l u n a c y

05:37 friday 21 january 2000 – rosevear , st agnes

i’ve just cycled back from wingletang where i’ve been watching the lunar eclipse . i feel like sleeping now so i’ll write later .

02:10 saturday

later , as usual , turns out to be quite a lot later !

i’ve just put together a little module : http://www.charlesarmtstrong.net/trawl

you might have noticed a more stable style of presentation and interface emerging over the last few weeks . for the time being i’ve moved away from the photo-journal approach i tried in october to focus on self-contained modules . people’s comments and feedback have been instrumental in shaping the current format . i know some people still find themselves opening scores of image windows , but at least this can be avoided with the next and previous image buttons . it’s always good to hear people’s thoughts .

last night i ( that is , thursday night ) i returned from a magnificent dinner at westward and settled into several hours’ work . i’d intended to spend the afternoon recording interviews but ended up in highly-charged conversation with two island women who nonetheless refused to record a peep . i stuck my head out the door at about half three to confirm that the eclipse had begun . the sky was still cloudy but the moon’s white disc could be seen and a quadrant was indeed absent .

over supper we’d speculated about whether the sky would clear . inevitably there were memories of august’s eclipse , the solar one ( http://www.charlesarmstrong.net/eclipse ) , when a perfectly-situated hole opened in the clouds precisely for the period of totality then closing again as mysteriously .

i woke nik as arranged at four and we went into the lane outside my studio . the sky was featureless black . i decided to bike down to wingletang to see whether it might be visible away from the house lights . i tried to chivy nik into joining me but fresh from bed he was not enthusiastic . so off i sped , down the pitted concrete track , past the ghostly bulk of the old lighthouse , turning right onto the rutted mud of barnaby lane , down the narrowing track flanked by pitasporum and tamarisk , finally out into the open space of the downs . i pedaled through the bracken up to the great rock known as the giant’s punchbowl . there i stopped and looked about .

from the way the cloud caught the beams of lighthouses it was evidently low in the sky . in these conditions one can clearly make out the play of seven different lights . bishop rock , penninnis head , round island – the islands’ trinity . then wolf rock , longships , sennen and lizard , hidden below the far eastern horizon .

still there was no sign of the moon . but several patches of star-crammed sky had opened in the cloud . and they were slowly stretching . it would be worth waiting and watching . the weather here often rewards patience .

so i bounced down the curving track to praskin , my best-loved beach , a short band of white sand punctuated by great boulders and embraced by jagged arms of black rock . i left my bike at the sand’s margin and trod down to the quietly lapping water . then i lay back on the sand , my face to the sky , and waited .

i have not spent nearly enough time this year lying on sand watching the stars . but in a way last night made up for it all . at twenty-nine minutes past four ( i checked my camera’s clock ) i caught my first glimpse of the eclipsed moon . for a fleeting moment a dark orange crescent appeared through the seathing cloud before being consumed once again . nothing more was visible for quarter of an hour . by this time the sky was six-tenths clear with great swathes of stars . but the quarter in which the moon hid remained stubbornly veiled . constantly i judged that she would be revealed by the drifting clouds , but time after time they seemed to mutate before my eyes or reverse their motion or in some other way refuse to disgorge her .

then there was another glimpse , swiftly engulfed . and another , a few seconds . this teasing continued . i smiled to myself and the sky .

around five o’clock my patience was rewarded . twice or three times , for a few moments only , the full disk was revealed . like sombre cochineel , the colour reminded me of the air’s hue during the solar totality . my eyes widened and my heart pounded in the same way . residues from a primaeval ancestry tinging me with the deep terror of perverted nature .

i tried to take a photograph but it was hopeless . this event was to be seen unrecorded .

a little later , knowing that totality would be ending , i raised myself , returned to my bike and began the ride home . at several points i stopped to stare a little longer towards the patch in the sky where i knew a crescent of brilliant blue-white would be beginning to spread . back up at the old coastguard cottages i was granted a view of this , the rebirth of normality looking perhaps even stranger than the fearful orange disk had done .

then i returned my bike to johann’s barn , braced the door with the old broken oar , wrote the few words with which this despatch began and went satisfied to bed .

: cH

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