As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star
FOR a random bunch of particles, humans are pretty amazing. This is what a world renowned physicist put my way the other day. I was listening to a podcast all about the cosmos and how stars, planets, humans, in fact all life forms are made up of the same stuff. A random bunch of “particles”.
I didn’t get as far as understanding what the particles are made of, or how they are made, perhaps as Joni Mitchell famously sang, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we have to get ourselves back to the garden.”
So this week a few of the usual “random bunch of particles” suspects went a bit bonkers. Some of it was good bonkers and more of it was of the completely bonkers variety. Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos had a race into space and I was wondering how their bunch of particles had managed to do it, when my bunch of particles couldn’t even imagine how?
‘Bonkers story number two, has been the random bunch of particles that makes up Boris Johnson and his former aide Dominic Cummings’
It’s a strange experience watching billionaires living out their boyhood dreams when they could end world poverty with a swipe of their debit cards. However, I watched Branson’s trip live as I was sitting at my desk at the time. I tuned in at take-off and watched as far as the landing. Himself and his buddies were all delighted with themselves as far as I could see, as the live feed broke down quite a few times during their cruise. When Bezos, the wealthiest man on the planet, followed him a few days later I grumpily avoided watching anything to do with it! Who cares, I wanted to say, secretly envious, to the last.
Then I read about Wally Funk, who at 82 years of age, became the oldest person to travel into space after Bezos offered her a seat on his flight. After training to be an astronaut in the early 1960s, Wally never had a chance to actually fly until that day. In spite of her ability to always “beat the guys” she was denied her chance to be in the record books simply because she was a woman.
After losing out on her dream of space travel, Wally became a flying instructor and trained more than 3,000 people to fly. This bunch of particles was overjoyed to see her white head emerge from the cabin after her flight. Her pure joy and exuberance was infectious.
Could she really be 82? Apparently even in the training with Bezos and his team, she again “beat the guys” every time, on every exercise and demand made of her. At the press conference Wally announced that she never “did dolls” as a child and that when she travels and speaks to groups she says she is 48.
But the whole going to space thing irked me a bit as it seems so pointless. Unless you have the millions to experience a ride that offers little more than the thrill of the Hurdy Gurdies in Tramore, what benefit is this to anyone? We already know how to fly into space, and we know what’s there. Not much. What we really need to do is get further out into space and explore the unknown cosmos, even with a large enough telescope.
Bonkers story number two, has been the random bunch of particles that makes up Boris Johnson and his former aide Dominic Cummings. Seems a minor miracle that Johnson’s particles even managed to get him into such a position in the first place. I watched agog that recent interview with Cummings. Why did he cover his mouth with his hand so much? Why so much smirking? Why give an interview at all? Something is afoot.
It’s hard to imagine the “genius” behind the Leave Campaign could be raising his profile unless it’s either a distraction or a strategy. He doesn’t do anything without some Machiavellian end goal. At times I find the British psyche utterly fascinating. How they handle the pandemic, how they handle their failure to bring football home, how they mishandle their multiculturalism. It’s somehow quite entertaining to be outside looking in at the whole soap opera; the whole sorry tale of Brexit, Cummings and Johnson, how they have fooled the British people. It’s a story yet to be told and surely will make a great Netflix series one fine day.
But maybe the strangest part about being here in Ireland, outside the tent and looking in on the UK, is that the wider population seems to just shrug their shoulders and get on with life in spite of what is revealed. It doesn’t seem to matter how sleazy or corrupt their governing elite appears to be, it’s like no one really notices. I suppose ordinary people are just too busy watching Love Island or, like me, dreaming of what’s going on out in deep space.
Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com