The astronaut's mantra, and really one that Bookhound and I seemed to have put to the test just to get ourselves into orbit from one county to the next, let alone into space. We are saying it all the time now.
'There's no problem so bad that you can't make it worse you know...' I intone as Bookhound heads out to coax the septic tank back into order....or put a slate back on the roof ...or...or...
There are several advantages to booking numbered seated tickets in August, for an event in December. Mainly that it is a nice treat to be looking forward to when the days get darker, but also because you booked so early you are in Row A, and we must have had the best seats in the house for Colonel Chris Hadfield, just to the right of the stage, and where he stood for most of his talk.
Whites of eyes visible etc, making the whole event seem as if it might have been just for us...
But then I suspect every person there probably felt the same. because Chris Hadfield is, as you might expect, an incredibly engaging speaker. Funny, fascinating and knowledgeable (Bookhound and I now properly understand gravity, and how things can orbit the earth and not fall in the sea) as well as confident and self-effacing with an audience. I don't recall that many events I have been too where I am 'in the zone' and completely undistracted from first word to last note.
I say 'last note' because of course Chris Hadfield sang Space Oddity (and wondered at his own audacity at covering a Bowie song) which has now had over 24 million views on youtube. At the end of the song, and with rapturous applause echoing around the auditorium, he knelt down and beckoned to a young girl in the front row who approached the stage and was given his plectrum. We could clearly see the look of awe and wonder on her face and the realisation that there was a young life forever inspired, much as Chris Hadfield's had been when he saw the Apollo moon-landing at the age of ten.
Can any of us even begin to imagine what it must feel like to be launched from earth into orbit?
Or what the earth might look like when you get there?
Or how your perceptions of earth in all its raw beauty, yet riven with all manner of 'issues', might be changed for ever?
Or how hard it is to do up your trainers?
Or how much bone density you will lose through weightlessness?
Or how you keep time when you see so many sunrises and sunsets in a day, either/or every forty-five minutes?
Or what it then feels like to return to earth and find yourself unable to speak because gravity holds your tongue down, or to look at people oddly fixed to the ground after your own six months of weightless floating?
And how incredibly hard it is to give that cheery thumbs up when you are lifted out of the space capsule feeling as if you have just been through the equivalent of a hot wash and 1300 spin?
Chris Hadfield did a superb job of explaining it all.
About how difficult it is to actually get people into space, talking us through the pre-launch build up, including the breakfast (make it creamy, you're going to see it again soon) and those last few minutes when so much can go wrong...even a ship sailing into the part of the Indian ocean where the booster rockets will be jettisoned can scupper a launch. And then to the last fifteen seconds, the flick of the switches, and at this point we watched and heard a launch of the space shuttle on the big screen complete with surround sound...it was huge, and though so familiar-a sight, yet suddenly quite unique and awesome with Chris Hadfield talking us through it..
...along with a demonstration of astronaut launch position...
Who knew exactly how much training it takes to be an astronaut, or the personal qualities required, but we know now, and really, you'd want Chris Hadfield on your team. He talked us through a planning scenario, and how thousands of hours go into being prepared for every single eventuality, including how to remove an appendix, but also how, when put to the test, the training holds up. Witness the leak outside the Space Station just four days before Chris Hadfield was due to return to earth last December; a space walk that would normally require eight days of planning and preparation had to be done within twenty-four hours...and apparently you don't look like George Clooney or Sandra Bullock ( Gravity) when you emerge from your suit after a space walk, just so you know.
I've run out of superlatives but to be honest I think Chris Hadfield could sit a few warring factions down, bang their heads together and talk some sense into them...there is something about seeing the world from afar that makes it boundary-less and as of one, and he translates that perception so astutely that, cliche though it may sound, you take the journey and experience it too.
So many of us were awestruck by the pictures sent back to earth via Twitter last year and I remember waiting for our bit of the planet to appear which it did, so it was good to see some of them again. This Jackson Pollock-like picture is actually the Australian outback...
This one is ...er...somewhere else, sorry I was in a daze..
I should save a superlative for Topping & Company Booksellers who organised this event.
The Forum in Bath is an old cinema which brought back happy childhood memories of the Majestic in Mitcham, with its grand decoration, and front stalls and sloping floors, and seating for hundreds....and hundreds, and the place was packed to the rafters at 11.30am on a Thursday morning. Getting an audience seated on time seems like military achievement enough, but Topping employ a strategy that other literary event organisers might do well to copy...you get the price of your ticket deducted from the price of the book which meant everyone was queuing to collect their books too. Staff were plentiful and seemed unflappable as copies of You are Here flew off the table and £10 notes flew back at them, and with all Chris Hadfield's proceeds going to the Red Cross it is clear this book is going to serve the charity well.
Oh yes and final interesting fact...
Good news too, that British astronaut Major Tim Peake will be going to the International Space Station in 2015. Here's hoping people will feel as involved in that mission as we have done with Chris Hadfield's.
But if the world seems small from space, how much smaller it can seem when you are in it. As hundreds of people were forming an orderly signing queue that stretched almost back to our front door within about sixty seconds, and we were messing about getting the nearest selfie of me and Chris Hadfield that we dared...
Someone came up to me and said...
'Are you dovegreyreader?'
Very lovely to meet Lynne A who often comments here and to be fair it was Bookhound she recognised, not me.
We wandered around Bath in a complete extra-terrestrial daze after all this excitement, leaving it too late to book afternoon tea at the Pump Room, and then foregoing our fall-back venue of Jolly's Tea Room when we discovered it was like sitting in an operating theatre with lighting to match. We ended up with a delicious bowl of soup in a little cafe in a church, with carols playing in the background, and all we could say over and over...
'What an amazing day...thank goodness we bothered to do it.'