You had to be there

Is there anything as exasperating as a vacuum cleaner which will not do its job?

Yes, there is: a vacuum cleaner which will not do its job and wails disconsolately into the bargain.

We have two Dysons: neither is in its first flush of youth. When they were young and strong, there was no challenge too fierce for them, no nook or cranny which would not be persuaded, somehow, to relinquish its mites and dead grey dust to the great vanquishing four-foot high cyclone which took no captives.

Now they are both old and grey and full of sleep, and something tells me they would rather be put out to pasture underneath the hall stairs, to commune with the darkness and the coats and hats and reminisce about the days when they were great warriors of suction.

I force them out of retirement with little respect for their age. I pass them back and forth over crumbs which stay there, taunting the sound and fury of the Dysons’ erstwhile state-of-the-art roller brush system which once pummeled the carpet pile to within an inch of its life, but which now simply wheezes in its general direction.

I want a young, strong warrior once more, which can help me fight little doggie visitors and the dust mites which bring on asthma.

But school fees are school fees, and we must count the pennies, my husband admonishes.

He does not want to get another Dyson just yet.

He would rather thrash our two old gentlemen well past their humane age of retirement, as they wail their way over our carpets signifying nothing.

I posit that my husband wants to take this course of action because he doesn’t live with the situation as much as the rest of us. If he had to watch those compost granules at the kitchen door taunting the dear old Dyson; if he had to live with so much less than perfection around the house; well then, he would be sprinting out of the door and down to the New Dyson Shop in less time than a doggie flea has time to hatch and jump onto a duvet.

So: I am leaving all the vacuuming to him. I reason that once he has experienced this small piece of domestic hell for long enough, he will suggest we buy a new Dyson.

We wait in hope.

Because some things are like that. Until you have been there and done it, you cannot truly sympathise with the plight of those who are already doing so.

One of the most striking examples of this theory comes from the annals of a strange discipline allied to the United States Air Force.

It was called: Project Blue Book.

Those magnificent men in their flying machines had gone through the experimental stage of flight by 1947. Man had claimed the skies not only for travel, but for combat. He was no longer visitor, or explorer, but resident: and the newest residents of the skies learned quickly that not all the inhabitants of our atmosphere could be accounted for.

Something unexplained was flying around above American skies. And the big US military men were not easy in their minds about it. In 1951 abortive projects Sign and Grudge were replaced by Blue Book: a dispassionate project which undertook to look ruthlessly at the facts without bias.

One of the top men recruited to deal with Blue Book was General William Garland. And it is alleged that he was in a very good position to be balanced: because he himself had had a sighting.

The encounter is mentioned in the notes of the man who ran Project Blue Book for a while: Β Edward J Ruppelt. His personal archives reveal Garland saw something he could not identify in the skies while stationed in Sacramento in the late 1940s.

If this is true, it explains why Garland took such a rigorous attitude to research into UFOs. He knew they were there. He just wanted to find out their nature.

In the vaults of the US Air Force archives live oral history interviews, it seems. One of these is a 222-page transcription of an interview with General Garland.

He tells the interviewer:”You ended up with only two or three or four per cent (of sightings) that were not explainable.We never questioned that an airline pilot saw something. We questioned what he saw, not what he thought he saw.”

And they did it with as much impartiality as they could muster: “We said….Here’s what we want. We want scientific, top technical people in the country to evaluate this problem…we want them to give us a copy of the report, and at the same time we want them to give the press a copy of the report….we don’t want anyone on the blue suit side giving anyone instructions on what to do.”

You had to have seen something to come out with a brief like that.

There are billions of people inhabiting this globe of ours, and each one has had a different set of experiences. Some outlandish, some which render us incredulous; some familiar, some humdrum. Some only a woman could have; some only a man.

And until we experience a condition, I wonder – does it become completely real to us?


Written in response to Side View’s weekend theme: UFO


30 thoughts on “You had to be there

  1. aha, the American Military!

    Their responses to UFO’s Aliens etc always exasperate me.

    However on the lighter side of the US military, have you seen the movie “Men who stare at goats”? Now that was an insight into many things, not all of which were real.

    1. That’s a great movie, Sidey.

      Loved this post, Kate. Especially:

      I pass them back and forth over crumbs which stay there, taunting the sound and fury of the Dysons’ erstwhile state-of-the-art roller brush system which once pummeled the carpet pile to within an inch of its life, but which now simply wheezes in its general direction.

      And, talk about timely, BFF is vaccuuming up the crumbs as we speak. πŸ˜€

  2. I certainly didn’t think it was a theme post when you started. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘This subject sucks!’ Then, of course, I realised that they only used to.

    From that, of course, you took us on a flight of fancy. On theme without even mentioning the letters in the post. Brilliant.

  3. What about a cheaper solution? (A service, maybe would do the trick?!)

    Tools which don’t perform are aggravating to say the least.

    Tonight we saw several hot air balloons floating serenely above the Oxfordshire countryside… now wouldn’t that be wonderful? A flight in an identified flying object?

      1. What a brilliant book that was.

        I once had a hot air balloon flight over the central part of Australia.


  4. Are you on Freecycle/Freegle? When ours started to get ill, the Hub got a broken one from Freegle, cannibalised it, and fixed the old one up.

  5. When Jimmy Carter ran for president in 1976 he promised full disclosure of UFO stuff. Once he became president, never heard another word out of him re topic. The thing with aliens is that it would take so many hundreds of thousands of years to get to somewhere or for them to get to here. I can’t imagine how we could do a 4 year round trip to Mars and besides the tech stuff , carry enough food, oxygen and water. I read as the universe is expanding galaxies are moving further away and the best we could do would be to colonize objects within our solar system . Terra forming Mars may be possible. Of course the advances in flight form 1903 to 1969 moon landing are astonishing in themselves for such a short period of time. So anything is possible.

    1. I wonder why the UFO information is so difficult to get hold of? Grudging the facts is the perfect way to inspire conspiracy theorists.
      As you say: anything is possible πŸ™‚

  6. I remember reading about Project Blue Book. And I remember when I was younger hearing about UFO sightings around a town about an hour’s drive from where I then lived, and driving out there on weekend nights with my boyfriend and another couple to see what we could see. We saw nothing, of course, that we couldn’t identify more or less, but country’s lovely on a hot summer night and we felt quite adventurous. I’ve often wondered if actually seeing one wouldn’t have taken a bit of the wind our of our young sails…

    1. Thanks, Denise…I’m not sure I want to know. After billions of years with our metaphorical head stuck in the sand it might be quite unsettling to have to acknowledge a galactic community….

  7. Oh, Kate, how well you weave your stories. I wish I could do it. Good luck in getting the Dyson(s) to work, or, a new. Really. You have two that are ill and you could argue that you only need to replace one, therefore saving lots of money. You could call it your own Project Blue Book. Gotta go read those reports.

  8. Once again, my dear Kate, you leave me in awe. What a wonderful flow and connection in your words. I take my hat off to you (and you’re lucky that’s not the only thing I’m wearing!). I would love to be a fly on the wall watching and listening as you write. I know I would be safe there, because your vacuum cleaners don’t have enough suction or flexibility to pull me off my “perch.”

    Until then, in the words of the great British lyricist, W. S. Gilbert:

    “Things are seldom what they seem,
    Skim milk masquerades as cream.
    Highlows pass as patent leathers,
    Jackdaws strut in peacock feathers.”

    Some things best remain unidentified. Once identified, we lose interest and become apathetic, or bored, and move on to ever more bizarre and outlandish things. As much as I would really like to see a UFO, and to find out that we are actually being visited by (benevolent, of course) beings from other worlds, I also rather like the mystery. Mystery gives birth to imagination, and imagination to creativity, and creativity to. . . mystery, and bigger and better, more fantastic U. F. O.’s: Unidentified Fantastic One-ders. . .

    1. i did love your UFO post, Paula πŸ™‚ Very feel-good. And this is the perfect set of world to go with the letters. Gospelwriter said she used to go UFO-spotting when she was young, but wouldn’t have known what to do if one appeared. I think you’re right: some things are best hidden.

  9. You never fail to amaze me, Kate. Jolly well done.
    And you’re so right about experience; having just suffered temporary deafness I have a newfound respect for deaf people.

  10. I had to smile at this one as I’ve two vacs too (not near as costly as yours) and neither one works a lick, it is maddening, indeed! As for UFOs…fine post, though I’m still quite the skeptic of the idea. It did remind me of a sweet little movie called, Contact, now I must watch for I cannot remember if the end claims to leave doubt or not…

  11. Fabulous, thought-provoking post, Kate! I hope Phil figured out the Dyson issue soon…our last one was merrily destroyed by Quest, leaving no alternative but to buy a new one. Perhaps you should pass the message on to Macauley πŸ˜€

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