This is the time of year when people start a new diary and one finds references to diaries in the media. Since I have kept a diary for 51 years and never missed a day, I’m always interested in the subject of diary-keeping and I was really amused by this letter in the “Guardian” newspaper:
There’s nothing like teenage diaries for putting momentous historical events in perspective (Banalities and bathos, 31 December). This is my entry for 20 July 1969. “I went to arts centre (by myself!) in yellow cords and blouse. Ian was there but he didn’t speak to me. Got rhyme put in my handbag from someone who’s apparently got a crush on me. It’s Nicholas I think. UGH. Man landed on moon.”
A friend of mine, who drew my attention to Dinah’s lovely diary entry, asked me if I had mentioned the moon landing in my diary entry for that fateful day. I checked and found that this is what I wrote:
Arrived at U.M.I.S.T. at 7.30 pm to watch the Apollo 11 moonflight on TV. With the permission of the Institute, I had arranged for the Union to be kept open all night for the event and Dan had published it with an emergency copy of “What Gives”.
The landing was at 9.17 pm but this was witnessed in sound only and the exact second of touching the moon’s surface was not apparent at the time. At 3.56 am, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon and he was joined by Edwin Aldrin for a moonwalk lasting 2 hours 47 minutes 14 seconds. Meanwhile Michael Collins circled the moon in the Apollo Command Ship.
This was history in the making and on a grand scale, and i watched and listened to every minute of it mainly on I.T.V. It is is difficult to comment on an event of such magnitude and everything that can be said seems to have ben said. But I found the whole episode so unreal, as ghost-like figures floated across the screen like cartoon characters, and it was difficult to work up any genuine excitement. Nevertheless it is a day I will always remember.
I should explain that, at the time, I was 21 and serving a year as sabbatical President of the Students’ Union at the (then) University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology.