Friday, 7 January 2011


I watched Stargazing LIVE last night.  I am quite interested in astronomy.  But there are so many bloody stars, it’s hard to know where to start.  I once went celestial navigating in the Lake District.  It was wonderful; you can just see so many stars there away from the glare of cities.  The only thing that makes the whole process rather unreliable is clouds.  We have a lot of them in this country.  Oh, and cow fields – hard to walk across in the dark I discovered.

This was one of the problems with the TV programme.  There was apparently a solar eclipse this morning.  There was also rain and clouds.  As Caitlin Moran put it so succinctly on her Twitter page, it’ll be 2028 before I miss another eclipse.  It’s all very well showing us the observatory in Hawaii and spectacular pics of nebula and close-ups of Pluto; what we have here is clouds.

So I found the programme rather unhelpful.  I was expecting to know where to look or what to expect to find in the sky at that moment.  That seems to me to the point of a live programme out of doors in UK anyway.  Maybe it’ll be better in the other episodes.  I shall miss them, but I’ll have a look through on iPlayer.

But one thing the programme did do was to remind me how small I am.  Relatively, you understand.  All those shots of vast celestial bodies floating around in space and views of tiny Earth in the distance made me think more of my position in the universe.  And my purpose.  What am I for?

It’s interesting though, isn’t it.You can sort of make sense of emerging from primeval soup and evolving.  I often gaze at the sea and feel somehow nostalgic as though part of me remembers living in it.  And you can understand the basic survival of the fittest that has brought us to where we are now.  Wars, and even competitive pursuits, and all the seven deadly sins make sense in that context.  Even Mr Emery next door makes sense in that context.  You can even accept going on holiday, since all species go south for the winter or build nests to hibernate in, as we do in effect.  So we’re just part of a broad evolving life form.  But where does writing fit in?

As I walked down to the shops this morning, I had a strong sense of my walking round a large sphere in space.  We have invented all these names for it, but basically it’s a globular thingy in nothing.  Lots of nothingness in fact.  Full of lots more globular thingies.  As I thought this, I thought I’d be quite good at narrating this programme.  But I also saw in my mind a sphere in a great nothingness with me walking round it.  And I felt very small, but it sort of made sense with me as just one part of one living organism evolving.  I can’t work out why we write things though.

Anyway, that’s what I thought I’d write about.

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