Eclipse of 2015

Today we had a little bit of excitement.  A solar eclipse occurred over much of Northern Europe, including the UK.  I got up all excited, and read the latest news.  It had already been reported in a Eurosceptic newspaper that the eclipse might be obscured by some French, yup FRENCH smog.  And today I read in the rather alarmist New York Times that thanks to the quantity of solar panels in use in Europe, something close to a state of emergency had been declared, and people had been recommended to make sure their radios had batteries in, and that they had enough food to last any power cuts.

Well, I went to the local common to try and get some pictures.  I knew from the last eclipse, in 1999, that some birds tended to stop tweeting as the sun goes “in”, and I went to the park to experience at maximum advantage the sound of silence.

Back in 1999 the eclipse was towards the middle of the day, and I was living in the midlands at the time.  I remember a fair amount of excitement on the day, and plenty of live TV and radio reports.  It was a sunny day, which made the eventual contrast as the moon moved in place more memorable, and I do recall some of the street lamps coming on.

So anyway, back to today.  When I left the house I knew that all was lost!  There was a significant amount of cloud cover – but I headed off to The Common nevertheless.  When I got there, I realised that I would have a further problem.  It’s “winter” here, and thanks to the ponds and streams that dot the common there was even more “cloud” in the form of mist rising from the ground.

This first picture was taken a few minutes before the eclipse was due to have maximum…oh, I don’t know what the expression is…maximum exposure?


And then, at 9.31, when the sun was most obscured:


Another photo, of some of the birds who had clearly not got the memo, and decided to tweet throughout the eclipse:


So, there we have it.  A not very exciting eclipse.  The next one is due in 2026, and then there will be a “total” eclipse in 2080.  Can’t wait!  I’ll only be 114 years old then.  Everyone is invited to the party!


One day, at the end of autumn last year, I planned a visit to a castle on the coast built by Henry the Eighth and, fearing that I might have some walking to do, I did something extraordinary.

Under my desk I have a stack of large sheets of paper folded down to roughly the size of a book which are printed, typically on one side, with strange symbols, long lines and numerous names.  I reached down and selected the one coded ‘OL22’ and named ‘New Forest’ and opened it out.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with maps.  Once one has the capacity to decode them it is possible to visit different places -in one’s head.  I have another map open now – Landranger 185: Winchester and Basingstoke area – and without leaving my desk I can ‘see’ the woods, hills and narrow lanes of the country around Winchester.

This old fashioned, low-tech, method of surveying the country from one’s chair has almost passed into the mists of time.  Yes, today it is possible to review maps on the internet on a device of one’s choice.  But where has the fun gone?  I can ask Google to deliver a map on my screen of Royal Leamington Spa.  But will I be able to run my eye over the surrounding countryside, and note that there is a red triangle near Stratford-upon-Avon which indicates a Youth Hostel?  Maybe, but not so easily as one would with a paper map.  And not with that ‘crackle’ so redolent of large sheets of paper being folded.

Times move on, and so perhaps does technology.  But consider this; if the power station at SU475025 ever has to close down I may not have the electricity to power my internet device.  But I don’t need electricity to reach under my desk…


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Top Centre: Mayflower Memorial

Next line: A milestone near my house, and some local wildlife

Third Line: A cannon situated in the garden of the Tudor House Museum, and looking up a chimney stack nearly

Bottom: Names copied over from the nearby war memorial were etched onto glass


Some photos of Winchester:

King Alfred's Statue

This is King Alfred, the guy who burnt the cakes.  His capital was at Winchester, and he currently overlooks the main street.

King Arthurs round table

This is King Arthurs Round Table, in the Great Hall at Winchester Castle.  Of course, it wasn’t built by the king, it is quite old though; the theory is that it was painted in the time of Henry VIII.

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I should have done my research before I started writing this post…I’m pretty sure this guy is by Anthony Gormley…he is standing in the flooded crypt of Winchester Cathedral.


This is a “traditional” flint wall – located outside the Bishop of Winchester’s house.


A former railway viaduct, just south of Winchester.