Several nights ago, I slipped away to the Cliff Inn in the village where my parents grew up to have a quiet pint of their best bitter.
But so much for quiet: the pub was heaving with the monthly “Quiz Night,” with people packed into the two rooms that were separated by another little room commandeered by the publican.
People were sitting in groups around the low tables, and the publican was calling out questions. I didn’t see anyone I knew, so I went into the slightly quieter room and settled in with my pint and a copy of “The Peak District at War.”
“What did Sir Frank Whittle invent?” the publican called into both rooms.
I didn’t have a clue, but judging by the number of people scribbling, everyone else did.
“What’s the name of the capital of Vietnam?” he bellowed.
Again, instant scribbling. Clearly an intelligent crowd.
“What is the middle name of President Lyndon Johnson of the United States?” the publican called out.
Tough question. A lot of Americans would have trouble with this-and how many Americans could answer a question about the last name of a British Prime Minister, let alone his middle name?
I looked over, and saw that one of my cousins, Carol, was among the people at one of the tables.
“Baines,” I mouthed, and she smiled and nodded as she wrote it down.
“What is the name of the part of the moon where the American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked?” the publican asked.
I should know this; my father analyzed the moon rocks that Armstrong and co. brought back in July 1969, but I couldn’t recall the particular part of the moon where they landed. I clearly remember when my dad ushered me, my sister, and our Canadian relations into his office and allowed us to hold a slide containing dust from the moon.
“Allegedly!” called out someone from the far room.
“Allegedly walked on the moon!” someone else shouted out.
“Allegedly!” called out someone else.
Is this some sort of British humo(u)r, I wondered? Are they being ironic?
“Why are they saying ‘allegedly’?” I asked Carol.
“A lot of people here don’t believe that the Americans really landed on the moon,” she said.
They don’t believe that Americans really landed on the moon? What, are they from Outer Mongolia?
I knew that there were people around the world—particularly from the Soviet Union which competed against the US in the race to the moon–who didn’t believe that the Americans landed on the moon, but not surely not here? I have to admit, the photographs of the moon landing look kind of cheesy, like someone with a slight talent with Lego blocks might create, but surely enough time has gone by that people now believe?
“My father ALLEGEDLY analyzed the moon rocks for NASA,” I said to Carol. “My father, the ALLEGED Joe Smith of Crich,” I clarified.
Carol was creasing herself laughing, and couldn’t stop for a good two or three minutes.
What are the odds that we’d hear a question in this small village in the north of England that related directly to one of sons of Crich, who also happened to be my father and Carol’s cousin, and that at least some of the people here in this pub, people who could answer erudite questions about an inventor and the middle name of a US president, didn’t believe that Americans had actually landed on the moon?!?!?
And, by the way, the answer to where they landed is “The Sea of Tranquility.” That is, if you believe the astronauts really landed on the moon!
A video of the Apollo moon landing: