Sunday, 23 November 2008

Heavenly Bodies

A slow drive home last week and the skys were still clear. It was around tea time and there, just a little above the horizon, I could see two bright stars. They were of course planets as they did not twinkle twinkle like a little star. The sky was quite beautiful that evening and to have two planets so close together was spectacular.

I think I mentioned before about my interest in astronomy due to my walks around the gas works with the night watchman, George. I would be about 12-years old then; we lived in the gas works managers house but I hasten to add, in the old servant quarters. We moved to this house when I was 8-years old and it was a great adventure; the gas works, then disused except for storage, was my playground also the garden with it's tennis court, green house, vine shed, garage and workshop. The manager that lived next door was not a gardener or handy man so we had the use of the garden and it's out houses. Dad dug up half the tennis court and planted potatoes and vegetables and I threw a rope over a branch and made a swing in the trees.

During our 10-years there I went from a kid in short trousers to a young man at technical college. Family was important and there would often be uncles, aunts, cousins and extended family visiting. We didn't have much but there was always enough to go round; conversation at adult level, was mostly reminiscing - stories about themselves and other family members, it was good to listen in, even if I had heard it before. Mum & Dad often had visitors (family and friends) who would come for adult talks, they were good listeners to anyone in need.

The gas works also had a row of terraced houses and it was here that Luap and Nephets lived, we used to reverse our names; this was down to uncle Pip, one of the watchmen. He would tell fantastic stories and recite nonsense poems, we would sit for hours in the boiler room and listen to him. Uncle Pip used to work in the iron ore mines in Eston hills, he was was a huge man but gentle and full of fun. He would stoke the furnace with coke, which heated the water; this would stop the gas storage tanks from freezing. Every hour measurements of the two large gasometers were taken and recorded in the "big book". Measurements were taken by counting the number of gas tank levels fully extended and number of plates and bolts visible. The volume of gas could then be calculated.

Perhaps more about my time at South Bank another day; so what about these two planets? What a beautiful sight. I did wonder if one of them was Mars as this planet is often seen just above the horizon, but no, my first thoughts were correct it was Jupiter and Venus (very bright). I did Google this when I got home; it seems that Jupiter and Venus come within 2 degrees of each other and on the 1st December just after sunset they are joined by the smallest part of the moon. I hope the sky is clear and I remember my tripod. All this is happening in the constellation of Sagittarius. So what does all this mean? The names of the planets, the position in this constellation at this time of year and the moon? Nothing, it is just a beautiful sight to be gazed upon and marveled at, reminisced upon and valued. This time of year, as we pull ourselves in and keep warm, it is good to reminisce and value our family and friends, past and present.
Note to evening office: I am who I am because of others.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Night Light

As I walk around the friary these November evenings, I am greeted by shafts of light through the windows. We have been treated by some clear skys recently and a full moon. Moon light has that pure silvery light, making our rooms look rather grand (hiding the dust and clutter). Saturday evening I stopped the car at the sea front and took a few photos, wish I had my tripod as many came out blurred but I liked the one above. The halogen lights from the car park lit up the beach as the moonlight skipped across the water; a ship on the horizon and stars breaking through, the dark crest of Huntciff to the right. The moon rose from the sea, quite red and I watched it breaking through the cloud. Mum used to tell me about the Hunters moon, named so the hunters could go out without torches and a blood red moon, not giving off too much light. The Hunters moon follows the Harvest moon (also red) and is the next full moon following the autumnal equinox (Hunters moon.14th October this year) I don't believe it was a clear night at all.

On the other hand, our days have changed too. The low sun this time of year casts light into most of our rooms, reaching corners and shelves that I now notice in a different way. I could imagine looking into rooms and seeing them for the first time, feeling like a stranger in my own home. Again there is a beauty, this silvery light, more direct and clean. The rooms look larger too.

The moon of course (some would say) has no real beauty of it's own; it is really just a large mirror reflecting the glory of the sun. We cannot look straight into the sun so we gaze at the moon and upon what it reveals with its light. I was passing these comments today to a novice, George, I am sure he thought I was quite mad (until he met brother Cyril). I hope he comes and visits again; I enjoyed his company, a tall young man who was not afraid to say what he felt.

Note to morning office: Try to notice how different things look in the changing light, don't assume you know anything.