Robert McNeil: Strange goings on in Morningside – that'll be the UFOs then
THE MAN in sunglasses sat on the top of Blackford Hill, scouring the night sky. He must have come in the wake of the UFO sightings. How exciting. Were dreamy wanderings on the gentle slopes now to be invested with X-Files glamour and mystery?
True, I have over-egged the circumstances of the mystery man's presence. It was daytime. But he was wearing shades, so it would have been night-time to him.
The UFOs were spotted by several upstanding citizens between 8:50pm and 9pm on Saturday, 12 April. Pictures show strange lights in the sky. The army said they could have been parachute flares, though a spokesman added excitingly: "It could have been a genuine UFO sighting."
The Edinburgh Evening News reported: "These strange balls of light sparked notions of an alien landing somewhere in Morningside." Wow! Advice that citizens should not be alarmed fell on deaf ears. Many Morningsiders hid under their beds, though some thought it more prudent to dust their mantelpieces, in case they got a visit (upon which the aliens would doubtless have been told: "You'll have had your oozing gloop.").
The Morningside angle hinted that the visitors might be well off, though even they would probably balk at the prices in Waitrose. But Blackford Hill: of all the hills in all the world, they had to choose this one. My bonny Blackford Hill. Of course, they may have detected signs of unusually intelligent life with its heid in the clouds. There are brainy people in the Observatory on the lower slopes as well, and these bods know a thing or twa aboot ooter space, as it comes in handy in their line of work. So it could have been that they'd attracted the interest of the aliens.
You say: "Your words may fairly be characterised as mince, Rab. These phenomena always turn oot tae be reflected lights. If there are aliens oot there, how come they never land?" It is a good question, elegantly put. I think it is fairly obvious why the aliens never land. I mean, would you? The Planet Earth is weel kent throughout the universe as a nuthoose. You don't get chaps on Zarg III going out for a drink of gloop on a Saturday night armed with a samurai sword.
But I take your point. They may not be aliens at all. Dull explanations abide for nearly all UFO sightings. I am not sure I approve of this debunking. The UFO believers want something more exciting out of life, something more hopeful. They may be deluded, but at least they are reaching for the stars.
The debunkers have their feet firmly on the ground, grimly adducing prosaic explanations for mystery phenomena. I cannot see the fun in this. They say the truth never hurt anyone. The truth is, the truth hurts like hell all the time. I agree it probably is best to learn that a mysterious light was a flare or a birthday lantern that had broken its moorings. But, in debunking, there is something of an instinct to spoil.
I remember, many years ago, reporting a story about a UFO experience in a forest at Dechmont Law, near Livington. The tale gave me my best ever first paragraph: "A retired forester from West Lothian, who claims to have seen a UFO, is to have his trousers examined by psychics."
I felt a bit guilty about it afterwards, since the chap was genuine and decent, and, as far as I know, no explanation has been given for his experience. He was out walking his dog when he encountered a strange craft, from which emanated two spikey spheres, like Second World War sea mines. He recalled the strange smell as they approached, and then he blacked out, as his dog barked frantically and ran around in circles.
When he awoke, the craft had gone, but there were distinct marks on the forest floor, and his trousers had lines of jagged tearing across them. I am writing this purely from memory, so deeply has the story remained etched in my brainlobes.
At this moment, however, warning bells are starting to go off in ma heid. Not about his story in itself, but about my repeating it. Some time ago, I wrote a light and sceptical news story about conspiracy theorists claiming that RAF Machrihanish, in Argyll, was a secret base containing alien spacecraft. On the internut today, as a result of my piece, you can still find references to the "respected" Scotsman newspaper backing the claims.
But, still, that cannot be helped. In the meantime, many of us in the Blackford area have been nipping oot for a sly peek at the night sky before retiring to bed, there to dream of benign beings from advanced civilisations, who drop in to ask us the best way to Waitrose.
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