When I think of eclipses, of any flavour, I think of Tintin. I can't help it. I think of Tintin finding the scrap of newspaper in the prison cell and yelling in joy for he believes correctly he has found a means of saving his own and his friends' lives. It's momentous. Eclipses are for me for all time momentous. And after I think of Tintin then I can get on to the business of thinking about the actual eclipse in question. Like thinking on Wednesday about the Blood Moon, such an evocative phrase, it makes me come over all intergalactic, and makes me look at the clouds and wonder. Like it's personal. Between me and the moon.
Our family was in Castlepoint for a few days staying behind the pub. As the sun set on the Wednesday there were clouds and clear patches and we just couldn't be sure. I played with fruit on the table trying to explain to myself, as I must do every eclipse, how the grapefruit and the Granny Smith and the lemon or more rightly I figured the tomato, all line up and why that means an eclipse. How the Granny Smith spins on its axis and has a shadow. How it orbits the grapefruit and is oribitted by the tomato and how you must hold all those things in your mind at once or the whole solar system will stop working.
I'd skim read the newspaper online which had said the eclipse was at 8.36 or something and then the comments which said the newspaper was wrong and it was at 9.36 and then I texted my friend Tim and he said 11.27 pm and him I trusted. None the less, not sure when the action would begin, at 9pm we put the kids in the car and drove the 10 minutes to the beach. It was cloudy but we could drive past the looming cray boats on their giant trailers on to the flat sand of the beach. It was deserted. We watched the light house and its moving beam of light and how it lit a strip of rocks in front and a strip of the distant horizon behind. I wondered if the light's movement was analogous with the motion of the planets at the time of an eclipse but I couldn't think of how. We saw a few stars. We watched the moon before it was eclipsed heroically behind a dark bank of clouds. We drove home. It was nicely dramatic but I wanted something more.
Maggie and Lex fell asleep quickly and Joe and I watched the sky and sighed at the clouds in all the wrong places. The moon wove in and out of visibility. The moon was full and the eclipse started turning it into a crescent. But we were guessing most of the time. It was blurry. Sometimes we could see tantalising shards through the binoculars of the shape of it, how it's round not flat. Solidity.
Then incredibly by 11.15 the right parts of the sky were clear and outside our little cabin we watched the eclipse take full effect. We tried waking the kids but they were flumped. Little pools of colour in the pale sheets.
It was strange because when the eclipse was at its fullest a moon shape was visible, but it wasn't quite the moon was it? A sort of effect of defracted light I guess. I imagine the way torchlight splays if you try to obscure it. I might have it wrong. The moon thing or the moon-like thing wasn't blood red but it was distinctly red. I liked it. I liked imagining the Earth's shadow. I liked imagining the line running between the moon and the sun and in between - me, holding it all together, posed like a cheesy discus player, one arm pointing in each direction.
Maggie is pinning up her 3D Advent Calendar by her top bunk so each morning she can wake up and open a new window. She has lost two drawing pins down the side of the bunk already, I hope they have gone through to the floor and haven't ended up on Lexy's bottom bunk.
As I am scrabbling around for them Lexy is saying 'Look Maggie, I have a little bird. Look, I have a little bird' - over and over. She has opened the window on her Calendar for day one, a small bucktoothed mouse with "1" on a piece of cheese and inside a small bird.
I start typing and Maggie starts saying, Mum, 'Cara has a pretty funny type of Advent calendar'. And she pulls on me until I stop and turn and listen properly and starts again at the beginning. 'Cara has a pretty funny type of Advent Calendar. Her Mum puts a little chocoalate bar behind each window. So she opens it and wheee. It's a very silly sort of Advent Calendar'.
Dinner has started. Maggie says 'Look I wrote my name.' And there in tomato sauce are the letters M a g g i e. Maggie got up early and put on Danny the Champion of the World audio, and played the whole thing. In response to this, Joe has pulled out the pheasant our friend Helen gave us and has roasted it, complete with the laying of bacon before putting in the oven, so enticingly described by Danny's father.
'Lexy, name five things with milk in them', says Maggie.
'Is this a joke?', says Lexy.
'Name five things with milk in them'.
'I don't know'.
Maggie's day one picture is an angel holding a tree.
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