That title might be seen as a slight exaggeration but two things caught my attention this morning while I was sorting the trashy bits of the newspaper from the trashier bits that come with it. I happened to spot a piece informing those who were previously unaware of the fact - and I was one of those - that the statue of Winston Churchill in London's Parliament Square has an electric current running through the head. It seems this is to prevent snow settling and to deter pigeons.
Well, "they" say you live and learn.
The other thing that caught my eye was a small, 40-page booklet published by the paper as a guide to the night sky. Unfortunately, it would, I think, take more than a 40-page booklet to teach me anything about the night sky. That last sentence may seem boastful to you but let me assure you, it is quite the reverse. I wish I could learn more, but somehow the numbers involved just faze me. I read of a star or planet being so many thousands or millions of light years away and I am gobsmacked. I just cannot take it in. I have tried to understand those maps of the night sky published in the paper from time to time - once a month, I think - but I just cannot make any sense of them. What I need is one to one tuition, not a book of diagrams that seem to bear no resemblance to what I see in the sky.
As well as the sun and moon, I can recognise just three constellations: the Plough, Orion and Cassiopia (I know it's shape - a flattened W - but I'm not at all sure how to spell it) from my days as a Brussel Sprout. I even think I can use the Plough to pick out the Pole Star. But that's it. I doesn't help that I live in a town so there is substantial light pollution but when I am staying with my cousin on the farm or am at our house in France where the street lights are turned off at 10.00pm, I gaze upwards in awe. When the sky is clear. What doesn't help even more is that I live in a country where nine times out of ten the sky is covered in cloud so how I am supposed to find my way by the stars is something I never did discover when I was a Scout.
I mentioned that we saw the sun on Thursday afternoon. The crocuses in the garden really came out as a result. We have a few - of what I regard as "standard" crocuses, the ones that come in brilliant yellow, deep purple or, occasionally, virginal white, but we do have hundreds or even thousands of mauve ones. Years and years ago I scattered a couple of hundred naturalising crocus bulbs. The flowers were originally either a pale yellow, cream or mauve - almost pastel shades of the "standard" flowers - but they have all now gone back to mauve. However, they have naturalised and have spread throughout both the back and the front gardens. When they open in the sun they are a magnificent sight.