Friday, July 21, 2006

Undercliff

Today I rediscovered The Undercliff. Oh! lovely Undercliff. One of the treasures of Brighton when I moved here. I don't even know when it was re-opened - could be a year ago for all I know. It hardly matters now: today we ran back into each others arms and... well, it was ever so quietly pleasant. The Undercliff is thoroughly back in my world.

I sat and read and wrote and read some more and nipped up to Rottingdean for a Thai meal-in-a-box to eat sitting on the rocks, and read and read until an hour after sunset, holding the book closer and closer to my eyes until they gave me up to Jupiter and the night.

And I wished I could write songs like Tom de Grundercliff.

This was Up when I arrived:
















There were plovers and wagtails,
pipits and skylarks,
kestrels and starlings and doves.

There were squabbling parties of black-headed gulls, this being safely beyond the well-patrolled borders of the Zone of Herring Gull Imperialism.

I looked for sandwich terns.
I always look for sandwich terns.










(that's me looking for sandwich terns)

(under the cliff)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Solo

I'm alone this weekend. All my p e o p l e are away - every last one - mostly at Buddhafield, though one or two at things like stag weekends and Ethiopian nomad conferences and such.

So I am bereft. And I've been missing them, more than I thought I would. I used rarely to miss people - though I'm not sure I ever knew such extraordinary and strange ones as these. Perhaps I'm changing, becoming more peoply, less sharp around the edges.

Today, alone, I set out in search of a cool, green, quiet spot to sit and read. I trudged sweatily up to the top of the cemetery. The cool thing didn't work out particularly - it just hasn't been that kind of a day - but green it certainly was, and quiet. The kind of quiet that includes the snuffles of unseen creatures, the yaffling of green woodies and the chipping of wrens. Brighton's Victorian Extra-Mural Cemetery is a beautifully-kept place: perfectly balanced between manicured and wild. And it seems to me to have more life in it than anywhere else in the city.

I watched a fox wrap itself lovingly (or itchingly) around the slim base of a cherry tree. A squirrel crept towards me, its eyes fixed on mine, grabbed the apple core I'd thrown into the bush and scuttled up to nibble it carefully on a low branch while long-tailed tits sung and sparkled around it like angels. Not a jot was wasted or dropped until the end, and I swear it used the bare stalk to clean its teeth. An ant might come across that, carry it away to clean off any remaining sweet juices; then some lignolytic community would move in...

Cemeteries are good for seeing the cycles of nature. Atoms of Brighton people of ages past, singing and sparkling, creeping up for apple-cores, wrapping themselves around cherry trees.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Darkness

Last night, and this morning, I breathed life back into a half-finished project from a couple of years ago: hand-sketching little constellation charts.





(with a little help from Skyglobe, the very program I used to learn constellations fifteen years ago, in full DOS glory)


I stopped originally when it became frustratingly clear that they were bugger-all use in Brighton, where you're lucky if you can make out the Big Dipper. The rest of South East England isn't a great deal better.

But I've been re-inspired by finally deciding to visit, perhaps in October, the place with the darkest sky in the UK.

How often do we experience the real darkness of the night? Or the real silence, for that matter? Not just the absence of light, or noise, but the living magic of the night, undulled by the atmospheric glow of street-lights or traffic noise?













(Source: The World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness)


According to this, if you're anywhere in Europe the answer is you don't, unless you live on certain small patches of arctic Sweden or Finland, a couple of tiny Greek islands, or the extreme North West of Scotland.

The map shows the brightening of the sky due to artificial light. The light is reflected, scattered, diffused, from particles in the air and from the very air itself. Red represents the most glow, blue the least. If you're lucky enough to live in a grey patch, you'll have no discernible light pollution vertically upwards, but there may be some glow nearer the horizon. Only in the black areas will you see a 'true' night sky, from top to bottom.

So where are the darkest, clearest night skies in the UK? They're at the point of the UK furthest from Brighton! Yay! Not to mention the highest cliffs on the mainland! So I'm off for a week or two in Cape Wrath, and I'll take my sky charts with me. Bye bye Brighton!!

But not just yet - cause... well... you know. The beasties.
Soon. Soon as they've gone.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Space balls


Take a look at Hakan's* space balls!

Complete with weird space-music! (there's a little green play button). Even so, I do like this kind of thing. There's nothing so pure and stunning as a sphere, and some of the spheres out there are beauties. I knew that some were a lot bigger than others (I've seen the numbers), but you don't really see until someone shows you.

Even then, let's be honest, we don't really see. How could we ever. But throw in imagination, wonder and a clear, dark sky and we're getting somewhere.

(*no relation to our friend at spacemind.net)

Hello again. It's been a while. I sent my laptop to the hospital in June, and it's come back far, far happier after a few weeks of treatment. So I thought, well, maybe one little blog post to celebrate. Now that everyone's stopped looking.

Keeping the weird music theme going (not to mention balls), I also had this urge to share my silly text interchange of the week.
After looking at the program for the upcoming WOMAD (World Of Music, Arts & Dance) festival:

B:
How about we do our
own Garage Of Noise
And Dance festival?

D:
Yes! and followed by
World Of Music, Biscuits
And Tea

Further suggestions welcome, of course...