November 9th, 2003


Family vaguely make out partially eclipsed moon through thick cloud, react with undue pleasure

Definitely felt worse on Wednesday than on Tuesday, but have been recovering since. Now getting as many as five hours' sleep at a stretch, I'm back to 95% health with just a slight headache, undue sweatiness and some persistent nose'n'throat baddies to contend with. Not a particularly bad cold as they go, really, but it doesn't take very much to put me off. Apologies to those whose birthdays I have missed celebrating - strangefrontier and vanityfair, I think, who both brighten my day regularly. Ladies, I hope you both had wonderful days. A wave of the hanky to all those nice people in Oxford who are being spared my germs, too.

Nevertheless, I had been cooped up convalescing in the house for too long and declared that the current lunar eclipse was good enough excuse to rally the parents to drive the car out for a late night adventure. The weather forecast said "cloudy in the north-east, partially cloudy in the north-west"; true to form, the moon was completely invisible from here, so I suggested we head west. You can follow our trail on this map, but I've produced a map graphic with the trail we took overlaid in purple (1.11 MB .png file, map section represents 40km E-W and 20km N-S) as well. I'd recommend the former rather than the latter, not least because my freehand line-following skills are limited.

In fact, we first went to the Castle Eden Walkway, where we know local astronomy fans have congregated in the past. Some folks in the car park already, but clearly not interested in stargazing; the cloud cover continued to be complete and very thick, so we got back in the car and headed west again, along the major roads which happily head reasonably directly west. We only had about half an hour of totality in the eclipse and had reached Bishop Auckland by the end of it, with no let-up at all in the cloud. We decided to keep going for Barnard Castle, the next big town west (about 3km or so off the Western edge of the map) and were getting reasonably close when Mum pointed out that she could see the moon, just about, from the car window. We pulled into the next junction, stopped the car and got out.

The moon was very indistinct and could only be seen faintly through the continuing cover. With the totality having finished, it was its traditional white colour, too. However, despite being a full moon night, the shape we saw was clearly not round and evidently in partial eclipse. Not a dramatic result, but definitely enough for us and we declared the adventure to have been a complete success. We celebrated by following the unmarked road we had turned down, not knowing where it was, travelling through a couple of farming hamlets and eventually connecting with a major road on the other side. Coming home took about another 40 minutes, but a very jolly 40 minutes they were too, with my parents singing cowboy rock'n'roll tunes from their youth together for the first time in ages. An excellent and successful adventure, all things considered. Thank you, parents! Thank you, Solar System!

Games on US TV alert: can't remember whether it was Clay or Mason who wanted to be reminded, but the 2003 Scrabble All-Star Championship airs on ESPN Sunday, November 9th, 3:30pm to 4:30pm. Tomorrow! (Possibly today! Maybe even yesterday!)
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    getting better slowly + surely