Thick knickers

Welcome to a new category- astronomy.

At the outset, outside (of which more, shortly) let me be crystal clear.  This is not the one where if it is your birthday today you are a Libra and the forecast is for a strong chance of stuff in the post and cake later.

This is the one where you go outside at night and look up.

Last night it was me looking up (instructions in the booklet in the dark with two pairs of glasses, his and mine) while the OH tried to work the telescope.

Oh yes, the OH having done withdrawal in lockdown, saving the world working at the Coronavirus lab, which he quit subsequently, and going to Cambridge (for the day at ninety miles an hour, scroll down) has now enrolled for two degrees (tilt and pan, are we near the azimuth?).  One in astrology and one in cosmology.

Anyone who is wondering: What is it with your husband, Jane, why can he never do things just a bit? has a fellow feeler in me.  I wonder that.  Constantly.

I have hoped in the past that he would not treat me as a workmate.  I don’t mean the bloke who asks you where you got your boots in the tea break, I mean the piece of equipment with the moveable bars that you jam the wood in, prior to tackling it with a saw.

I have held wooden poles at my arm’s length up in the air with no visible support while he drilled holes in them (Hold still! Why are you wobbling? You’re making this very difficult.)  Caught a bag of spanners with my eyeball (Why are you yelling?  I only tilted the fridge!) Held the step ladders steady and braced while he leaned all his weight and a huge power tool, at full stretch over the hedge (Oh look at that! I’ve cut through the cable and it’s gone off.  Why did you let the cable get in the way?)  And, holding the ladder, caught a massive tree branch with my skull as he lopped it off (the branch not my skull, but close call) and gravity unexpectedly caused it to fall downwards. (Try not to bleed so much until I’ve finished these other branches, then we’ll go to casualty if you really want to.)

I am not a big strong girl as you might expect reading all of this.  I am the same height as the Queen. Would that I got treated with the same deference.

The first three questions are – what is the difference between astronomy and cosmology then, hmm? Other than Carl Sagan saying Cosmos so cutely?  Hmm?  And – why did you expect this to be any different from any of his other enthusiasms?  Did you not realise you were going to get roped in, you idiot?

That may be four questions but the universe is vast (and getting bigger, I’ve seen the maths), it can cope with an extra question.

The initial effort where the OH was horrified at the cost of the textbooks, couldn’t make his laptop work in time to catch the online introductory lecture and couldn’t understand any of the maths at all but finally produced an equation that looked like the chant for the chorus in an ancient Greek play, and then asked me to check it out – I just laughed, was sheer entertainment.  It all went down hill when the telescope arrived.  I was co-opted from day one sorting out the legs.

‘I’ll just hold the scope where I want it and you adjust the telescopic legs to suit.  Just undo the screw, while you hold the other two legs where they are.  Careful now, it mustn’t get unbalanced and hurry up, this is heavy.  No, you can’t stand there, I’m standing there.  What?  Just reach.’

And this bit of joy was in daylight on the lawn.

A trillion years ago the OH’s mother had a pet rabbit that suffered from red water.  This is basically as I understand it, some poor animal being forced to live in an unheated hutch in the North East, in the winter and consequently bleeding into its urine, poor thing.

Last night, though not a rabbit, I had the red water too.  It was better by about four in the morning after some hours under a duvet and three quilts and I’m OK now thanks but it was very instructive on the necessary equipment for astronomy (and cosmology).

We went out at eight to set the scope.  I put on the old fleece I wear for doing the books and the bins in the winter and with the usual (left hand down! Not there!  Here! I’ve got the weight, no I haven’t, you hold it!) palaver, got the scope onto the patio.

The telescope comes equipped with a torch thingy that has a red light, and, like all the other bits of kit, is adjustably fastened to the telescope’s telescopic legs.  This gives it the opportunity to slide down the legs while you are trying to read the instruction book by it and undo the leg height screw on the way down.  I have no idea why circus clowns bother with a comedy car, a comedy telescope has much more scope for comedy.

The task at hand was to read the instruction book in small enough doses to be comprehended, remembered and followed.

(What?  What did you say?  No, before that. No, not that, you’re repeating yourself. I know that.  The next bit, no, you just said that.)

The handset is some sort of computer with buttons.  Utilising these, the location and time are entered, the scope is pointed at three objects in the sky which are entered into the handset and then it knows where it is.

(I’ve done that, that’s Jupiter.  Obviously!  No, that’s too faint, somewhere we know but in a different bit of the sky.)

I pointed out that Cassiopeia was helpfully ranged over our shoulders, above next door’s chimney, but was ignored and various other suggestions, all wrong.  We were not helped by next door’s cats who were out prowling, or, to look at it another way, ‘stupidly setting off the security lights.’ Nothing blocks your red vision of an instruction booklet quite as successfully as a sudden security floodlight.

Three quarters of an hour on the patio, outside at night in November later, it turned out that the reason the handset was not talking to the telescope was that someone, who had last had a go with the scope three nights previously, had forgotten to turn something off and flattened the batteries, which is why nothing got recorded and we would have to do it all again on the next dry, cloudless night, with new batteries.

So we got the tripod legs, which are wider than the doorway, and the rest of it, back indoors, switched everything off and then I discovered the red water.

Turns out that what you need for astronomy (and cosmology) is not a big telescope, or three books costing nearly a hundred pounds each, or a laptop that works during the lecture, instead of afterwards.

It’s thick knickers.


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