On 20 July 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped down from Eagle, NASA’s fragile, tin-foiled, spider-legged lunar-landing module and placed the human race’s very first footprints on the surface of another planet.
Apart from absorbing that semi-interesting historical snippet, observant readers will also note that he was carrying a large backpack, weighing somewhere in the region of 30lbs, which contained his life-support system for the first moonwalk in human history.
Gravity being what it is, he was virtually weightless during his brief sojourn on the moon’s dusty surface, whilst in contrast we were enjoying the Isle of Anglesey’s earthbound gravitational pull as it anchored us happily in reclining chairs, basking in warm summer sunshine on Llydan Beach.
Having recognised the opportunity presented by a ‘surprise’ free weekend, we’d liberated the Knumptywagen from storage, dusted it down, remembered to tax it, and trundled off on a spontaneous trip to this small, easily accessible and uncharacteristically sunny island off the north coast of Wales.
Here, through our slightly naive, landlocked unknowingness, we became fascinated by the number of fellow holidaymakers touting large ungainly space-age Neil-Armstrong-sized silvered backpacks along beach paths.
Our piqued curiosity was of course rewarded when nearest neighbours dumped a matching pair of these monolithic packages on the sand nearby, and proceeded to unwrap from within inflatable paddle boards, which came into being, chrysalis-like, amidst some hefty hand-pumping.
These simple craft proliferated along the beach, with feverish pumping (or the occasional high-pitched whine of battery-operated pumps) providing a soundtrack to accompany the cawing seagulls and general seaside chatter so redolent of our youth.
Once inflated to what appeared to be an alarmingly explosive-looking rigidity, they were then proudly carried (or dragged) to the gently lapping water’s edge, and launched with varying degrees of aplomb, confidence, skill and tomfoolery by people of varying height, age and body mass.
Those sporting wetsuits generally stepped confidently aboard and – standing tall and proud – launched themselves serenely towards the distant horizon. Others chose to kneel, some to sit, and some to be pushed seawards by willing partners, one of whom dashed back ashore to embark an over-excited, yapping dog who thence seemed completely at ease crewing the stern of his gently bobbing craft.
Such were their numbers that – as the day progressed- our view out to sea became populated by silhouetted stick-people, as if L. S. Lowry had forsaken Manchester for the day, headed to the seaside and captured the animated scenes in his own inimitable style.
And then, as the sun began to set, these proud seafarers came ashore, to release the valves of their pressurised craft, adding yet more alarming space-age sound effects into our afternoon reveries. Gradually, all was packed away; aquanauts donned their back-packs and ambled, in apparent gravity-less slow-motion – back to the busy car-park, where presumably they loaded up their own versions of the Eagle and blasted off back to their camp-sites, B&Bs for rewarding teas, beers and well-deserved dinners, under the benevolent light of a silvery super-moon.