Monday, December 06, 2004

It is always disappointing to look into the London night sky. Firstly it usually consists of one gigantic cloud; but when the way is clear the number of objects one can spot in the night sky is roughly about three. And that annoyingly includes the moon. The authorities have attempted to lighten our mood so to speak by lining Oxford Street with tens of large spotlights which wave into the sky so all the foreign visitors to Christmassy London can observe the cloud 24/7.

It is all so depressing when I think back to the time I reclined on a warm and powdery Fraser Island beach, which lay perhaps 40 miles from the nearest significant artificial light source, and wondered at the southern night sky.

I stared up at the literally millions of visible stars in awe.

“There are loads in a stripe over there,” I said pointing upwards to someone I had earlier befriended, but “if only that long bloody cloud would move out of the… ah.”

I had made a realisation.

“That cloud’s not actually a cloud is it?” I continued.

“Oh yeah” agreed whomever it was I was with in a tone that suggested I had pointed out something both revelatory and blindingly obvious.

Even a masturbating Claudia Schiffer could not have distracted me from the splendour that was the Milky Way at that moment.

The Milky Way. Londoners may not know that this can only be seen in the southern hemisphere. And they aint in it.

Curse London and its light pollution.

Over the millennia that have seen the rise of human intelligence, wondering and philosophising under a starry sky has gone hand-in-hand with our development as a species. I have found there seems to be a direct relationship between the friendliness of an average person and the number of objects that can be observed in the night sky in their skies. When city folk visit a region like, say, eastern Australia, they tend to open up and become much more ready to embrace things like the possibility of connecting with a total stranger. It must be the stars.

Why is it I think less of a person who walks onto my tube train wearing a beaming smile?

Perhaps I think they are stupid for not realising the obvious connection between stars and friendliness. I’m betting that astronomers are the salt of the earth. If I ever need someone to lend me money I’m going straight to the nearest observatory. Although traditionally an under-funded discipline, I’d at least get a smile along with the inevitable rejection.

“Are your family also astronomers?“ I would ask with an urban-induced furrow on my brow.

“No my friend. Tea?”

“Lots of milk lots of sugar. Is your house near any artificial light sources?

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“Fuck off then; your family makes me sick.”

It's some sort of international scandal really.

Hail the International Dark-Sky Association!

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