Let’s call him David—I don’t know what his name is. Back in 1983, 78-year-old David was strolling alongside Basingstoke Canal in Aldershot. The canal was originally conceived to connect Hampshire to the lucrative London markets, but on this particular day, David became entwined with something far more exotic.
Before him stood a sprite from outer space! I don’t know what his name was . . . let’s call him Gordon. After gassing about the weather and examining Gordon’s weird toes, David followed his virescent friend aboard a nearby space-craft, where the earthling was subjected to all manner of questions.
“What the devil’s that?”
“But where’s your tail?”
Proving a direct and depressing correlation between space and the work place, poor David was considered overripe.
“You can go,” the aliens told him. “You are too old and too infirm for our purpose.”
Save for the parts I fabricated, and besides the parts he skewed, David’s experience is authentic. He captured the extraordinary encounter in a letter, and posted it to the Ministry of Defence, which, as part of a plan to make reports of UFO sightings accessible, teleported it into the public sphere in 2008. However, its ostensible openness snapped shut this week like a Venus Flytrap in a beehive.
From now on, all UFO correspondence will be balled up and shoved into some intergalactic hoax bin after 30 days, where it will decompose alongside a stack of crop circles, the Holy Grail, and Elvis Presley, who has been performing In The Ghetto there since not dying of a heart attack in 1977.
An MoD memo, made public after a Freedom of Information request, says: “The dedicated UFO hotline answer phone service and e-mail address serve no defense purpose, and merely encourage the generation of correspondence of no defense value.”
It’s actually to spare them the hassle of responding to FoI requests about people who look as if they’ve been swimming in a sea of lime cordial. The memo continues: “Reported sightings received from other sources should be answered by a standard letter and . . . should be retained for 30 days and then destroyed, largely removing any future FoI liability and negating the need to release future files post-November 30, 2009.”
First, if the British public wants access to information from a publicly funded body (the fact that the move was taken suggests this is so) it should be granted, or at the very least debated. Second: no defense purpose? This arrogance and certitude spits in the wind of history’s lessons. Goliath didn’t perceive in David, the slingshot-wielding weakling, a threat to his security; Troy didn’t anticipate a cascade of warriors to trickle from an elephantine wooden horse; more seriously, Stalin didn’t recognise Hitler as a hazard to the Soviet Union. Yet all were. Why so glibly refute the potential peril posed by flying saucers and intensely envious-looking beings?
Where would we be if every time an arduous task reared its many sided head we tossed it into some supermassive trash can?
Elvis knows: “In the ghetto”.