11 May, 2006

Lunar ticks

There's a full moon on Saturday, but looking out of my window I can see it's as good as there already. In fact I gathered as much last night, when the moon was looking in my window at me as I was in bed, shining directly onto my pillow with a luminosity that was, well, slightly unsettling.

I guess this was because the moon doesn't usually call attention to itself with such direct and sustained potency. Indeed, it doesn't usually call attention to itself at all. When was the last time you looked up into the sky deliberately to find the moon? In fact, when was the last time you looked up into the sky at all?

Symptomatic of the way we all live our lives with our heads to the ground, or buried in a computer screen, anything that lives up in the sky only finds a place in our consciousness when it interacts with the earth. Hence the psychological, as well as the physical, resonance of a plane crash, a chimney being knocked down, a tree being upended, and the moon on your pillow.

It was also unsettling because I don't think it's ever really happened before, in that until now I've never lived anywhere that allowed the moon to pass in such an arc as to illuminate the top half of my bed. In Liverpool I lived in a flat where the moon shone directly into the living room, and late at night, usually just before going to bed, I'd often stare at it for a minute or so, distracted by its eerily visible craters and mountains. It's the same moon staring down at me right this second, of course, but nonetheless it feels different, more otherwordly, more out of place, as if an uninvited guest peeking in at the window of a indifferent, exclusive soiree.

It's a truism that it never really gets dark in a city. It'd take a power cut to give London the kind of nighttime I associate with my childhood, where all the stars were visible (an exaggeration, naturally, but I'm fairly sure there was always something up there other than cloud and emptiness).

I remember a localised power failure in Liverpool last year, specific to the district of Allerton, and specific to where I was heading after work: Tesco. As soon as the sun had set, the stars were rendered more crisp and clear than I'd seen them for years - despite all the lights still being on inside Tesco, as if the store was served by its own power station deep underground.

The moon, however, is yesterday's news. They stopped the moon landings because everyone at NASA got bored and nobody was watching them on TV anymore.

I lay in my bed and dreamed I walked
On the sea of Tranquility;
I knew that someday soon we'd all sail to the moon
on the high tide of technology.
But the dreams had all be taken
And the window seats taken too
And now 2001 has come and gone
What am I supposed to do?

- Billy Bragg


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