IN the days when the equivalent of £3:50 could provide a high tea, a night at the cinema for two and a packet of premier cru wine gums, I occasionally took girlfriends to Edinburgh’s Odeon cinema which had an auditorium ceiling that indicated, decoratively but inaccurately, the starlit heavens.
That was no barrier to me. I would point out what I claimed were the Great Bear, Orion’s Belt, Pegasus and the Pleiades. "Gosh, Albert, you must know just about everything," said one lass, an assertion I did not deny.
From my early, children’s matinee, cinema-going days when, scrutinising the Moon, I could work out where Wanda, the Venusian witch queen met the crab men from Mars, to the present pictures of the Red Planet, a study of which has familiarised me with practically every revealed pebble, I have been an ardent space-watcher.
The universe has, however, disappointed me. I have seen awesome pictures of Saturn and Jupiter, the tortured, twisted or frozen surfaces of planetary satellites, astonishing Hubble telescope photographs of colourful chaos, and I know that the star-powdered heavens are pulsating with deaths and births of galaxies, are strewn with asteroid belts, radiation fields and black holes, but I want some intelligent-life contact because there is not too much on Earth.
From HG Wells’s novel, The War of the Worlds, fiction and films have often postulated the inherent malevolence of Earth visitors shaped like hyperactive tapioca puddings trying to ingest the planet, pods seeding human likenesses and others, exhibiting all-too-human characteristics, merely attempting to blast the planet into jigsaw puzzle fragments.
A fear that extraterrestrial beings may not like us or are waiting to take us over, has helped to fuel interest in so-called flying saucers.
Unidentified flying object sightings began in the United States in 1947, but from 7 January, 1948, when a US National Guard pilot, Captain Thomas F Mantell, chasing an apparently metallic, circular object over Kentucky, radioed, "It’s huge. It’s ..." before his plane crashed, UFOs in atomic-age skies began to be reported worldwide.
UFOs have resembled saucers, cigars, tea cosies, large, flashing lights, chamberpots and psychological test Rorschach blots. Most have been identified as bright planets, stars, aircraft, unusual cloud formations or balloons, but some have not been explained and the possibility remains that nightmarish, bug-eyed creatures with fearfully-high IQs, possibly living on a diet of electrons, which probably accounts for much of our radio static, have been trying to discover how humans tick.
If so, they may be losing patience. Flying saucer spottings have fallen so much that UFO Magazine, which has featured sightings, abductions by aliens and close encounters, is to close. Two years ago, the British Flying Saucer Bureau was shut after UFO visitations and membership decreased.
That prompts the dismal question: have airborne aliens become so disillusioned by what they see on this tortured planet that they are going into hyper warp drive, adjusting their cosmic-ray diffusers and heading for more congenial climes?
As a supporter of galactic amity, I still hope that, one day, some outer space visitants will land on earth and stop the inhabitants from tearing themselves and the planet to pieces The fact that remedial aliens could resemble man-sized tadpoles with limbs, would not disguise the fact that they could be new Labour in political outlook and, therefore, virtual Tories. They would, I am certain, expand and improve global public services, for the many, not the few, and, in a very real sense, create a Swedish welfare state version of Utopia.
Non-smokers, they would be caring and compassionate, devoted to free health care, community arts, family planning, race relations, further education and pensioners.
They would favour theatre workshops and social-inclusion discussion and outreach groups. In religious matters, they would initiate an ongoing and open-ended dialogue in the context of the day and age.
Pie in the sky? I hope not. All I say is that this explosive planet, with its imploding civilisation, needs urgent visionary intervention. Don’t desert us, UFOs. Have a wine gum. If you want one word from us, written in crop circles or otherwise, it is, "help".