So, yesterday evening saw me in Birmingham at about 6pm, and for the first, and very possibly only, time in my life, I got to sink a pint with a man who has walked on the moon.
Charlie Duke looked fairly fatigued after two days of autograph signing and posing for pictures with collectors, traders and fans and admitted to having had very little sleep over the previous two days.
But, instead of winding down after his pretty relentless personal appearances, he gave up a whole hour to me once the show had ended to talk about the politics and media interest that surrounded not just his Apollo 16 flight, but the whole programme. He was charming, friendly and ever so patient, since I hardly think my line of questioning was revolutionary and it definitely took me a while to get into my stride, though our pints of Stella Artois certainly helped. He was even prepared to talk on long after my recording device was full (ironically I was using 80s technology to talk to a man in his 70s about events that spanned the 60s!).
Did much new emerge? Probably not (certainly not for him!) Do I have ammunition to use in the disso? Definitely - some great quotes and one or two unexpected opinions. Was it worth the 150 mile round-trip on a Sunday evening. Most definitely. Did I miss out not going to the autograph show? No, No, No.
...And did I get an autograph? Well, it was most certainly not appropriate to whip out a camera or open my many Apollo books for the Duke pen. But I thought it was the right thing to ask Charlie to initial my email trail to authenticate our meeting. But he's a really nice guy and went further than that (see above) writing: 'To Mark - All the best on your thesis. Aim high, Charlie Duke.
Today, I'm aiming higher!