In 1980, having attained the ripe old age of eight, I was fascinated with science-fiction.
Nowadays, Id rather watch paint-dry than Star-Trek, but back then, the year 2009 was viewed as rather frighteningly
futuristic – we would all be wearing metallic silver, armed with ray-guns and going to the shops for liquid-food stuffs
in individual floating glass-capsules. The proud owners of a brown Austin Allegro who lived in our street and had
roast dinners on a Sunday would have to adapt or die.
My repugnance towards the future was probably due to my late-Grandfather Alan.
On a weekly basis, we would invade his house in Hemington and this poor man, who worked his hands to the bone for six-days
a week would be constantly pestered by me to do something or other when all he wanted to do on a rare Saturday afternoon off
from Nottsa Engineering was watch ITV’s “World of Sport” or the Rugby League on “Grandstand”
over on BBC1.
One Saturday, I went to him armed with two hairbrushes, one for me, one for
him, “Ray-guns” I explained. However when I let it slip that we were going to play “Blakes
7”, he said in a blunt but kindly fashion “Sorry lad, ain’t playing no daft Yankee crap with you!”
and went back to watching the World Barrel Jumping finals from Missouri on World of Sport or Dewsbury v Hull Kingston Rovers
in the Nicotine and Phlegm Challenge Trophy third-place play-off final on Grandstand.
This rejection culled any interest
I had whatsoever in Sci-Fi. I did not even argue that Blakes 7 was not "Yankee Crap" but was a cheaply made BBC1
programme which I believed was filmed in Leeds! However science FACT was a different matter. Science was all
around us back then. Tomorrow’s World (BBC1) showed us video players and tape-recorders we could not afford. In 1981, when the Space Shuttle Columbia took off and landed, most of my family
and nearly everybody in the street were glued to the Television! With hindsight, it may have been a Sunday morning when Columbia returned
to earth, so there was very little else on the three TV channels that existed
back then, Morning Worship on ITV perhaps? Even my Grandad, a skilled engineer quietly must have marvelled at "the
Yanks" innovative Space Shuttle programme.
But just a couple of years before the Yanks
proudly showed off their shuttles, the Sky-lab nearly became their folly and I was convinced it was going to land on my beloved
Shepshed and wipe out the village I had come to in 1976 and grown to love every inch of it with all of my heart!
Basically and to offer an admittedly simplistic
view of what happened, the Yanks sent Sky-lab into orbit in 1973, it was a space-station but blighted with problems, so it
was "parked-up" and the plan was for a Space Shuttle to go up and move it somewhere safer. However on 16th July 1979 it made an “unexpected re-entry” into the earth, in the Indian Ocean to be precise.
However for days, when the dirty-secret leaked-out,
I was convinced that Shepshed was doomed and its population and buildings would be wiped out. That afternoon, I even remember
standing outside our house in Blacksmith’s Avenue, convinced at one stage when night had fallen that I saw it whizz
by the Hind Leys College building and skim the treetops of Butthole Lane – which incidentally is known as such due to
ancient Shepshedian’s practising their archery skills and nothing at all to do with the anal rectum orifice –
Shepshed was saved! We could face 1980 with
hope and confidence, but would it really all turn out like that?