscribe to the blog Royal Hats! You asked recently if there were any Fashion Blogs to follow and that's my Tip the Day!!...Another source for caftans? Cyprus? Your Shopping Worlde is truly global!! Baci xx

  6. I am WAY more shallow than you, Pipistrello, because, having admired the beautiful watch, the next image with Katherine Hepburn reminded me of the fabulous dresses that she wore in that film; big skirts, little waist, LOTS of attitude. After that I couldn't concentrate on moon missions!

  7. Ho, Rosemary, shallowness is to be encouraged around these parts! My posts are picture-heavy for just this reason. Don't forget the shoes! In that fetching still, isn't there just the right amount of leg showing? The proportions are perfect - something that seems also to have fallen by the wayside in this modern era.

  8. I remember watching the moon landing on a small television in black and white and visiting Kennedy Space Centre and remember watching the Challenger mission live on TV that burst into flames and all seven astronauts perished. Space travel really wasn’t my thing although I probably wore similar to that short silver dress !!!! ..... would consider the watch if it was a bit cheaper ..... a whole lot cheaper !! XXXX

  9. I could well imagine the silver ensemble on you, Jackie! And did you wear silver lippie to match? I used to love seeing my Mother in that futuristic shade!!...And the expectations of that watch's sale price are truly out of this world, hahaha!! (couldn't resist). XX

    ps: Yes, the Challenger tragedy was a sobering coda to this all and has really put the brakes on all cavalier advances in our astral future.

  10. Via email:

    Dear Pipstrella,

    Loved this post for EVERY reason... the nostalgia of that time and place when it all actually seemed possible...living on the moon, flying through space with all amenities and high fashion... if you could dream it, there was a sense that it could happen. I hope you saw the movie Hidden Figures... should have won the Oscar for Best Picture and been incorporated in US school curriculum as required viewing. I am a strong proponent of STEM, especially for girls, which has happily is now become STEAM in recognition that science, technology, engineering and math also need--must have-- the arts.

    Still swooning over the Space Traveller pocket watch...it is so magnificent. I'm currently working on a sequel to my first children's book. This story will take the four teenagers and two birds through wormholes into interstellar space to the Orion Nebula, where there is an earth-like exoplanet called Orpheous. The title is, The Argonauts~ A Quantum Leap. The idea of a pocket watch that syncs to earth's time and date for the characters to reference has been flitting though my mind, and upon spying this beauty, I knew it was perfect. Merci!!

    Your writing is simply elegant and a delight to read!

    D.A. Squires

  11. Dear D.A. Squires,

    Thank you for your very kind words of appreciation! I apologise for not seeing this sooner as I forget to look out for the occasional email. I shall be copying this over to the blog forthwith, and resolving to make a new habit for myself.

    I've not seen Hidden Figures yet but I love the idea it's being promoted in schools. STEM and even STEAM is slipping away from emphasis in our schools in Australia - there exists a crisis in education for the moment but hopefully we've hit the nadir and the pendulum starts to swing the other way. It's not rocket science, after all!!! Couldn't help that!...

    Very happy to have inspired a prop for your next book, which sounds fanastic, by the way!!

    Well done, you, for picking up that Pipistrello is indeed a masculine moniker, and should really be the feminine form. No-one has yet bat an eye (haha) about the incongruity. Pipistrello is, however, a pet name my Italian-heritaged husband gave me a long time ago, despite him actually knowing how the genders do work, so it stuck.

    Thank you, again, for reading!


Thank you for commenting, it is greatly appreciated.

It can be a challenge to persist in the matching up of street signs and other exciting pastimes this comment feature may send your way, so if it gets too annoying, feel free to email your comment to me at pipistrello (at) flyingwithhands (dot) com and I'll post it for you.

Bats In The Belfry