Day 42, the number given by Douglas Adams as “The answer to the question of Life the Universe and Everything.” This and the fact it’s a Saturday provide enough justification to say “yes” when someone asks me if I’d like a little bit of interesting mushroom at lunchtime.  

The rain seems to have finally run out and we are looking to a week of warmth and vitamin D. Lyndon and I head for Griffith Park, but this time with the planetarium in mind. As a child I used to love the London Planetarium, no doubt to the endless amusement of my parents. “He really does have his head in the clouds.” I had a phase of a few years when I really wanted to be an astronaut. That was around the period that everyone thought space exploration was the future. Not the future future future, which it still might be, but the immediate future future, which is now the past, and wasn’t. If you’re still with me. It’s the mushrooms. But I had loads of books about nebulae and I asked for a Mattel replica of a space shuttle for Christmas. For a while I was serious about it. But there were no classes in being an astronaut.


I haven’t been to a planetarium as an adult. My lack of a good understanding of constellations outside of Orion and The Plough does make me want to bed in some better knowledge rather than risk possible future dad-fails. Somehow I believe that it’s a dad’s job to be able to recognise stars (and trees?!). Although nowadays I expect it’s less of an issue. “Daddy, what star is that?” “Why don’t we go on google together and then you can find out?” taptaptaptapswipe “You see, darling. It’s Ursa Major. I knew that all along.” “You know everything, dad.” “Yes darling. Yes I do. Now get back in the space shuttle. We have to be in Beta Tau by Moonrise.”


I’m in no state to remember specific things by the time I get to the planetarium. But hoo-ah I am ready to go to Mars. Lyndon is hungover and it’s toasty warm so we recline on big chairs and zone out. Charmingly the show is live delivered by an actress working in tandem with the visions, rather than the deep recorded stentorian British voice I thoughtlessly expect after my childhood visits to the one in Baker Street. She has a very mellow delivery, and before long the pair of us are absorbed, flying through the constellations. The actress has built a call and response into the act, occasionally we have to shout out the answers to her questions. Again I like it, and it validates employing a live performer. Jobs for the boys (and girls). “Can you see Mars?” Everybody else seems to be a little shy but “yes…” “Do you want to go to Mars?” I’m not shy about this “YES”. I mean I’d sooner go check out one of those three planets they found this week that might support life. But for now it’ll have to be that dusty rock. And off we go.


There can’t be many screens like this in the world. You need such a huge great big domed roof for a start. Nobody has one in the living room. So where do you get the footage? Much of this video seems to have been custom made for this Observatory in that it involves shots of the building itself, but it’s intercut with images I think I remember from my childhood. Cartoony overlays of Orion with a club, a bear with an absurdly long tail, crap bulls etc. There must only be a limited amount of film material available for this sort of a screen as there can’t be much of a market for it. 


They’ve made a show about water. It’s called “Water is Life”. It’s a basic frame for a journey around the solar system, and I wonder if they have four shows and they rotate them based on which sign is dominant. Right now we are in Aquarius so a water show makes sense. I suspect they must have a fire show, an earth show and an air show. I kind of want to go back and see through the seasons. But that’s the old childhood addiction to planetariums rearing its head. That and the mild enhancement.


I leave thinking I’ve had a lovely time. Lyndon slept through it but seems happy with that outcome. I know how to locate the North Star now, which I didn’t beforehand. Although I refuse to call the signpost the “Big Dipper.” My dad taught me it’s “The Plough” and dads know everything about stars.


I want to get out on a clear warm night and lie on my back and look up and put what I’ve learnt to practical use before my brain files it as unnecessary information to make room for more Shakespeare.


I took this photo in the planetarium before the show started. It’s the only photo I took all day. If you look closely you might notice I’ve adjusted it slightly.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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