On 11th August 1999, I was working at HTV, on the outskirts of Cardiff.
At 11.11am, there was a 97-98% eclipse of the sun over Cardiff. Videotape editor Richard got hold of a dentist’s mirror (they are also used by electronic engineers) and stuck it in the ground, reflecting the sun onto a piece of white card. We also saw the eclipse with the naked eye as it passed behind light clouds on the edge of a large dark grey cloud.
I had not expected to be impressed, but seeing the partial eclipse in the sky with my naked eyes was strange, especially with the air slightly and strangely chilly for no reason – there was no breeze, just a chill and, in the far distance, the sound of a car alarm which sounded like the theme music to The Twilight Zone.
On the ground and in the air, there was an eerie light, neither normal daylight nor dusk, as if the light was in the air itself, not coming from any specific direction. Richard said that during a full eclipse there was total darkness in the sky above, with the stars visible, but on the horizon there is a lighter colour – as if there were a 360˚ sunrise.
This morning, goaded-on by my eternally-un-named friend, I roamed the streets of Borehamwood awaiting the promised 85% solar eclipse at 09.31am.
The skies of Borehamwood were a uniform light grey and the streets of Borehamwood were not thronged with expectant masses.
At 09.31am – the appointed time – nothing was visible.
A teenager later interviewed by BBC TV News at, I think, Leicester racecourse (no, I don’t know why) said she found the eclipse “illuminating”.
My eternally-un-named friend, at an animal farm on the Isle of Dogs in London (no, I don’t know why either), was reduced to sending me a photo of a disgruntled-looking llama.
And a sign in a field saying: PLEASE DO NOT FEED OR THROW FOOD TO THE SHETLAND PONIES – THEY ARE ON A SPECIAL DIET. Why the ponies are on a diet, I do not know.
The BBC obviously have better links with The Almighty than I and my eternally-un-named friend did in Borehamwood and the Isle of Dogs. They reported a “breathtaking” solar eclipse.
But there are better things than succeeding in the conventional sense.
Last night, I went to see cult music act John Otway perform at The Good Ship venue in Kilburn. He holds what must surely be some sort of record – having had one hit song (Cor Baby, That’s Really Free in 1977) and then getting a second hit song a whole 25 years later (Bunsen Burner – 2002).
In a BBC poll in 1999, his song Beware Of The Flowers Cause I’m Sure They’re Going To Get You Yeah was voted the seventh greatest lyric of all time.
As John pointed out with flawless logic last night, the BBC vote was for the greatest lyrics written in the 2,000 years since Jesus Christ was born, coming seventh meant he was a “better lyricist than Bob Dylan” and, as Paul McCartney’s Yesterday came sixth in the poll, Cor Baby, That’s Really Free is “almost as good a song as Yesterday”.
John Otway’s 1990 autobiography was titled Cor Baby, That’s Really Me – Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure and his second autobiography (2010) is entitled I Did It Otway.
I have to say the self-styled Greatest Failure in Rock ’n’ Roll seems very happy with it: a lesson to us all, perhaps.
There are more interesting things in the world than a partial solar eclipse.
YouTube has a clip of John Otway singing Bunsen Burner on BBC TV’s Top of The Pops
And he is also HERE with Wild Willy Barratt and Cor Baby, That’s Really Free