The Ballad of Michael Collins (the NASA one!)

Something has bothered me since 1969. It was six years before I was born but it’s definitely bothered me since 1969.

Imagine you’re ten years old. Your parents have just told you that you’re going to Disneyland. You’re the type of child whose soul is filled with whimsy and possibilities. You’re the one who usually organises the potato printing parties and brings the bags of swizzell sticks. You get in the car/bus/helicopter and off you go. Your rosy cheeks reddening with anticipation as the hours tick by, your supplies of Werthers dwindling, your heart thumping faster and faster as you near the front gates and see a 12 foot Cinderella winking at you from the top of a huge plastic castle.

The car pulls into the car park and everyone gets out – except you.

You’re told you have to stay in the car, circle the park and await their return whilst looking after the ‘equipment’. Everyone then toddles off into the park and (via CB radio) give you a running commentary of all the breathtaking things they’re doing whilst you’re stuck in the hot car with nothing but a puzzle book and a pen that doesn’t work. You’re not allowed out. Not even allowed to wind the window down to allow a cheeky fart to escape.

You wait until everyone else comes back, full of their stories of adventure and wonder, then imagine what could have been as they drive you home again.

Spare a thought for Michael Collins. He went to the moon. He wasn’t allowed to actually go ‘on’ the moon however. Yes, he got to leave earth’s atmosphere, see a big white ball of rock a bit closer up than usual (albeit out of a window with really really thick reinforced glass), and then sit in the command module on his own for the entire day while his friends went outside, leapt about on the universe’s biggest bouncy castle, went down in the history of forever for saying some iconic lines and then give Michael a running commentary about how amazing the whole thing was with the caveat, ‘but you’re not allowed out to play’, like he’d been grounded for being naughty on the way through the Troposphere.

It’s like that bit in Home Alone where everyone gets pizza and even though Kevin hasn’t done anything wrong, he gets no pizza and sent to his room (both scenarios contain someone called Buzz. Coincidence? I don’t think so.)

“Didn’t want to stand on the moon anyway.”

Despite Collins being able to debunk the moon-landings conspiracy theories first hand, I can’t help thinking he would have felt he was part of a smaller, more personal conspiracy about why he wasn’t allowed outside. That must have followed him throughout his life from that point. Like when he squeezed the ketchup and mysteriously, there was none left or when he couldn’t find one of his socks (it’s the Government!) or when he waited in a queue at Disneyland for four hours and when he got to the front, they closed the ride for the night (it’s the Illuminati!!). Why is it always me? He must think. Probably.

Poor Michael.

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