On clear nights, whenever I have the chance, I like to look at the sky. At stars whose names I know not, the Southern Cross whose location continues to perplex, at planets whose orbits remain a mystery to me. To look with thrilling hope I may spot a shooting star or, and for this I have an app, the space station blinking as it chases through the blackness. The disorder of the night sky with its clumps of what I suppose are galaxies seems to mirror the state of my mind, even though I know there is a beautiful symmetry to it all, a mathematical code so simple it has eluded us for centuries.
When the moon is bright and full, or nearly so, I reflect on those who have travelled there, walked the surface, left mementos of home. Yet the one I think of most is the one who never landed there. I think in particular of Collins who, as his male companions cavorted for the first time on lunar soil [no woman’s ever been] was the loneliest person in the world as he flew round the dark side.
What’s it like to be truly alone? I was seven when Armstrong and Aldrin walked the Moon like it was a Sunday stroll. I remember being at school, herded to come and watch a TV that had been set up outside under cover on the warm concrete floor. I was transfixed, unable to look away even though others near were bored, fidgeting, being told to ‘shush’ by the teachers, some of whom, too, were impatient to return to their lunch. I though was drawn to the picture box with its doors opened wide, the first time a TV had been switched on at school, even though the pictures were like shadows.