Have you ever met one of your heroes?
At age four I’m pretty sure Kitty’s heroes are mostly Daddy, and she sees him every day, but if I were going to hazard a guess at her “when I grow up I want to be …” list, I think Chris Hadfield might just make the top of the list. She is fascinated with the Canadian Space Agency’s YouTube videos, she’ll tell you all about crying in space, or how to make a sandwich, and how everything just floats; and we’ve had a whole heap of conversations that start with “when I’m in space…”
So when we realised that far from spending a quiet December appreciating the beauty of a lot of Canadian snow, Cmdr Hadfield was in fact doing a whistle stop tour of the UK to promote his new book, and that one of the stops was our favourite just-a-little-bit-down-the-road bookshop we knew that we had to take the chance to take Kitty (and Elma and Pip) to Blackwell’s in Oxford to meet a man who knows what the world looks like from the outside.
And that’s exactly what we did. We took the girls for lunch, we may perhaps have had a slight detour to the Blackwell’s children’s department and come away a little less empty handed than we had originally arrived, but before too long we were standing in the queue that ran the length of the Norrington Room plus a few squiggles down into the medicine section trying to keep the family relatively well behaved (with a little extra help from my very dear friend and Elma’s godmother who came to catch up with us while we queued) and not to be too distracted by the gorgeous books being showcased by the travel section (nice marketing technique there by Blackwells; though I can’t decide whether they had the signing in the law section to (a) shift more law books (b) because no one would actually want to be there for textbooks and therefore it would be quiet or (c) just to give me flashbacks to my undergraduate days!).
And then with my eyes firmly averted from Megarry & Wade (it’s a textbook, it will never ever feature in What We’re Reading) we turned the corner and reached the front of the queue.
Of course in my dreams of this moment my girls were both friendly, confident, shining examples of ‘perfect’ children, and probably if I’d thought about it, wearing their shoes, but this is real life. In the event Pip was asleep in the sling and Kitty was so overcome with the reality of meeting someone she usually sees on the computer that she became uncharacteristically shy and could barely be persuaded to do more than peek out from behind H’s legs. Elma though was fascinated, pulling up on tip-toes to see this spaceman, and to look at a brilliant picture of a maple tree biscuit floating in the middle of the ISS. I think she might also have asked him to sign her copy of Slinky Malinki but we’re not quite sure.
And we did manage to ask the chief question concerning Kitty at the moment; do they ever see Father Christmas and Rudolf from the ISS. I can tell you that I now have it on excellent authority that they have a Christmas tree on board, on Christmas Eve they all hang out their stockings, and on Christmas morning the stockings were filled – what more answer could you need.
It was truly an honour to meet Chris Hadfield; he is someone who had a huge dream, but he pursued it, and kept at it, and worked for it to become a reality. If he is inspiring my children, I couldn’t ask for more, whether that leads them to want to take up space travel or not.
And I also know that despite her shyness in the moment, my Kitty is always going to treasure her signed copy of You Are Here; she hasn’t stopped carrying it around with her since and has barely stopped talking about it either!
I also wanted to say that I thought Blackwell’s were wonderful; they had a very slick operation to make sure that you weren’t queuing for too long, but that you also got to spend a little time having a chat, and it’s the Blackwells staff that took these photos. They were also unfailingly kind to the girls, as was the chap behind us in the queue who very sweetly said he’d been having parenting 101 while we waited and that he very much meant it as a compliment – phew!
And do you want to know a secret? Well it’s not much of a secret if I’m about to share it with the internet – I’m so very excited about looking through Kitty’s gorgeous new book with her that I might just not quite be able to wait until she wakes up!