Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 28 August 2015
The light years
The above photo of me is for the benefit of Shawn. She has not seen me since the mid 1970s, and I want to break it to her gently, just incase she makes a surprise visit to Bath.
She made a little search for me on the net a couple of weeks ago, and the only hint came when she stumbled across a fellow stone-carver's website which included a photo of me (with dark hair), head down and hacking away at a piece of stone for the Theatre Royal. That photo was taken in the 1980s, and as far as I know it is the only one of me up there which uses my real name in the credit.
She eventually found the pub website and actually asked me if I knew how she could find me. Her comment came just above my previous comment and - not recognising her at first - I replied, "That's me. How can I help?"
In 1976, she had left the apartment here in Bath to go on a rare night out, leaving me looking after her 3 year-old daughter. Daughter woke up and began screaming the place down, mainly asking the whereabouts of her mummy - well, 'mommy' actually. Unlike some Welshmen I know, she spoke with an American accent even then, before she moved to the U.S. for good.
Nothing I could say would placate the little girl - no reasoning helps in situations like these - so without turning the lights on, I took her to one of the large windows and held her close to it as we looked at the stars.
It was a rare, crystal-clear night and they were bright and sparkly. I began by trying to instil the notion of light-years in her, by telling her how many of them it took for the little pinpricks to travel all the way to her eyes, all the while knowing that this concept must be almost impossible to explain to a child who has only experienced three of them to date. I find it hard to conceive even now. It's telephone numbers to me. She became quiet and thoughtful - very thoughtful - and after ten minutes or so, meekly agreed that she was sleepy and would like to go back to bed. She slept soundly for the rest of the night.
I like to think that my little lesson in astronomy/astro-physics had more of an impact than I first thought. A couple of years ago, I ran into her father here, and asked after her. If my maths is right (which it seldom is) she must be 42 now.
He said that after graduating, she got a job with NASA, designing parts for spacecraft.
Some of her designs are whizzing around in space over my head as I write.
I'm going to add a bit onto this post. The picture was taken in London, outside the swanky restaurant where we had just celebrated H.I.'s birthday. Daughter had ordered a posh cake at the end of the meal - all cream and fruit piled high - and the waiter came up and whispered to us that they had dropped it on the way up the steps from the kitchen! We could not stop laughing.