In my teenage years, I read, and read, and read, I was a voracious reader, an omnivore of all the printed word, I read things I liked, things I hated, things with which I struggled, easy books, hard books, confusing books.
Sir George Cayley, yorkshireman, like me, would undoubtedly have beaten the Wrights to first powered flight, if only, if only... George wrote his treatise on flight "On Aerial Navigation" in 1810, and in 1754, he built a glider that carried a man across a valley at Brompton in North Yorkshire.
He designed steam-propelled dirigibles, but what he lacked was the lightweight power source, invented some years later, the internal combustion engine, suitable for making, for instance, a powered bicycle, a 'motor-cycle'.... Which of course, is where the Wrights found it.
What the Wrights achieved, though, was the first controlled, motor-powered, heavier than air flight. Remarkable and fantastic. Two young men with no great access to money or construction facilities built the thing that lifted the first humans off the planet, heavier than air and under control. No. That's not true either. The 'control' was pretty sketchy, and the reality was that pretty much every attempt they made was a tentative lift-off followed rapidly by a crash.
In just a few years it went from a crazy kite to a more-or-less reliable machine of war.
Only 16 years after the string bamboo contraption clattered across the sand at Kitty Hawk, a flying machine crossed the atlantic ocean from the americas to Ireland.
By the time I was born, man had set his sights upon the planets.
We imagined, in my early years, when kids dreamed of goldfish-bowl helmets and rockets and rayguns, that the evolution of the rocketship would be as rapid as that of the aeroplane.
Every kid thought that by the time he was twenty, he could enrol in the space-force, and pilot rocket-ships to mars and venus. Oh yes, it was the age of imagination. And I was sixteen, when I watched that fuzzy, hard to figure out, live coverage, as, for the first time, men landed on the surface of the moon. " "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
So I was reading Science-Fiction. Imagineation, visionaries. One such was Ray Bradbury, who died last week.
"If only we had taller been"
Did balance us serene;
It was a place half in the sky where
In the green of leaf and promising of peach
We’d reach our hands to touch and almost touch that lie,
That blue that was not really blue.
If we could reach and touch, we said,
‘Twould teach us, somehow, never to be dead.
Our reach was never quite enough.
So, Thomas, we are doomed to die.
O, Tom, as I have often said,
How sad we’re both so short in bed.
If only we had taller been,
And touched God’s cuff, His hem,
We would not have to sleep away and go with them
Who’ve gone before,
A billion give or take a million boys or more
Who, short as we, stood tall as they could stand
And hoped by stretching thus to keep their land,
Their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they, like us, were standing in a hole.
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measured out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam’s finger forth
As on the Sistine Ceiling,
And God’s great hand come down the other way
To measure Man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever’s Day?
I work for that.
Hoping an inch of Will is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
We’re tall, O God, we’re tall!
Ha! In my search for Ray Bradbury quotes I found the following video, which made the rounds a few years ago... I'd forgotten it. Might be classed as nsfw, or for language in front of the kids.
Well, it is titled "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury".