Putting a sock in it

It was 50 years ago that the first small step for man and the giant leap for mankind took place. It was men, of course, because Buzz Aldrin joined Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon where they spent more than two hours collecting lunar rocks to take back. It’s a wonder they didn’t end up chucking them at each other because the two disliked each other intensely, the venom particularly from Aldrin, who believed he should have been the first man to walk on the moon because it was custom for the more junior man, rather than the commander, to take the first steps from a spacecraft.

NASA, however, had decided that Buzz was too fame-hungry and irascible and that decision caused a near punch-up when Aldrin confronted Armstrong about the order of space walking before departure. The two never properly made up. Armstrong shunned fame and lucrative deals and retired to the California hills until his death in 2012 after surgical complications. Buzz, however, became NASA’s poster boy and was paraded last week to recall the Apollo 11 mission, its success and near failure.

That moon landing has given rise to the greatest conspiracy theory, dwarfing the various sightings of Elvis, 9/11 and the Paul McCartney-alike replacing the dead one. This one has it that Hollywood shot the whole thing in a studio, probably directed by Stanley Kubrick, and cites that the US flag flutters when there is no wind on the moon and the lack of stars add to the case. The most prominent denier is film maker Bart Sibrel, who made a number of films debunking the landing, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon in 2001.

Sibril made it his mission to take a film crew to harass Apollo 11 astronauts, jabbing them with a bible and telling them to swear on the book that they had been to the moon. In September 2002 he turned up outside a Beverley Hills hotel where Aldrin was arriving to give an interview to a Japanese TV station and repeatedly called the 72-year-old astronaut a coward when he refused to comply. You can catch the result on YouTube. One small punch for man….!

Ron McKay's diary: scooters, Bolts, giant elephants and superdrugs ... welcome to France!

The alien traffic jam

The internet has been lit up by another conspiracy theory, or at least putting it to the test, by invading Areas 51, at Roswell in Nevada, the US air force base which is supposed to have recovered aliens and their spacecraft and experimented. The plan, which started off as a Facebook joke, now has more than 1.5 million signing up for the mass charge into the restricted area. A risky plan. The site has motion sensors, armed guards and is also ringed with signs citing the Internal Security Act of 1950, and stating “Use of deadly force authorized”.

As far as I can see there are no such threats or devices at Bonnybridge, Scotland’s own Area 51, which has more than 300 UFO sightings a year, but so far no alien abductions, although it’s true several people have moved to Falkirk. I don’t know why all those aliens are so keen to take in the village, after all it’s not the bonniest? Could it be some kind of inter-galactic intersection, a sort of Spaghetti Junction of the skies, or a brief stopover where they can catch up on the gossip from galaxies far, far away, but hopefully not a dogging site?

The first sighting was in 1992 when local businessman James Walker had to brake his car quickly to stop hitting a sparkling, star-shaped craft hovering just above the tarmac. Walker watched it for a time before it sped off at supersonic speed. Bonnybridge has now twinned with Roswell, not doubt aimed at attracting the US tourist, alien-spotting dollar. I think the place would rather welcome an invasion, if someone wants to start a social media meme.

Up for the crack

More than six million French people are drinking water contaminated by the radioactive isotope tritium, which has leached into the water table from nuclear power stations. France has 58 of them but it is the ones along the rivers Seine, Vienne and Loire which are the source of most of it, with some 268 towns and villages affected, including 122 around Paris. Tritium doesn’t occur naturally. The level of contamination, according to the authorities, does not breach international limits, but the independent research laboratory, Criirad, claims they are allowing, “levels of carcinogenic risk for radioactive pollutants that are more than 100 times higher than the maximum tolerated for chemical carcinogens!”.

EDF runs the French sites and the state-owned company is presently building two new nuclear reactors at Hinckley Point, close to Taunton Somerset. It operates all 15 UK nuclear plants and owns and operates Hunterston in Ayrshire. Reactor 4 there is expected to come back online in early August. It has been offline for more than six months after cracks were discovered in its graphite core. Another reactor there, with the same cracking problem, has been closed down for more than a year.

Hypocrisy masquerading as principle

You might have thought that with almost 1200 drug deaths, a 27% rise year-on-year, and at a rate three times that of the UK the two Governments would have joined together in an attempt to solve it rather than the squalid sniping and blaming each other. Joe Fitzpatrick was wheeled out to slate Westminster for preventing Scotland setting up “fix rooms”, where addicts could safely inject, which seems to be the sole idea they have, as if this was the complete solution. It is, of course, infinitely more complicated, but if a safe space prevents even one death then it should be implemented. The Scottish Government could do it tomorrow and challenge Westminster to try to stop it, but they won’t. Not when they’ve been cutting back on support services year by year.

The Simon Community in Glasgow recounted a few days ago how a young homeless woman came into their hub and handed a note asking them to contact her parents when she was found dead. Could anything be more heart breaking? A declaration of interest. We had an addiction death in our close family last year. I don’t claim to have an answer but I think I know the questions to ask.

Ho! ho! hokum!

It’s Christmas in July. Yes it gets earlier every year. But this week the annual Santa Claus Congress takes place in Bakken, Denmark. A hundred Santas from around the world get together and discuss matters of mutual interest – like, is Rudolph’s nose dulling with age? what, with this global warming is there enough snow for take-off and landing? and the best slimming plan to get rid of all the flab from all these cakes and sausage rolls they have to eat en route in December. Pixies and elves (“of whatever persuasion”) will also be there and there are quite strict rules, like no smoking, drinking or fornicating while in uniform and they are also banned from wearing signage or advertising beard grooming products. There’s a Santa obstacle course and a pentathlon and a dip in the sea, for some reason. But this year, assuming we’ve Brexited and are out of the EU, will there even be a Christmas present delivery? Will Santa need a passport and visa? Put down the kipper sort this Boris.