A new era of space exploration is upon us, but it still sounds slightly bonkers to attest to one’s belief in aliens. Hollywood stories about “Little Green Men” and conspiracies about animal mutilations and what really happened at Area 51 have created something of a PR problem for life beyond Earth – and, while scientists discuss this question with fervour, mainstream debate is thin on the ground.
Witness the bafflement that greeted Helen Sharman, Britain’s first astronaut, at the weekend, when she proclaimed the existence of extra-terrestrials.
This cultural stigma is deeply unfair. Dr Sharman’s belief that aliens, invisible to the human eye, could already be living on Earth may sound outlandish,…
No nudging. No winking. No giggling at the back. And absolutely no jokes about needing to sharpen one’s pencil. This was the gist of the lecture given by our art master to his mixed GCSE group before our first life drawing class. Anyone seen to so much as snicker would be sent to the library in chalk-dusted shame.
When it came to the great kimono-dropping moment, he was more flustered than either we or the model were, fussing with the settings on the storage heater – no goose pimples, please – and stopping the gaps in the shutters with rags.
He needn’t have fretted. Even the jokiest, blokiest boys in the class were rapt and respectful. Every life class that year was marked by a hum of concentration….
In the quiet days after Christmas I had a email from an old friend in meditative mood – a sort of mid-life casting-up of accounts, and a reflection on the paths not taken. Reading this, two thoughts occurred to me. The first was that, despite an extensive back catalogue of folly, wilfulness and sheer stupidity, I harbour very few regrets.
The second was that if I find myself at this stage of life’s journey in a shady spinney, rather than a dark wood, this cheerful state of affairs has nothing to do with me. Every significant event of my existence so far has been the result of happenstance, rather than foresight.
I was steered into journalism by a boyfriend who, on hearing that I had been fired…
I couldn’t help but feel one of my frequent flickers of affection for humankind when I read this week that instead of making the ambitiously-named Bags For Life last, we’re just grabbing the same number of them as we did of flimsier free ones and using them as bin bags when they get shabby, causing Greenpeace to fume: “Bags for life are being treated as bags for a week – retailers must raise the charge to 70p and if that fails move towards a complete ban.”
Way to go, Us!
There’s so much dumb anti-human feeling in the world today – it’s the ultimate snobbishness to speak badly of the human race while never including oneself and one’s loved ones in the blanket condemnation. But I’m not buying it….