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“Newquay, we have a problem”

January 9, 2023

We’ve gathered in thousands to witness the blast-off,
We’re sipping Champagne with our eyes full of stars.
In five or ten years now, our guys will be planting,
The Red, White and Blue on the surface of Mars.

The seven-four-seven rolls into the darkness,
It’s taking our dreams and the Rocket below.
An Albatross crossing the wave-tossed Atlantic,
On route to our destiny’s crackling show.

Then comes the release, now the Rocket untethered,
Goes hurtling down the meridian line.
It’s onward, and upward escaping the clutches,
Of bold Mother Earth and her troubling times.

But wait, there’s a silence from all those reporters,
The staff in control are all scratching their heads.
It seems an “anomaly” made it quite certain,
Our race into space lies forgotten and dead.

We thought that this moment could lift our depression,
We needed a story, our pride to defend.
But now its all Harry and Meghan and Harry,
And Harry and Meghan, oh when will it end.

We’ll slide into Winter, it’s cold and it’s raining,
With thoughts of Apollo infecting our dreams.
As all of that money burns up on re-entry,
We’ll ponder, forever on what might have been.

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Jeff Eardley lives in the heart of England near to the Peak District National Park and is a local musician playing guitar, mandolin and piano steeped in the music of America, including the likes of Ry Cooder, Paul Simon, and particularly Hank Williams.


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16 Responses

  1. Mike Bryant

    Jeff, Susan was in tears as I read this special poem/song to her. I had only read a headline about the “anomaly” before I saw your poem here, and wondered how the people felt. I don’t have to wonder any more. I feel the disappointment, through your words and Susan’s sighs.
    I suppose you know that you’ll have to have Evan post the audio file of your band performing this wonder in the next day or two. Wonderful, sad and perfect.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Mike, Evan’s image brought back the day, 37 years ago, when we too were in tears at a failed space mission. Those seven brave souls reminded us all that space is hard. At least ours resulted in no loss of life but it was frustratingly disappointing all the same. Thanks for your most gracious comment. A song version may happen….keep you posted.

      Reply
  2. James Sale

    Mighty fine writing Jeff: I had to read it – the title alone is worth the admission fee! What bathos: “Newquay, we have a problem”. We English just don’t do it quite like the Americans, do we? Great stuff.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      James. You are right. We seem to be brilliant at creating the payload, but useless at getting it up there (as the actress said to the Bishop.) Kind words from a great poet are much appreciated. Thank you so much.

      Reply
  3. Morrison Handley-Schachler

    I really enjoyed reading this, Jeff. The contrast between the high hopes and the sad event worked really well. Great to see someone make something of a costly failure. Then again, if you’ve never failed at anything you haven’t tried hard enough.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Morrison, thank you for taking the time to comment. We Brits are used to disappointment, so this was just another one. We just needed a break from the endless H&M coverage, but it wasn’t to be.

      Reply
  4. Paul Freeman

    Spot on title, and the sing-song style made for a fun read.

    To the surfing capital of the UK, I say: “Next time, Newquay!”

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks Paul, my music pals and I must create an English surf sound, accompanied by the image of five old blokes in battered camper vans. We could invite Greta Thumberg. First single could be “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah bra Ann.”

      Reply
  5. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Jeff, your title is inspired as is the rest of the poem that dashes the hopes and dreams of what begins as a promising venture into space. We are left to contemplate what such a costly effort it was for the British to make the attempt and then fail leaving the citizenry to more mundane pursuits.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks Roy. Newquay was big news for a day but will now revert to its role as surf capital of England. The rocket and its eye-watering expensive payload are but a distant memory as we await the sequel to “Spare” possibly to be called, “Pillock”

      Reply
  6. Norma Pain

    Enjoyed your poem very much Jeff. That is a problem for Britain, but… that stiff upper lip will see them through and, like you say, they’ll go back to Harry and Megan.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks Norma. The stiff upper lips are now sagging with despair at the State of the Nation over here. You have reminded me to dig out Monty Python’s “Lumberjack” song for some light relief from the interminable boredom of H&M.

      Reply
  7. Brian A Yapko

    I enjoyed this poem, Jeff, even though the subject is an unhappy one. Your work presents an elusive tone — hopefulness denied, cynical acceptance of a status quo that is marginally tolerable as we ponder forever what might have been. This is rich subject matter — representative of all of those hopes and dreams that almost happened and then burned out. A sad but thought-provokingly good read.

    Reply
  8. Jeff Eardley

    Brian, I promise that I will cheer up, but this event was such a let-down for us over here. I guess we will never match you guys in the race to space. I sincerely hope that you have got “blah, blah, blah” out of your system and thank you for taking the time to comment. Have a great weekend.

    Reply
  9. Margaret Coats

    Jeff, your poem makes the disappointment real. I can’t recall anything like it at the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida, where I grew up, until three lives were lost on the ground (the 1967 Apollo 1 fire). There were a number of failures, especially early on when the USSR was ahead, but the atmosphere after losing equipment was always one of analyzing the set-back in order to try again soon. I suspect the different attitude was due to America and Russia being involved in a space race that both were determined to win. Your poem shows a regretful sense of lost promise. Hope you can keep up the spirits in some other way, if not in any new space venture.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Margaret, I can’t imagine the thrill of growing up where you did. It was just TV for us at the time but for my generation, it was a magical time of wonderment, and we really thought that by the millenium, we would be strolling around on Mars. Alas, we will never see it in our lifetimes. Thank you for your most observant reflections on what used to be, and what may be again.

      Reply

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