One hour of Radio 4 in the car while I crawl along 7 miles of the A40.
All the while in my mirrors I can see Venus and Jupiter just to the left of my daughters empty car seat.
The traffic is terrible, but this is actually quality ‘me time’.
If I look up from my wing mirror I can see Mars rising from the London orange murk.
I can hear the rattle of my telescope mount, sitting patiently in the boot.
Finally, the Marylebone Flyover. Home straight.
Steven K Amos is making me snigger while I absently read an advert for vitamins on a bus and wonder if I packed my red torch.
Venus waits impatiently behind.
“Oh come on!”
The massed ranks of taxis that seem to fill every junction are making this last mile feel like an age.
That really is a big chandelier they have in the Regent’s Park Mosque.
The American ambassador turns on his lights.
Park up in the half dark of the Outer Circle, where did I pack that torch?
The glow of the Hub inviting through the trees; coffee or hot chocolate?
Already a crowd has gathered, there is a buzz.
“Yes that top one is Venus” “Mars is the pink one over there” “oh I thought that was a star…” “Now if you look in here you’ll see the Beehive cluster.” “So what are those stripes on Jupiter?” “What is a nebula?” “Venus isn’t round!” “Is it red because of the volcanoes?” “So where is Polaris?” “You mean all of Orion is a nebula?” “How much does this cost?” “How do I find out where to look?” “Of course you can have a look”….
“Iridium flare! No over there.”
I smile, it’s been 8 months since I gazed upon those rings.
Maybe another hot chocolate.
“How are you? Didn’t see you last month. Great picture of the moon by the way.”
The wind begins to bite.
The crowd thins. Excited and tired children are spirited to bed.
23 scopes…..15 scopes…6 scopes…
Hat on. Zip up coat. Where is that torch?
“Is that Titan we can see in the murk?” “A folded refractor?” “yes finished a lunch time” “It’s Russian” “wow really nice image” “does your mount do this as well?” “ten shots and each was 90 seconds” “never thought of using that program” “Do you think a 16mm would be good for that?” “Does your dew shield really make a difference?” “Life on Mars?” “Truth is nobody knows…”
Dismantle. Pack away. check the ground. Torch?
The cold, tired trudge through the empty park to the car.
The padded silence of the car stuns.
Fifteen minutes on an empty A40, heating up full.
The search for a parking space within a light year of my house.