I bought a space suit a month ago. It’s not a real one, but it looks fairly realistic. It comes from a company called Space Toys based in an exciting-sounding place called Grand Rapids in Michigan.
I didn’t have a clear reason for doing it, though it felt broadly relevant to our new brand (Houston is famous for space travel) and I’ve always been a space nut. Anyway I bought it from Marcie at SpaceToys and after a few weeks (they’re made to order and there were a few issues with UK customs) the suit arrived.
I tried it on in the office, doing my best not to feel like other infamous middle-aged costume wearers.
My colleagues looked at me with a strange, unsettling combination of pity and bemusement.
I had a sign made and I decided to go for a walk. After a few bureaucratic hurdles (best not dealt with here) I went for a short stroll on the Strand. This was my Neil Armstrong moment. Stepping down off the ladder into an inhospitable environment for the first time. It is quite hard to see through the visor and I found myself stumbling in a few potholes on the road and pavement.
The pleasing thing was seeing the mixture of looks. Studied indifference (as studied, if I may say so, as their hairstyles/moustaches, etc). Double takes ending in smiles. Immediate smiles. Requests for pics. Selfies (some people have very long arms).
It all seemed to go quite well.
A few days later I decided to walk down to Trafalgar Square. I stood at the top part, near the people who do that levitating trick. Some families of tourists asked to have their picture taken with me (and my new sign). There were loads of photography requests. Someone threw £1.34 at my feet. I felt the closest I will ever get to feeling like a minor celebrity (it was quite nice and I can see how it might become addictive).
On Wednesday night I was invited to a PR event. We won an award earlier this year at the PR Week Awards for our work on London’s first Underground Farm. The reception was for the great and the good of PR and me. I agonised for ages about what to wear and then decided I’d wear the suit (oh yes).
I had no struggle getting a cab (I was a bit scared to use the tube). After several picture requests I put my hand up (no cabs had their lights on) and hey presto a sea of orange lights.
When I got to the venue the cabbie asked me for an “I had that Neil Armstrong in the back of my cab” picture.
Inside it took quite a bit of time to register (I think they thought I might be a wayward drunk from an office Christmas party) but after I’d done that they made me feel at home.
PR Week took it all in very good spirits as did the hosts, the very nice Ellwood and Attfield.
I couldn’t go back to office afterwards so I headed home in my suit. There was a slightly awkward moment at Blackfriars Station. I spotted someone I knew who I’d had a bit of a falling out with a few years ago (it very rarely happens to me, but you know, sometimes…..) He couldn’t tell it was me but he seemed to like the idea of getting close to a spaceman (groupie!) and seemed to sort of follow me up the platform. I had to run a bit and jumped into a different set of doors just before they closed. Phew.
The rest of the journey was fine (good humoured requests for photos).
The next day I had to wear the suit back in to work. I didn’t have a bag big enough for it and I felt like I was sort of in my stride.
I walked through the turnstiles (this was the tail end of rush hour) and everybody on the platform stopped. Lots of people started taking pictures. There was, I think, (I couldn’t really hear inside the helmet) a tannoy announcement (probably something like “code, er, hang on, code, er, yes here it is, code 1493 on platform one. Astronaut on the platform”).
It was a really enjoyable journey. I had to buy an umbrella at City Thameslink (it was raining) and I walked along Fleet Street to work with it overhead.
I made the front page of the local paper!
I tweeted a few bad jokes to NASA and they favourited one.
Oh, and this morning the BBC have reported my walkabout.
And the Mirror!
And to cap it all, it got retweeted by a real astronaut! Thanks Commander Chris Hadfield!
My spacewalk was also the subject of the caption competition on Have I Got News for You. Paul Merton and Reginald B Hunter came up with captions. They weren’t very complimentary.
The suit is working out really well. Thanks Marcie and SpaceToys.