Saturday, 20 July 2019

The Moon is NOT a Balloon, Niven, You Div.

This is a post about the Apollo Eleven Moon Landing and my small, but significant connection to it.
Okay, cards on the table. I do not now, or at any time up to this point, have ever considered the actor David Niven to be a div. I thought it would be a thigh-slappingly hilarious heading for this post as it alludes directly to the title of his first book of memoirs The Moon's a Balloon. I bought my Coronet paperback copy in the mid-seventies and I have it still - along with the follow up,
Bring On the Empty Horses. The title is a quote from an e e cummings poem (my copy styles the poet as E. E. Cummings which is only right and proper, so well done Coronet). I just thought it would be funny to rail against a poetic metaphor. How wrong I was!
 When the late Barry Norman (I removed a plaster cast from his wife's leg, you know. Diana Norman, author and all round nice human being) was collecting material for his book, The Hollywood Greats, he could not find anybody to say a bad word against David Niven, which is probably a good mark by which to measure the man.
Why all this pre-amble? The Best Wife on the Planet thought the title of this piece was unkind to the actor, so it was beholden on me to set matters straight.
Blimey! It was only a joke!
Now then, my connection to the first Moon Landing. Both my parents were Dubliners and my dad was an engineer. He worked for English Electric in Luton before we all upped sticks and moved to Stevenage when English Electric became part of the British Aircraft Corporation. As a little boy I had absolutely no interest in engineering, despite being bought what must have been, a rathe expensive Meccano kit.
Enny whey. My parents split up in the mid-sixties and my dad went to work as an engineer in the New World. Canada, initially and ending up in California. In the very early seventies (I think 1970 or 1971) he came back to see me in Stevenage. This did not go down well with my mother, but she allowed him to take me to the London Planetarium and Madame Tussauds, next door. There was a life-size replica of the Lunar Module (the LM or LEM. Not Len, pay attention.) and my dad pointed out that one of the details on the leg was wrong. How did he know? Because, he had worked on it! I don't know in what capacity he worked on the first craft to land on the moon, but he wouldn't have just been a nut and bolt tightener. All I know is that he worked in the Tool Engineering Department of a NASA sub-contracted company.
Four months after the first men walked on the moon, my dad received a commemorative medallion to mark the event that took place fifty years ago today and I present the evidence below, m'lud.

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