25 Years at Keele: Decisions

When I initially applied to university in the autumn of 1990 I named only Scottish universities on my UCCA form (St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen, Stirling and hesitantly Strathclyde). The most natural place/subject choice for me would have been Topographic Science at Glasgow, combining my love of geography, maths and my passion for maps. But I have always railed against being “pigeon-holed” and believed it better to study a wide range of geography options first, before specialising so much. Hence why I named Strathclyde instead, although I knew I had to move away completely to have any chance of gaining a degree. I’d just about got through school with the corrosive atmosphere at home dominating my life; I couldn’t stand the thought of doing a degree from a Cleland base. So when it became clear that my four years out of school was standing against me, (a Stirling interview suggested I did more Highers at evening class to get up to speed again), I looked for foundation courses. I could see only three places that offered them; Newcastle who I could never get on the phone, Manchester who would put me straight into clearing and Keele who offered an interview.

All I had ever wanted was a degree and the graduation photo with scroll for the mantelpiece. I adored Geography principally the physical aspect of the subject, and had not missed a beat in my interview with the Geography lecturer’s questions. I loved science, but had been terrified by the aura of Prof Morgan from Chemistry and had muttered “dunno” to every question he asked, kicking myself when he confirmed the answers that had been screaming in my head all along. I thought I had blown it, but the Professor liked my “spunk”, and much later I discovered it was on his personal recommendation I had been accepted. Clearly my quip about the Scots superiority over the English education system had NOT gone down badly with the Newfoundland born professor. The Geography lecturer on the other hand loathed my attitude from that moment on, and a silent war (on his part) was declared between us. This eventually resulted in me changing to Classical Studies at the start of my first principal year.

My foundation year was brilliant, as I found myself faced with a plethora of subject matter options ranging from a few weeks to an entire academic year in length. My alarm bells clanged violently when I was timetabled for a year course in “human” Geography, something I had vehemently expressed an intense dislike for in my interview. The option I had chosen was apparently unavailable, but had I realised it was taught by my interviewer, I may have twigged to the problems ahead. Gullibly I thought the Geography department knew best and with reluctance studied the subsidiary course. It caused me nothing but grief and I fought Geography the whole year. Consequently I got to know my general tutor Dr Rob Jackson in Chemistry quite well, as he was never off the phone trying to sort things out for me. Sadly I had to face the fact Keele Geography and me were not going to be a marriage made in heaven, so I kept my love of the subject but studied something else. But that Geography ill wind blew something else in my direction as I ended up marrying Rob Jackson.

I hadn’t managed to study anything in Geology during my foundation year, mainly because of the way my timetable worked out. Therefore I had no knowledge of the department that would have been the natural alternative to Geography, particularly as many of the options sounded similar to the ones I salivated over. But I couldn’t face the possibility of another battle with a department and chose Classics instead. Having studied a term under the Classics head of department Mr Richard Wallace, whom I adored, it was an easy choice to make. I had really quite enjoyed my Chemistry course in foundation year, so kept my science going in this area.

I had no idea at the time of finalising my principal subjects that I would end up marrying a lecturer from one of them. This would later cause such tension in my Chemistry studies, the joy I had for the subject was sucked out of me. I’m afraid Chemistry was so paranoid about covering their backside ensuring it was seen I got no special treatment, that things happened which would be neither tolerated or condoned in today’s politically correct student climate. It was my Classical Studies course which kept me going in the latter part of my degree, and I proudly took my place in the department graduation class photo. I refused to be in the Chemistry photo at all.

Throughout my degree there was always a nagging issue with my health, which began going “funny” in the late summer of 1990. Investigations found nothing, so I was just left to deal with the flare ups that came out of nowhere. With hindsight I now realise that the concerns I had regarding my health, played a part in influencing my decision to study subjects NOT requiring compulsory field trips, and discarding the concurrent Education course too.

I felt great in FY, had niggles in the middle and end of my P1 year which continued to the beginning of my P2 year. It became obvious I needed to take some time off to try and deal with my health and there was the small matter of organising a wedding too. When I resumed my studies I was in a different year group and new options had become available in Classical Studies. From the few weeks in P2 I had experienced the year before, I reluctantly had to concede that keeping my Latin would be very hard, as it really was like having three principal degree subjects. It just about killed me inside giving up the Latin area of my studies, but the new options made the pain easier to bear. The wonders of Latin poetry, Greek drama, Roman & Greek art and architecture, Roman Egypt and New Testament Studies opened up instead. If I’d continued with Latin I’d have experienced only a few of these delights, as the language aspect of the course would have been 50% of my timetable. In my new P2 year I thrived in Classical Studies but began to realise that Chemistry wasn’t going to be so easy to deal with. The department attitude toward me had changed dramatically, and educationally I’d hit a brick wall in the organic area of Chemistry. With horror it dawned on me just how heavily orientated many of the options were toward this field. Although the physical, theoretical and mathematical side of Chemistry held no terror for me, I really began to struggle. Every week I had a major lab report and problem sheet to do and the effort of producing the goods wore me down. I felt I was on a conveyor belt with just no time to really think, “smell the roses” and enjoy the science. Always feeling I had to watch my back and be on guard didn’t help matters either.

In the final year my undiagnosed health issues spectacularly hit new heights, I was never out of the doctor’s surgery. Looking back, for that entire year I was probably either under a perpetual mental fog, or legally as high as a kite through multiple prescription drug use. Despite being in poor physical shape I managed to finish my studies to graduate with a 2:2 Honours in Chemistry and Classical Studies with Subsidiary Mathematics and Geography.

Six months after graduating I had lost 4.5 stones in weight, flat-lined and underwent emergency surgery for Crohn’s Disease. My surgeon said the only thing that had kept me alive was my “obvious bloody-minded pig stubborn attitude”. I agreed because that frame of mind got me my degree as well.

25 Years at Keele: University Arrival

Twenty-five years ago this week (5th October) I arrived at Keele University as a 21 year-old fresher registered for a four year foundation course. I knew nothing about my new home having never experienced an open or visits day, in fact I’d spent about an hour in the area before I arrived. As a mature student I had won my place through an interview in May of 91, which turned out well with having to work three months notice from my job in the Clydesdale Bank.

My 5ft 2 inch eight stone frame hauled a thirty inch wheeled collapsible suitcase and a twenty inch rigid case, with duvet strapped to the side, off the 85 bus from Crewe. As I staggered into the students’ union building I heard a deep monotone voice boom out “boys”, and immediately I had assistance with my bags. I had come upon a Keele institution in the form of Neil Baldwin, the first person I met on my first day. His “boys” were his football team members, who he had marshalled to help ease the arrival of new students. Neil helpfully pointed me in the direction of where I collected my keys, assured me my bags would be safe, and that he would be waiting for my return. Discovering I was to be housed in the Hawthorns residence in the village, Neil said I’d just missed the mini bus and had half an hour wait for its return. I’d noticed Neil wearing around his neck a wooden cross pendant on a leather braid. As my eyes glanced at that simple but distinct sign of faith Neil asked “so are you a Christian then?” I replied “I’d like to think so” and mentioned I hoped to join the Chapel Choir. At that Neil promptly whisked me toward the Chapel, introduced me to the chaplains, gave me a quick tour of the building and made sure I knew where and when to go for the first choir practice. This was all before the mini bus arrived and I departed for the Hawthorns to see my room!!!

After I had unpacked, I remember sitting on my bed and giving myself a good talking too. I knew I carried two massive Grand Canyon chips on my shoulders called “Mam and Dad hang-ups”. I asked myself if I was going to be the person that had left Cleland OR the person I thought I could be, given a chance. I decided on the latter choice, realising no one knew me here, it was a clean slate. So psychologically I began filling in those shoulder chips as I strode out into my new surroundings. Oddly for two days I never saw another woman, only guys wandering the beautiful vast campus area. It wasn’t until the Friday night as I left my room to attend a residence reception party; I came upon a gang of women gathering in the hallway of Hawthorns H block, with the same party in mind. It transpired that in the all female blocks everyone congregated in the kitchen to get to know each other, whilst the all male blocks did not have such a ritual, hence why they tramped around campus instead like me. My wanderings did give me a head start when it came to registration and finding buildings when term officially began, but I also heard the odd misguided mutter about “starting early with the fellas” as I waved/said hello to various chaps heading to class.

My lifetime ambition was to attend university, but I had no chance of applying directly from school with the spectre of “parental contributions” being a factor in the financial process. So I discovered if I could prove my independence from my parents for a minimum of four years, then I could apply without fear of them being a consideration. My Dad had never let my Mum know how much he earned, so there wasn’t the remotest chance he would tell me anything. Both parents were dead set against me leaving a pensionable job on a “bloody whim”, and the fact that over 800 people were made redundant from the bank within a month of my departure, made little difference to their disdain. Without a doubt I would have been one of the redundant, but my defence for my actions fell on deaf ears and my Mammy barely spoke a word to me for a whole year, she just cut me dead most of the time when I attempted a conversation. Later “small talk” was restored, but anything to do with Keele was NEVER mentioned by her at all.

Throughout my school years where I had shown reasonable ability, neither parent had shown much of an interest. So all the decision making on subjects, worry of making the grade, terror of exams, dealing with the onslaught of bullying, as well as the growing pains of trying to fit into a confusing world, fell onto my solitary shoulders. I had absolutely no emotional support whatsoever from “family” in school, and it was abundantly clear that this state of affairs would continue at university. My sole support team consisted of three old school teachers I had stayed in touch with, and my Cleland Baptist pastor Archie Ferguson and his wife Agnes. In fact it was Archie and Agnes who gave me the confidence to get the ball rolling, by encouraging me to fill in the UCCA form. But my relationship with the support team was from a distance, not the sort where I could “chew the fat” over numerous cups of tea and late night pizza, with a reassuring hug at the end.

Being used to dealing with most things on my own meant I was a solitary kind of person with few friends at school or work. When I left the only home I’d known in Parkside Cleland, no one considered waving me off at the local railway station. As I went by train to Glasgow and onto Crewe before catching the bus to Keele, I was literally in every sense completely alone as I made my leap of faith into tertiary education. Arriving at the university I met Neil Baldwin, who in his amiable way put a proverbial arm around me and welcomed me to my new home. His simple helpful gestures paved the way for me to start my new life in Keele, as the university student I had always wanted to be.

HOSPITAL RADIO LEIGHTON OLYMPIC SHOW BROADCAST 8TH AUGUST 2012

Four years ago I fulfilled my London 2012 Olympic volunteering duties at Old Trafford. The next day I was doing my regular shift for hospital radio, gathering requests and airing my “Angie’s Allsorts” music show. This is my very own dedicated tribute to the Olympic Games ideal, with Olympic year hits, Olympic sports trivia and musical references to every decade of the modern day games since the 1900s.

Playlist

ELBOW with FIRST STEPS (2012 BBC theme tune- 2010s)

Request (outside usual time slot): BUDDY HOLLY with IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYMORE (1950s)

ELVIS PRESLEY with IT’S NOW OR NEVER (best seller of 1960-Rome games- 1960s)

Linking Lyrics Artist of the Week: ENYA

ENYA with ANYWHERE IS (2000s)

ENYA with ON MY WAY HOME (2000s)

Rarity Record of the Week:

OLYMPIA BORONAT with LES HEUGENOT from Meerbeer (recorded 1908-London’s 1st games)

CELINE DION with MY HEART WILL GO ON (reference to 1912 and Titanic sinking-1990s)

AL JOLESON with I’M SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD (1920s- big star in 1910s as well)

BANGLES with ETERNAL FLAME (for the Olympic torch/flame-1980s)

GEORGE FORMBY with BICEPS, MUSCLE & BRAWN (1930s)

RONALD BINGE with ELIZABETHAN SERENADE (1950s)

MONSERRAT CABALLE/FREDDIE MERCURY with BARCELONA (city of 1992 games-1990s)

RAY EBERLE/GLENN MILLER with AT LAST (1940s)

THE NEW SEEKERS with I’D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING (best seller 1972-Munich)

GARY BARLOW/COMMONWEALTH SINGERS with SING (2012-London’s 3rd games)

Duration: 1 hr 18m 27s

If you would like to listen to my show you can stream it from here:

https://soundcloud.com/angies_allsorts/radio-leighton-olympics-from-2012

My Historical Euro All-Star X1

Twenty-four teams will contest the European Football Championships in France this year. Surprisingly only nine teams have won the tournament with twelve finalists in total, since the contest began in 1960.

I have come up with an all-star team selection of players spanning the lifetime of the championships. My inspiration was a select UEFA 50 list used for a competition, and members of the list had to fulfil at least two of the following criteria:

Featured in at least a semi-final

Featured in a team of the tournament (ref: ToT)

Featured as the Euro top scorer (ref: TS)

Featured in an iconic moment (ref: IM)

From 1960-1976 only four nations competed for the title of European Champions. This increased to eight from 1980-1992 and then sixteen from 1996-2012. As a result some names I expected to see as a UEFA option were not offered, for example Cruyff and Kahn.

Anyway, I’ve decided to comprise my team of players who can represent every winning country and two other finalists. My players represent every decade the tournament has been played. So here is my All-Star XI team using a 4-3-3 formation:

PETER SCHMEICHEL: Goal Keeper: 1992 winner Denmark (ToT)

I thought about having Yashin the Soviet Union keeper for 60 & 64 instead of Schmeichel but wanted the big Dane between the posts. Interestingly from the keeper options; (Buffon, Casillas, Yashin, Schmeichel and Zoff); Yashin has been the ONLY keeper EVER named European Player of the Year, which is a travesty.

GIACINTO FACCHETTI: Defender left-back: 1968 winner Italy (ToT)

FRANZ BECKENBAUER: Defender centre-back/sweeper: 1972 winner Germany (ToT). Germany has also won in 1980 & 1996.

ANTON ONDRUS: Defender centre back/sweeper: 1976 winner Czechoslovakia (ToT).  He also won the bronze medal in 1980.

SERGIO RAMOS: Defender right back: 2008 & 2012 winner Spain (2012 ToT). Spain’s previous win was in 1964.

MICHEL PLATINI: Midfielder: 1984 winner France-(ToT), player of tournament & TS (9). France won again in 2000. I had grave reservations in naming Platini due to his recent fall from grace in the game, but I wanted another player from the 80s. My more natural French choice is, and always will be, Zinedine Zidane the French captain in 2000.

THEODOROS ZAGORAKIS: Midfielder: 2004 winner Greece-(ToT), player of the tournament.

DRAGAN DZAJIC: Midfielder (left winger): 1968 finalist Yugoslavia-(ToT in 68 & 76). Yugoslavia was also a finalist in 1960.

MARCO VAN BASTEN: Striker: 1988 winner Netherlands-(ToT), best player of the tournament, TS (5), IM (volley against Soviet Union in final)

VALENTIN IVANOV: Striker: 1960 winner Soviet Union-joint TS (2). Also a finalist in 1964.

CRISTIANO RONALDO: Striker: 2004 finalist Portugal-(ToT 2004 & 2012). He has scored six goals in the Euro Championships so far.

I liked the idea of having strikers from the infancy of the European Championships through to its more mature years. Van Basten was the obvious choice to me for the “middle years” and so I avoided Denmark’s Brian Laudrup from 1992 and picked Schmeichel instead. This meant Ivanov for the Soviet Union could represent the early years in my strike force.

The only Euro finalist without a representative is Belgium from 1980 beaten 2-1 by Germany. There wasn’t any player from that country mentioned in the list of fifty.

My substitute’s bench would include at least one player to cover each position.

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy finalist 2012, (ToT 2008 & 2012).

Midfielder: Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic finalist 1996, (ToT 2004))

Defender: Paolo Maldini (Italy finalist 2000, (ToT 1988, 1996 & 2000)

Striker: Alan Shearer (England semi-finalist 1996-(ToT, TS (5) and second most prolific scorer in the Euro championships with a total of seven goals. Only Platini has scored more goals (9) but Cristiano Ronaldo may over take both men if he has a good 2016 tournament!

Muhammad Ali a Sporting Icon of Our Time

The great boxing icon Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3rd 2016 aged 74, the news heralding worldwide tributes to his legacy. I would like to add my own thoughts on the subject, having seen and heard only a little of the “official” news tributes.

At a very young age I began taking an interest in the noble art of boxing, and Muhammad Ali was probably the first “big name” I can remember hearing about and watching. Ali graced the ring with a swagger and an elegance that belied his heavyweight fighting category. Some of his battles would enter into boxing folklore legend, “Rumble in the Jungle” (Foreman v Ali: Zaire: 30th October 1974) and “Thrilla in Manila” (Ali v Frazier: Philippines: 1st October 1975). These took place well before my sixth birthday and helped foster in me a love of boxing as a sport. To me, no one could match Muhammad Ali’s greatness in the heavyweight ring.

I have always enjoyed good interview programs and Michael Parkinson’s encounters with Ali were particularly memorable. Muhammad Ali always came across as a supremely confident man (some would say arrogant), who was like a breath of fresh air, as he spoke his mind in a most articulate and mesmerising way. On discovering Ali threw his 1960 Olympic gold medal into a river after being disrespected in his native US, I felt he was a man of principal. That same principal saw him change his “slave name” Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali on his conversion to Islam. Ali also refused to fight in the Vietnam War in the late 60s, and consequently the boxing authorities shamefully banned him from the sport for 3.5 years, and stripped away his boxing titles. All these actions highlighted Ali as a man of principal in an era when the United States of America was still in the grip of deep racial inequality. Muhammad Ali was a man of his time and of his people, who managed to transcend the shackles of his country’s treatment.

Muhammad Ali was a once in a generation athlete. Like Eric Liddell a man who didn’t sacrifice his religious principles during the 1924 Olympics. Yet Eric ran to feel God’s pleasure in a 400m gold winning effort. Like Jesse Owens who by winning four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, singularly routed Adolf Hitler’s belief in white supremacy. Ali was a man of his people, in a similar way I guess, to Cathy Freeman representing her Aboriginal heritage in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Ali was a man with an incredible aura who earned hard won respect from the sporting fraternity, rather like Sir Alex Ferguson. The boxer who described himself as “The Greatest” clearly had an ego as big as “The Special One” Jose Mourinho. In these two iconic men of football we see glimpses of the qualities of greatness that made Ali unique and a worldwide sporting phenomenon.

Muhammad Ali spoke his mind and didn’t give a damn who heard, or what they thought. Today’s sport is extremely sanitised and demands a universal conformity that makes athletes appear bland to the point of insignificance. As a result we can truly say there will never be a sports person like Ali again. And the world will be a poorer place for it. RIP Muhammad Ali your legacy will live on.

Seven Books From Adulthood That Have Stayed With Me

World Book Night in the UK is an event where volunteers disperse books to people who don’t normally read as a habit, and as a keen reader myself, it got me thinking about which books have stayed with me as an adult. These are the ones that instantly spring to mind:

KRAKATOA THE DAY THE WORLD EXPLODED by SIMON WINCHESTER – Brilliantly researched and well written book that chronicles the regions socio/political and economic history. The gradual understanding of geological processes and elementary evolutionary studies are explained. Numerous sources detail the human tragedy of the volcanic eruption, the repercussions of which still echo to this day. A global event reported through history, science and sociology.

A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS by FANNIE FLAGG – This is a beautiful heart warming story about community, friendship and unshakeable faith. An injured red cardinal enchants a town, befriends a little crippled girl and heals a broken man. When the bird dies everyone feels lost but his spirit returns to help the girl. A fractured community reunites and couples form over a magical Christmas.

SEABISCUIT THREE MEN AND A RACEHORSE by LAURA HILLENBRAND – Another well researched book that chronicles the story of how three people came together and made a champion out of a small misunderstood horse. I felt every emotion reading this equine sports biography, which details how Seabiscuit became “the people’s champion” thanks to a benevolent owner, understanding trainer and intuitive rider. You can read my Seabiscuit blog here:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/seabiscuit-arkle-parallels-between-two-once-in-a-generation-horses/

JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL by RICHARD BACH – A beautiful simple book with a great mandate for living that is a perfect example of my mantra, “why be a sheep if you can be a shepherd”. Jonathan remains true to himself and is cast out from his flock as a result. But he receives enlightenment and wisdom which he tries to pass on to future generations. There seems to be a distinct Buddhist element to the story through various levels of consciousness.

UNKNOWN SOLDIERS by MARK LEECH – A Major with no battle experience is deployed to a French village to oversee the clearance of the WW1 dead. Through his interactions with relatives of the deceased and dealing with his battle weary charges, the Major begins to realise the full meaning of soldier solidarity and appreciate the true cost of the war. This is a hauntingly poignant tale which seems to easily convey the colour of World War One, the drab brown of the cloying mud, which engulfed the troops and choked their spirit, but could not destroy the camaraderie of the trenches.

WHO SHOT JFK by ROBIN RAMSEY – Details gathered over the years are condensed into a narrative that offers a brilliant introduction to the subject matter. It debunks ideas along the way, but also highlights areas where evidence has been repeated in different forms. It seems to try to remain objective and neutral throughout, and brings together strands of information from over the “lifetime” of the crime. Depending on your viewpoint the conclusions drawn are outrageous and utterly ludicrous, OR horrifying, audacious and yet shockingly believable.

FIRST MOTHERS by BONNIE ANGELO – Read how a mother’s influence shaped a son’s development until he became the man who called himself President of the United States. This is a fascinating glimpse into the childhoods of boys who grew up to hold the highest political office in the USA. From Franklin Roosevelt to George W Bush, we see how family dynamics and the personalities of the “first mothers” helped mould the characters of their sons, in the formative years.

As a child I was a prolific Enid Blyton reader and my substitute adult equivalent is Maeve Binchy, therefore I deliberately did NOT mention any of her books. I find Dan Brown novels real page turners that provide me with a sense of adventure. The innocent times discovered through my BOBBY BREWSTER childhood reading has been unearthed in the MISS READ series, and the vague sense of wonder I got from Bobby has matured into something more profound in Mitch Albom’s writing. You can read my childhood books blog here:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/seven-books-from-childhood-that-have-stayed-with-me/

In closing, an honourable mention MUST go to Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock, which is indelibly seared into my consciousness for having taken a year (at least) to read! My reading style is one book at a time, with sometimes days or weeks passing between my put down/pick up actions. If scientific concepts are involved I like to puzzle over them to fully comprehend their meaning, and so several parts of this book were re-read as a result. On finishing it, my husband laughingly said “you do realise in the time it’s taken you to read this book, you could have completed a Masters course!”

Seven Books From Adulthood. Image credit abmj
              Seven Books From Adulthood. Image credit abmj

 

YURI GAGARIN 55 Years of Immortality

Fifty-five years ago on 12th April 1961 Yuri Gagarin was launched into the Earth’s orbit and became the first spaceman. Cosmonauts Day in Russia honours Gagarin’s achievement and celebrates all cosmonauts who followed him into the vastness of space.

Gagarin came from very humble beginnings the son of a carpenter and dairymaid. World War II and the German invasion of Russia halted young Yuri’s education. He managed to catch up on his studies after the war and showed a determination to further his knowledge by leaving home. Living with an uncle in Moscow, he enrolled as a 15 year old into a technical high school at Lyubertsy and followed what seems to have been a vocational apprenticeship course (possibly foundation level) in steelworks (foundry man). On completing his two year course he undertook a further four years of study in the same field, and graduated in 1955 aged 21 a fully qualified steel cast-moulder.

Yuri had apparently hoped to be a gymnast and was given the opportunity of following his dream, but decided to complete his four year foundry course instead of attending physical training school. Had he not turned his back on his sporting dream, history would have been very different. For it was during his time at the Saratov Industrial Technical School that Yuri joined the Aero Club. His obvious natural abilities were recognised in the flying club and Yuri was justly rewarded with a recommendation for the Orenburg Military Aviation School. This led him into the Soviet Air-Force in 1956 and being picked for specialist cosmonaut training in 1959 (undoubtedly helped by his small stature of 5ft 2in or 1.57m).

The Soviets used space dogs initially to test the effects of space travel on living organisms, and the successful return of Belka and Strelka after an orbital flight of over 24 hours in August 1960 paved the way for Gagarin. The space sickness suffered by Belka on the fourth orbit of her mission most probably influenced the Soviets decision that man would initially do only one orbit of the Earth. A final orbital flight on 25th March 1961 with the dog Little Star and a mannequin (Ivan Ivanovich) successfully tested the ejector seat system Gagarin would use.

In the early hours of April 12th 1961 the Vostok spacecraft was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome with 27 year old Yuri Gagarin on board. His total flight time of 108 minutes included around 89 minutes in orbit where the speed reached in the region of 27,400 km per hour. Travelling some 327km above the earth Gagarin truly had a heavenly view of our planet and the stars, but all too soon the automated flight systems brought him back, to instant worldwide acclaim. Sadly, on March 27th 1968 just short of the seventh anniversary of this amazing achievement, the Soviets made the announcement of the untimely death of Yuri Gagarin in a training accident aged 34. His ashes are buried in the walls of the Kremlin where he is honoured to this day for his launch into immortality.

The Americans followed Yuri’s epic trip a few weeks later on May 5th, when Alan Shepherd aboard Freedom 7 completed the first-US manned SUB-orbital flight, duration fifteen minutes. Interestingly his mission had originally been scheduled for April, but NASA delayed it to complete more tests on the rocket. Had they been less cautious an American could have been the first human to technically enter outer-space? But Yuri’s pioneering travel ensured that the USA in the early days of the “space-race” was always playing catch-up.

You can listen to my hospital radio space themed tribute to Yuri Gagarin here:

https://soundcloud.com/angies_allsorts/space-theme-from-230316

Treasured mementos from Cosmonaut Exhibition. Image credit abmj
Treasured mementos from Cosmonaut Exhibition. Image credit abmj