Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Rick Stroud - The Book of the Moon..a chat

Rick Stroud has written The Book of the Moon. When my old editor Susannah Marriott told me this, I nearly cried. Everything you could ever want to know about the moon. In one book. Essentially, my blog in a book. Which is funny because I always thought my blog would look good as a book. But no. Wait. Rick's missed a trick. One I think I've hit (wow, this metaphor ain't easy to extend)...

Anyway, after hearing Rick speak at last night's Escape Routes talk at the South Bank Centre, I realised why The Book of the Moon isn't "Moonwalking". It's all to do with psychology.

"Moonwalking", you see, was never intended as a detailed study of what the moon is. It's a little simpler: it's a journey into Britain by moonlight in 2009; a journey around England, Scotland and Wales after dark with lots of people I've never met, through associations of murder, witches, werewolves, anger, love, sex, poetry, flora, fauna...people, life and living. It's a look at nightwalking. It's a personal journey through love and loss, accompanied by a lunar friend. It's Moonman. It's Moonwalker. It's not just rocks, explosions and seas that are called seas but are really lava - though there will be a little of that.

Rick spoke very well. He introduced a lot of fascinating lunar facts, which I'm going to look at in my next few posts. Like the one about the Palolo worm, a speciality in Samoa, which, if not eaten as a light snack, lives by the last quarter of the moon. And stories, like that of Peter Stubb, the 16th-century cattle-eating 12-year-old werewolf of Bedburg, Germany.

For an hour, Rick presented the moon to earthlings.

Too good to be true
Beside me sat two chatty ladies. One held a press pack. I couldn't believe my luck - clearly she was covering Rick's talk (two days before the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's launch) for a national paper. What an opportunity to pitch my story - my moonwalk adventures. Front page of The Sun - "Nutter walks streets by moonlight in search of nutters".

I wondered how best to make my move. It soon became clear. I'd ask a terribly educated moon question in the Q&As following the talk. But what? Ah ha, Dr Lieber's Lunar Effect. Surely Rick and I are the only people in the room to have read it. And Rick's already mentioned his disbelief in the biological tides theory. I'll dig a little deeper. That'll hook the hacks.

So I asked my question and discussed Dr Lieber with Rick across a room of perhaps 40 people. Eyes burning through me, my heart beating too fast for a healthy person. My friends turned and smiled. I went on to help Rick answer another question from the floor about NASA's return to the moon. The talk finished. Now just had to reel them in.

"So," I said, turning to the pretty girl to my side, "do you mind if I ask who you write for?"

"Sorry," she replied, very confused.

"Um, saw you had a press pack. Wondered who you write for."

She looked to her friend and giggled - probably not a good sign, I thought.

"I write for myself. I work here and thought I'd pop along."

I pointed to her papers. "But the press pack."

"It was the only thing I could find to write on."


I had to smile. So I wasn't going to be the lead story in tomorrow's papers. But I did get a chance to chat to a couple of lovely ladies about my adventures and they insisted I get it all published so they could read about everything. They were especially taken with the bra-walking idea. As a lot of people seem to be.

I spoke to Rick after the talk and we joked about the moon - what, there's nothing geeky about moon jokes. He's invited me for a chat near his Chelsea home in the autumn. "Meet in the arts club in Chelsea, or perhaps the gents club with the cigars and the neckerchiefs"...or something like that. I didn't tell him I'd be Tubing it down from Essex. "Ah, yes, the old cigar club - know it well. Teddy still visit?"

So here's to more moon chats and book talks. It's tiring, very tiring. But good good fun. Tripping up the steps into the South Bank Centre wasn't fun. The rest was.

Here's to future trips.

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