The strong smell of European cigarettes once again fills the air around me. It’s a warning and I know that it’s time to pop into the kitchen and put the kettle on.
The sky disappears.
My neighbour has reached the end of his garden on his hourly nicotine stroll and his security light suddenly blazes across half of West London .
Or so it feels in my tiny backyard observatory.
I know it will be at least ten minutes before the assault on my night vision is over, so I may as well sit in my darkened kitchen and feel my way to the biscuit barrel.
Of course it’s all relative. The darkness I’m waiting for isn’t exactly perfect. In fact it’s not really dark at all. In some respects the red torch swinging around my neck is more for show than effect.
Which is not the case at my mother-in-law’s house in rural Wiltshire.
Three miles from a street light.
Here I’m treated to the multi-stomached utterances of the neighbours cows. This sky is dark, Andromeda Galaxy visible with the naked eye dark, Milky Way so bright you get lost dark.
But this haven away from the urban light blanket is two hours from home and unfortunately is cursed. Not by my Wife’s Mother; her biscuit barrel is always well stocked, but by the Met Office. A dozen journeys my telescope has made down the M4 in the last few months, whole weeks and weekends it has spent in rural tranquillity and how many nights has it been used?
It was an amazing night to be fair. Normally it’s horizon to horizon clouds.
I did try the Isle of Wight last summer. A whole week in a quite cottage on a dark, sky friendly coast.
One clear night.
And that was interrupted by a trip to A&E when a moth decided to crawl in my ear and get stuck.
The face on the Doctor said he didn’t believe me.
Well wasn’t he surprised when he flushed out its waxed body.
So this is the explanation I will give to the Policemen who asks why I am standing in a school playground at 1am. I will try to explain my frustrations, trials and suicidal insect interruptions. I will attempt to explain why the sky over this bit of tarmac is darker then the one over my garden four miles away. I will point to the extra five stars I can see in Orion and wax lyrical about how clear the ecliptic is from the basket ball court.
Will it hinder my defence if I tell him that I work here as well?