By Arthur C. Clarke
[Author, authority, activist, futurist and homo sapiens par excellence, Arthur C. Clarke receives lots of mail. Lots and lots of mail. Thus, EGOgrams, Clarke's regular missives to the masses.]
1991 was a difficult year, involving several medical emergencies and the race to finish my longest book, How the World was One: Beyond the Global Village. Then there was just time to pack and fly to London with my personal physician, Dr. Theva Buell, and my partner Hector Ekanayake. On May 8, I entered University College Hospital, and would like to pay a tribute to my surgeon, Mr. Peter Worth, who spent 2 1/2 hours in a tricky rearrangement of my plumbing, involving the removal of a diverticulam (bladder extrusion) and prostate, both of which were heading for the Guiness Book of Records. I returned to Colombo 10 June and have made an excellent recovery from the operation.
On the Post-Polio Syndrome front, my condition appears stable, thanks to a regime of rigorous daily physiotherapy. I can now walk almost normally for short distances, and still play regular (though sessile) table tennis. Best of all, I made three open-sea SCUBA-dives in March, the last of 100 feet on a beautiful wreck seven miles out of Colombo. My main limitation is energy: I have to sleep every afternoon without fail.
To conserve my mental and physical resources, I have cancelled my subscriptions to almost all magazines and have resigned from as many organizations as possible-including, very reluctantly, the Institute of Fundamental Studies. However, I have agreed to continue as Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, and of the International Space University.The Ekanayake family is fine; Tamara (8) has made her first TV commercial and features (full-size!) in a beautiful colour almanac, both for Lakspray Milk. Cherene (12) has won several swimming contests, and Melinda (2) is an absolute doll.
My beloved Ridgeback Rikki is warming my feet at this moment, and Tammy's Chihuahua Pepsi-quite the most endearing little creature I've ever known-lives permanently inside my shirt. But we still grieve for Cherene's Cairn, Dainty, lost through an infection just before she would have given us her first puppies.
Despite occasional fighting in the North, conditions in most of Sri Lanka are now perfectly normal. The west coast hotels are packed, and tourist are returning in record numbers. We have bought a beautiful house on the beach near Coral Gardens, Hikkaduwa, for Underwater Safari's divers and our guests. I hope to spend much time there, with dogs, Diskman, and laptop.Rather extensive plans are being made to celebrate my 75th birthday at my hometown, Minehead, and if all goes well I'll be there in July. (No way I'll be in uk December 16!)With over fifty projects in orbit, there's certainly no danger of boredom, and I expect to be happily occupied until at least 2001, which I can't believe is now only nine years away.....
5 April 92
v 15 Nov 9
I was particularly glad to meet Robert Swarthe (who gave an illustrated lecture on the planned Fountains of Paradise movie) Harry Lange (2001 designer) Len Carter (long-time secretary of the bis) Duncan Steel (authority on asteroids, who came all the way from Australia), and SF authors John Brunner and Bob Shaw. An unexpected pleasure was a visit by Dr. Carl Djerassi, co-inventor of the Pill, who is now writing some excellent science-based fiction (e.g. Cantor's Dilemma). And I was particularly delighted to meet Britain's first (and so far only) astronaut, Helen Sharman, who told me about life aboard the MIR space-station.
The highlight of the Minehead visit was being made the town's first Freeman, at a special meeting of the Council. No one seemed quite sure what privileges this conveys; the suggestion that it entitles me to drive sheep through mid-town on market day could not be confirmed.
On my return to London I gave a final press conference in the Science Museum-besides the now-completed Babbage Difference Engine, whose historic ancestor had so fascinated me more than half a century ago. Then I was wheeled next door to see the Natural History Museum's scary new exhibit-a convincingly animated tableau of three small dinosaurs feeding on one ten times their size, with suitable sound effects. Don't miss it!
My visit was made possible only by the care and hospitality of Sally and Navam Tambayah, with whom I stayed in West London, and my adopted Sri Lankan family, the Ekanayakes. I was very happy that Hector, Valerie, Cherene, Tamara, and Melinda were able to make a side-trip to Eurodisney. Melinda celebrated her 3rd birthday as we were descending towards Colombo...
It was a wonderful and unforgettable experience, but we were all happy to be back home with our beloved dogs-my Ridgeback Rikki and Tammy's Chihuahua Pepsi. (But we still grieve for Cherene's Cairn, Dainty, who brought us so much joy in her short life.)
My general health is excellent; I have made a complete recovery from the major rearrangement of my plumbing carried out in University College Hospital in May 91. But the Post-polio Syndrome requires daily physiotherapy, and I have to sleep every afternoon. However, I can walk unassisted for short distances, and play regular (though sessile) table tennis. And having proved that I am still 100% operational underwater, I look forward to more diving.
To conserve time and energy, I have cancelled my subscriptions to almost all magazines and societies. However, I have been persuaded to continue as Chancellor of the International Space University and the University of Moratuwa.
Despite occasional fighting in the North, Sri Lanka is now perfectly normal and tourists are returning in record numbers. We have bought a beautiful house on the beach near Coral Gardens, Hikkaduwa, for Underwater Safari's divers and our guests. I hope to spend much time there, with dogs, Discman, and laptop.
With some 50 projects in orbit, there's certainly no danger of boredom, and I expect to be happily occupied until at least 2001-which I can't believe is now less than nine years away.
20 Aug 92
Arriving in UK July 9 for the slightly premature celebrations of my 75th birthday (no way I'd be there in December!) I was just in time to see Heather Couper host the Giotto flyby. Then on 13 July Sir Hermann Bondi presented me with the International Science Policy Foundation's medal, with a speech so flattering that it quite embarrassed me (no mean feat.)
July 15 there was a reception by the Parliamentary Space Committee in the House of Commons, where I met many old and new friends, including several from the Other Place-Lords Shackelton, Bessborough, and Wilberforce, cheerful survivor of two ordeals: being attacked by an elephant in Sri Lanka, and reading the whole of Imperial Earth in "Books for the Blind". The occasion was recorded in Hansard (14 July, p. 968) as follows:
Sir Michael Marshall: In a week that marks the 75th birthday of the British space pioneer Arthur C. Clarke and his visit to the House of Commons will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity of assuring the House that... HM's Government will make every effort to take initiatives in the space field to improve the quality of life and assist British industry?
The Prime Minister: I think I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. I welcome the visit of Mr. Clarke to the House. We shall continue to take initiatives...in pursuit of space priorities.
Thank you Mr. Major: but in view of Britain's deplorable record in space achievements, I'll believe it when I see it. Ironically, on the way out of the House I ran into Tony Benn, widely regarded by my friends in the industry as responsible for this sad state of affairs. We exchanged polite greetings.
The next weekend I went to my hometown, Minehead, for the small but excellent Space Exhibition arranged by my brother Fred with the help of an army of volunteers. Among the items on display: Moon rocks from NASA, guarded by two genuine Daleks; a wonderful collection of space art (and artists-David Hardy, Matt Irvine, Danny Flynn, Paul Swendsen); a met-sat readout system-and, of course a small mountain of Neil McAleer's Odyssey, which Gollancz had rushed to through the press with incredible speed. Neil and I signed hundreds of copies...
The only glitch in the extensive programme was when poor Patrick Moore was put into hospital, the day before he was due to open the proceedings, by an Indentified Flying Object-viz. a cricket ball which almost cost him his observing eye. Heather Couper kindly drove across England at a moment's notice to replace him, and joined Gentry Lee in an amusing and informative discussion on space exploring which everyone enjoyed. I'm happy to say that when I joined Pat a week later to do a promotional video for British Aerospace, he had fully recovered. I was also able to return Heather's kindness by taking part in one of her TV programmes.
Serendipity's "Arthur C. Clarke: A Failed Recluse" was aired by HTV on 17 July, and a longer version covering the Minehead activities will soon be released. Southern Cross Entertainment (which recently filmed me 100-feet down on a beautiful wreck seven miles off Colombo) also made extensive video coverage for a programme about my underwater career.