The Bay of Rainbows

I was watching an exciting movie about space (Event Horizon) but I kept noticing actual space out of the window behind the screen; the great shining pregnant Moon riding clouds in a dark sky. I think I would have been all right in the days before telly as I can sit and look at the Moon and stars for hours, as everyone who knows me can testify with some annoyance.

I do not know why I never thought of it before but the little binoculars that Steve the Sheep gave me for bird noticing also come in handy for Moon noticing! Looking at our nearest neighbour with the naked eye is a bit disappointing as you can see a vaguely familiar pattern of dark smudges, or a face, depending how many and what grade of drugs you’ve smoked. But a zoom lens or even the smallest binoculars teleport you into a breathtaking landscape of craters and dark seas, hard-edged and glowing in brilliant sunlight against the pure blackness of space.

It is even more amazing through a decent telescope: the image that swims into focus in front of you is so clear and sharp that it is like looking at really high-quality satellite photographs. You feel that if there were people down there you’d be able to make out their license plates and newspaper headlines. It brings it home to you with a gut immediacy that you are looking down on an alien world, and it’s real.

The photo (by Eric Roel) shows a detail of the Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Rains.

To find it, look for the three roughly similar sized-blobs at the top right of the Moon’s face (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, otherwise, the bottom left) and go left to the large dark area above the bright pinpoint crater Copernicus. This is the Mare Imbrium. Now look at the patch of lighter highlands to the north - the ‘shoreline’. There is an almost perfect semicircular notch out of it. This is Sinus Iridium: the Bay of Rainbows. What an amazing name!

You can’t help looking at the Moon differently when you know there’s a Bay of Rainbows up there.

Passport photo

The rules say you are not allowed to smile. So this is my official passport face.

I have an interesting relationship with my face. I mean I do not know whether it is actually good looking or not, but in several senses it does not really matter. It is the one I have, so there’s no changing it anyway. It is not like press-on faceplates for cell phones, although that would be pretty interesting. Maybe I could have a red shiny face in the winter, and it could be a sleek, futuristic brushed aluminium in the summer months.

Eden - Temperate Biome

Just various flowers and such like. It would be great if I had a big super garden like this, and it would be full of sweet scented plants and herbs and flowers. As I was saying to Sarah I would like a verandah, some jacaranda, and a lot of other things ending in ‘-anda’ such as a gander, or a panda.

Eden - Tropical Biome

It is astonishingly hot and humid coming into the Tropical Biome, like walking into a warm sweaty sock, and within a few minutes of steep climbing through the jungle, you start to think maybe Britain’s boring mild climate isn’t so bad after all. I have no doubt that the real jungle is much, much worse, and there isn’t a magnificently stocked organic cafeteria a few hundred yards away. Still once you have got to the top there is a wonderfully refreshing waterfall, which becomes a stream running all the way down through the forest to a pool at the bottom.

It is a common photographers’ trick to shoot moving water with a slow shutter, to give this nice motion blur effect. This was taken at 1/20th sec, but as you can see it is extremely difficult in full sunlight to keep the exposure from being much too hot. A neutral density filter (or a pair of sunglasses over the lens) would probably help here.

Eden is not a botanical garden but what they call ‘a living theatre of plants and people’, where they try to show what plants mean to us and how they shape our world. All through the Tropical Biome are displays about the plant products that we take for granted such as rubber, sugar, Coca-Cola, bananas, chewing gum, rice ekcetera (though the world’s most valuable commodity is mysteriously absent; perhaps local councillors balked at the plans for the ‘Up Your Nose: Cocaine Past, Present and Future’ exhibition featuring huge bales of Peruvian flake and fronted by the vivacious Daniella Westbrook), and as you come into the biome it is as though you’ve just landed at the docks and are looking around excitedly at your surroundings, full of traveller’s excitemint at a new paradise to explore, and about to be taken for a bloody fortune by a grinning local taxi driver.

It is not surprising that inside the world’s largest conservatory there should be some pretty tall plants. This palm is massive and I saw in the DVD that it had to be brought on the same low-loader that they use for transporting the Space Shuttles, and it nearly did not make it in through the doors. It would be funny if it was removal men and they just crammed it in saying ‘Don’t worry luv we’re professionals’ and ripped off all the branches, broke a window and some irreplaceable china, and then pissed off to sit in their cab smoking roll-ups and reading the Daily Mirror.

The biome is awfully cunningly laid out, so that the paths and stairways double back on one another and wind up and down through the jungle so that you seem to be walking for miles, through oceanic islands, Malaysia, West Africa, and Amazonia, although it is actually only about three acres. Still it is big enough to fit the Tower of London inside according to the Eden Project web site, although I am not sure how they know. Perhaps they borrowed the Tower of London one drunken night and drove it to Cornwall on the low-loader. It is like the next stage on from waking up badly hung over with a policeman’s helmet in the bed.

This cheerful truck represents the sugar industry, or something, although it looks more like the hippy bus to Marrakesh or some vehicle that Cheech and Chong might drive, made entirely out of panels pressed from gold-quality hashish. Do you think when they transport great shiploads of sugar across the world that Customs officers have to sample every bag just in case they’ve slipped a couple of tons of heroin in there? It is an entertaining thought.

Eden, June 2006

A child running about like a nutcase in the temperate biome. This is a super place as it is like a giant Mediterranean villa garden, full of exotic flowers and sweet herbs and citrus fruits, and a mini perfume factory and bits of California and South Africa, and a motorbike, and all sorts. It is great. I wish it was my garden and I could sit out there enjoying a cool breeze from the computerised ventilators and chomping on a fresh oringe.

I suppose everyone takes a picture of this but it does not matter. It is a horse made entirely out of cork and driftwood, which is impressive as it’s nowhere near the beach, or an Oddbins. What is really nice about the Eden Project is it is not just plants and surrounding environmental milieu, but scattered with pieces of intresting giant art such as a massive bee, or a cork horse, or a bronze man with a big round face ekcetera.

Similarly this is a piece of ‘artomata’ made by Tim Hunkin, of ‘Secret Life of Machines’ fame and a god to every geeky British male over about 30. It is called ‘Plant Takeaway’ and the idea is to demonstrate how importint plants are in our everyday lives. At the beginning it is as you see, and then everything that is made from plant products disappears like the table and furniture and all the food, and then the people’s clothes fall off because they are made from plant fibres, and finally they collapse and die because there would be no oxygen without plants. Note the stripey cat which is my favourite bit.

It is compulsory of course to have a picture of the biomes themselves, and they are the most fantastic things in terms of sheer engineering that I’ve ever seen. If you watch the DVD about how Eden was built in the first place, it was a colossal project just to turn a flooded, unstable quarry pit into a suitable place to put up these huge structures. They had to drive great bolts into the pit walls and bolster them with thousands of tons of concrete to keep everything from collapsing. Then they had to put up the largest scaffolding structure ever built, in order to construct the actual biomes. You do not realise until you get down into the pit on a level with them just how big these buildings are: more than 50 metres high, fashioned from tubular steel and high-tech plastic, and weighing only slightly more than the air inside.

Your correspondent relaxing in the tropical biome having found a blissfully cool spot near the waterfall. There was a super bird up there which I do not know what it is, but it walked all around me bold as brass chomping up bits of unconsidered trifles, and I tried to get some pictures of it, but every time he either scuttled away or some people wandered into shot and spoiled it. It is nice that they have actual birds flying around.

Super day

I had a really good day of getting lots of stuff done at work, and generally being cheerful. I think it is that the weather is slightly cooler now, so you only get second-degree burns from touching any metal surface.

Also someone importint to me is home safely from a dangerous war zone, so that is happy news. I do not mean the Chiswick roundabout on a Saturday afternoon either.

There is a really intresting article in Wired about the Tesla electric car. In Britain when we think of electric vehicles we tend to think of the famously rubbish Sinclair C5, so it is surprising to read that this car does 130mph and 0-60 in three seconds, out-accelerating a Lamborghini. It also has a range of 250 miles which is good news if you are going into the wilderness, or other places where they do not have elecktricity, like Devon.

The most amazing thing is that it is powered by 6,831 laptop batteries (gaffer taped together). Not only would you think that would be enormously heavy, since carrying the average laptop makes me walk lopsided, but it makes me wonder whether this bloke has 6,831 useless laptops piled up in his room. That’s a hell of an eBay auction!

Journeys into the past by bicycle

I have been having a wizzo time lately just heading out on my bike and going hither, thither and whither I will. It is the perfect part of London for bikesploring, as there are lots of green spaces and old footpaths and such as rivers and woods ekcetera.

Obviously the perfect bike trail should match the following criteria:

  1. NO CARS
  2. Not too hilly
  3. Opportunity for wizzo views
  4. Trees and flowers
  5. Birds
  6. Rivers and ponds
  7. Starts near my house
  8. Ends near a pub

I have found quite a few places like this, as a lot of the paths and bridleways that I walk around are also good for bikling. Yesterday I discovered a sekrit passage that goes up the back of the Vue cinema at the Finchley Leisureplex & Temple of Consumerism, over a recreation ground thing with some intresting birds, past the Glebe nature reserve, through a couple of sleepy back streets, and into the Coppetts Wood nature reserve where there are wizzo woods and a girl and I once took some pictures of old sewerage pipes and sat in a glade.

Today I was looking at Underground History an amazing trove of arcana about the London Underground which is great, except I read “Disused Stations on London’s Underground” as “Diseased Stations on London’s Underground”. I was jolly disappointed as I thought there might be rage-infected Tube stations like on 28 Days Later. There is a good bit though about the Northern Heights ie where I live, and the old steam train line from Alexandra Palace via Highgate to Finsbury Park. It was never electrified and eventually the track was taken up and the line abandoned. It’s now a super leafy footpath with deer and hedgehogs!

So I will be having an experdition there and also there was a line from Mill Hill East to Edgware which is now a path, and I bikled along that today. It was great! It is like a sekrit passage like in Narnia or one of those movies, except not a cupboard. It goes through some green and sun-dappled woods, along the back of some football pitches, past the sports centre and up to the main road where it stops abruptly. There was once a pedestrian subway but it is bricked up, and someone has sprayed ‘JESUS LOVES YOU’ in big letters on it. Cross the road, looking both left and right for oncoming traffic, and enter Rowlands Close, where the path sidles casually out through an undistinguished-looking brick alley and into a housing estate.

Then I took the other path back across Hendon Golf Course, through a copse full of flowers and butterflies, over an abandoned concrete lot that looks like a decommissioned nuclear bunker, up the back of the allotments and suddenly arrived at the A1! And so back up along the brook, past the children’s playground and through the little park where people sit and chat on the benches and look at birds.

Matt pointed out that I must be nearing the top Google results for ‘curry’, as we sat eating curry. I should get some kind of lifetime supply of curry, or something. Curry!

True history of the Keithlard gang

I forgot to tell what happened on the rest of my birthday.

I had an awfully good day. I chomped up a giant size mixed grill, and popped over to Sophy’s for a cup of tea and a game of Cribbage with her and her mum. In the evening I met Matt and Steve the Sheep and we had a lot of nuts and beer at the Dignity. Later on we went to North London’s finest curry emporium, The Balti (I have a relationship).

We had lamb dhansak and balti chicken jalfrezi and chicken phaal and breads and rice and poppadoms, and back at the little flat I provided extra side dishes of crispy spicy popcorn shrimp and delicious vegertable samosas, and we listened to a lot of music too loudly and were drunk. Quite late at night we decided to have an impromptu acoustic live set, like Coldplay, only unlike fastidious and gluten-free Chris Martin, we were pissed-up and covered in curry.

It does not get any better than that really.

Around Lostwithiel

Lostwithiel is a super little town full of intresting nick-nack shops and tea rooms, which I sometimes feel like going into and ordering cake and fine wine.

This is a good solution to the problem I always have of losing importint paperwork. Carve it on the front of your house.

I like seeing odd things through windows.

The smithy, where you can pop in to have your horse re-shoed, or bring witches to be poked to death with a red-hot poker. These days of course that type of thing does not happen anymore. The main administrative centre for witch-poking has been moved to Bodmin.

Look, a train!

River Fowey at Lostwithiel

The Fowey rises high on Bodmin Moor and runs down through some of the loveliest countryside in Cornwall. Of course I am biased as it is my countryside.

A perfect day for messing about in boats… if I had one.

Possible buried treasure from the Spanish Main! It might just be an old tyre though.

Just for Mariposaloca, documentary footage of a hard-working Cornish farmer and his tractor!

I sat and watched the swallows swooping and diving over the river for a long time. I hate it when you see wonderful things and there is no one there to look at it with you. I suppose taking and sharing these pictures is the next best thing.