‘I feel like a little kid, like a sorcerer, like the luckiest person alive. I am in space, weightless, and getting here only took 8 minutes and 42 seconds. Give or take a few thousand days of training.’ – Chris Hadfield’s ‘An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth’, page
I have just started reading Chris Hadfield’s book ‘An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth.’ I have, ever since a very young age, had a very fickle relationship with books. Don’t get me wrong, I adore reading. I always have done and I constantly lament not being able to read more. I don’t commute, so there is no regular journey where I can while away the time flicking through pages. I think if I started to read on long drives it might upset any passengers I have. Or the police. Or my car insurance. I find it hard to read at home when I have writing to do and shows to prepare. It’s almost a strange paranoia that the words of others will confuse my own thoughts and I’ll end up accidentally with a plagiarised series of views and words, as if by some sort of cerebral osmosis. I have several books on my shelf at the moment that are waiting for a week away to be appreciated. If I’m ever on holiday I will read a book a day, relishing that I have nothing else to think about except absorb myself into someone else’s prose.
However, thinking that I don’t having the time to read is not the fickleness I meant. The main problem is that I can pick up a book and often, within a page or two, decide there and then if I’ll ever read the rest of it. I have an annoyingly short attention span for novels and if I find the writing jarring or the content dull, that book will be confined back to the shelf until I move flat and decide to pass it on to someone else or charity. It’s an awful affliction and I’m sure, if I had more patience and tolerance, that I wouldn’t have missed out on the endings of many books I probably should have read. On the other hand though, it means when something does grab my attention, I am unable to put it down until every page has been turned. Recently Virginia Gilbert’s book ‘Travelling Companion’ was picked up, primarily because she’s friend. But two pages in, it became because I needed to know everything that would happen to the characters within and when it was finished I spent days thinking about its conclusion.
Today I picked up Chris Hadfield’s book, and the first paragraph nearly brought a tear to my eye on the bus. I’ve only been able to read for 20 minutes today and I am already dying to find time to sit in silence and read every word that’s there. I have been a fan of the Commander ever since he went to the ISS and started tweeting pictures of the sorts of views I wish I could see but would be too afraid to venture to the viewpoints for. He is one of those true heroes or stars that we so often seek out in today’s society and often mistakenly attribute instead to someone who ate a kangaroo’s bollock on live television or lived in a house with other people was the least irritating idiot. Chris Hadfield appears to be a humble, thoughtful man who is not only grateful for being able to go into space but has chosen to use his position to educate and tell others why the earth is a wonderful place. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him in real life (like some of my contemporaries who met him at Robin Ince’s Apollo shows last year and I am forever jealous of) but I have listened to him on the radio and watched him on television. Each time he’s inspired me just to learn more and feel happy to be alive.
There’s not many people like that anymore. Well, there probably are, but sadly it’s really not something we laud in popular culture, and it should be. A friend told me that at one of the Apollo shows Hadfield mentioned that he was overwhelmed when, on a space walk, he looked at the Earth and realised there and then that he was witnessing every person that was alive and dead, all at once. What an incredible notion to contemplate and one that would no doubt make you question existence and marvel at it all at once. Though never possible, I almost wish every person would be able to get such an experience then be returned to earth to carry on living with perhaps a newfound respect for how the planet works. How could you judge others on their ethnicity, race, gender, social class, when you have seen the whole world as one large ball of life? There are people who’ve barely left their county or state and I often feel like that must be a cause of so much prejudice. It makes me so happy to know there are people out there, like Chris Hadfield who still choose to use their profile and experiences to encourage others to be excited about space, the Earth and in following their dreams to do what they want to in life.
I’m waffling, and this blog was meant to be about books. But this is already the effect that two chapters have had on me. If only I had more time to read. Bet you get lots of time to indulge in books in space…..
Some months ago when Commander Hadfield was about to return to Earth, I wrote a list of things he could do when he returned. His son, Evan, tweeted me and said his dad had read them and found them hilarious. That very much made my year. Here’s the list:
A couple of other books I have loved lately:
Ian Moore’s ‘A La Mod’ – Ian is a very very funny man, both on stage as a comedian and with his excellent writing. His first book made me laugh out loud on a bus. This is not an easy thing to do. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mod-So-Called-Tranquil-Family-France/dp/1849533997
Jonas Jonasson’s ‘Hundred year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window And Disappeared’ – I think everyone in the world has read this at least a year ago, so I’m late to this one. If you haven’t though it’s a delightfully magical and funny tale that remained constantly surprising and enchanting until the end. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hundred-Year-Old-Man-Climbed-Window-Disappeared/dp/1843913720
Virginia Gilbert’s ‘Travelling Companion’ – I mentioned this in the blog but it’s a captivating thriller that made me sit on the edge of every seat I was perched on while reading it. The ending will leave you chilled for weeks. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Travelling-Companion-Virginia-Gilbert/dp/1909718130
As it’s my birthday, why not buy tickets to my first ever UK tour? It starts on the 31st of January. All dates and most ticket links are up at my website: http://www.tiernandouieb.co.uk. Please spread the word and come along as if you’re not there, it’ll be rubbish. It’ll just be me in a room and if I can’t get 3G I’ll be really bored. The very funny Chris Coltrane is supporting me on some dates and the brilliant Keith Farnan is doing a double header with me on others.