595px-Buzz_salutes_the_U.S._FlagTHE THE ARROGANCE OF FLAGS

Flags and weatherthose are the things tumbling through my mind.

We had been in lockdown for some twenty four hours.My little grand-daughter , while visiting and having discovered the delights of a garden full of  colourful flowers  the previous day ,was having none of it.It might rain down in torrents, incessantly but she would steer me to the back door anyway and implore for it to be opened. She wanted out . Out into the Big World Beyond. I couldn’t blame her. August in Ireland. It should be better than this awful  gloom and hammering rain.

Apparently when Man  stepped outside the door of his space capsule for the first time  and clambered down that little ladder to gingerly place the first human , booted foot on the airless lunar dust, staggering toddler -like in his cumbersome space suit, he was supposed to say something with the required humility, as though knowing mankind’s  very small place in the greater scheme of things ..but instead in the ….freezing dead cold of that lunar moment he actually …fluffed his lines….. instead . You couldn’t blame a fellow for a little stage fright in those kind of circumstances with an audience of some billions looking on.

To digress for a moment …you’ll get used to my digressions….there is some talk in Northern Ireland int he local press, at the moment ,about designing a flag for Northern Ireland alone, so that all of us living here will be able to identity ourselves as Northern Irishmen. We alone, of the grouping sometimes known as the British Isles, have not  a flag to represent us ; poor things .That’s why we have to make do with a  rag bag of flags including the Union Jack , the Irish Tricolour.  The Israeli flag and a lucky dip of of the terrorist /freedom fighting/ counter terrorist/ Alphabet Armies’ flags get a run up the flagpole too in the absence of a flag to call our own …goes the sorry tale.. Some people , it seems , need to fly a flag just so they’ll know who they really are, you see. My personal feeling is that in such a sectarian and divided place as Northern Ireland , the only flag that should ever be allowed to fly is a large white one. I think anything else will still create argument or distaste . Personally, I never had need of a piece of cloth to tell me how to think but that’s neither here nor there…..

Back to the weather. I imagine that after twenty-four hours of this watery cosmic  onslaught from the  skies that a lot of these flags that fly all summer would be in a sorry bedraggled state by now.  It’s not a good look for a much-respected piece of cloth…..In case you were worrying.

Every one of us is in lockdown anyway …even the honeybees at the bottom of the garden . This rain has no end to it…Twenty four hours is a very long time in the life of a honeybee. When you consider its life span is only about a month.That’s a thirtieth of her lifetime. It’s like you or I being housebound for maybe two or three years of our lives…relying on whatever groceries  we have in the larder. Can you imagine? They don’t like to defecate inside their hive either , so there would be a lot of crossed legs in there too. It doesn’t bear thinking about really. You’d need to stand back when half a million honeybees come out on a “cleansing flight ”  when the rain stops. Yes , stand well back , folks!

The last time I remember a twenty-four hour gloomfest like this was nearly thirty years ago and I had to cycle five miles to work in one. As I pedalled through the rain, I watched the lightning ripping down and striking the wires along the roadside.They fairly chattered and crackled alongside me for about a mile.I kept wondering if those two thin rubber wheels would really earth me if one of those bolts flashed my way .These thoughts occur to you when all alone with the uncontrollable elements.The sturm and drang of a twenty-four hour electrical storm.You hear of people being struck by lightning in the middle of a field sometimes, so it’s worth a thought..

Meanwhile , back on the moon, lest you think I’ve forgotten.. There are many people out there who think the whole “Moon Landing” was a scam .  There was even a film made about  a faked landing on Mars  called “Capricorn One”… sometime around 1977 …  . There is the notion afoot that the Americans filmed the whole moon landing  thing on a “closed set” ,in a Hollywood film studio, just to get one up on the Russian. Well , I suppose you could almost believe that , especially now , with the great  CGI technology. Have you seen that film “Gravity”? It’s not much of a story , mind. It’s a “two-hander” …Two people acting on their own for about two hours..except they do it all in space …..Well you’d  really believe they are in space , so you’d wonder why you ever have to do it for  real anyway…..

I remember watching the Moon Landing on black and white television  back on the 20th July  1969,  when the Troubles were just  about kicking off.I was seventeen then. It was a very different world then of course. Less than a month later Jimi Hendrix was playing the American National Anthem at Woodstock festival and re-arranging it into a sound poem brimming with the raucous  blare and chattering guns and pyrotechnics  of the Vietnam conflict and the sadness  and  the angst  of the Civil Rights Movement. One man and his music.Some of us thought that the very idea of humans actually breaking out of the earth’s parochial orbit and landing on another landmass in space  beyond our little blue planet , might actually focus the minds of the various nations to see us all as one human race and help us rise above our petty little earth-bound struggles. The idea that we were insignificant little creatures on a spinning ball in space and we should work together in that light for the betterment of human kind .

 A bit like bees in a hive I suppose.

 Anyway , we were enthralled when the first man left that iconic footprint in the sands of time. It has since been argued as to whether or not  Neil Armstrong actually fluffed the immutable line” One small step for man …a giant leap for mankind…..”….Was he supposed to have said… “a man”… or simply… “man” …as in… “mankind”. They’re still digging through the static of that original broadcast for Mr. Armstrong and America’s true intent.

Of course they had to go and spoil it all, anyway,  didn’t they?

Before you know it they had the Stars and Stripes flag out of the spacecraft and had the thing stuck up in the moon dust. Never mind the rest of you lot. We claim the moon for the good old USA. It was the ultimate act of machismo and pride. To actually lay claim to the moon!…for America…. Of course the thing wasn’t about to fly. No weather up there on the airless moon . No wind blowing to make it flutter, you see. Not like down here. Someone with more time on their hands than was sensible had   already figured that little problem  out of course. They hadn’t simply made room on the carefully weighted  spacecraft for a flag…counting all those precious ounces…. .They also  put a little stiffening bar across the top so that  it could hang proudly for all to see…. {or maybe not!}..Apparently there is an “Outer Space Treaty ” signed by both the  USA , UK and Russia in 1967,  to the effect that it is actually illegal to lay claim to any extra-terrestrial body in space , so maybe it’s all just a little joke on America’s part. A man called Jack Kinzler designed the flagpole apparatus after  seeing how easily his mother  hung her curtains……That’s the idea he copied.

Maybe that’s what our earthbound flag enthusiasts here  should invest in for the future . Especially when you consider our Irish weather and how bedraggled their colours usually hang. Hang them like your mother’s curtains!

.Meanwhile back on earth , the storm blew over .My grand-daughter hustled me back into the garden .We stood well back as the bees issued from the hives.You wouldn’t want to get in the way of a call of nature of those dimensions, now would you?.Makes you wonder how our spacemen dealt with those mundane problems too!

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