Yesterday afternoon we had a little gearbox trouble on our narrowboat and were forced into harbour at a local marina. Further disappointment followed when we realised that access to dry land was barred by electronic gates. With the boatyard likely to be observing Sunday closing the following day, a holiday scenario that is only useful for blogging material was unfolding. But then karma intervened.
Each August heralds the arrival of the most spectacular fireworks display in the northern hemisphere – the Perseids meteor shower. Lucky stargazers can sometimes see as many as 75 fireballs an hour flashing across the sky, all seeming to emanate from the constellation of Perseus, the hero of Greek mythology who rescued Andromeda (the constellation next door in the night's sky) from the clutches of the sea monster, Cetus.
As a geeky teenager, when not in Burton library working through the municipal vinyl collection, markontour spent a lot of nights in the back-garden staring up at the stars. The Perseids meteor shower, however, is in now in the middle-aged category of things I know I know, but rarely comes to front of mind unless prompted. Step in Jill of the forgotten phone.
Our passage to the marina was unintended in more ways than one. Having got chatting to some other boaters at a lock near Weston we had ended up giving a lift to a woman whose i-phone was marooned in a car a few miles upstream in Stone. Someone on Jill's boat turned out to be an astro-photographer and, in the way that conversations with strangers tend to get round to the heavens when your boat is named the Burton Library Astronomical Survey Team (Marine Division), we had been reminded of the night's forthcoming meteor display.
Had it not been for Jill, we would have moored up for the evening on the canal-side, with the sky mostly hidden by trees. The Perseids would still have blazed, but the crew of the good-ship B.L.A.S.T (M.D) would have been blissfully unaware. Instead we spent a glorious hour flat on our backs at the stern with a 360 degree panorama of meteor magnificence.
Often when you get to see a shooting star it is no more than a faint streak of white glimpsed out of the corner of eyes evolved to respond to movement, however many light years away. With last night's Perseids, however, performing on our perfect outdoor planetarium, we were treated to a full-on fireworks show, with balls of orange followed by a thick burning tail that seemed to linger in the heavens, like a peacock wanting to make sure you had properly clocked its magnificent plumage.
Markontour has never seen anything like it and holiday woes quickly turned into holiday "woahs!" . Now, as dawn breaks and the only streaks in the sky are little white clouds, let's hope there's more karmic payback to come and there's someone around here who knows about gearboxes..