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June 5th to June 9th
MONDAY JUNE 5
Last week, while I was away on a camping trip, I woke up one morning to find that one of my reference books was covered in orange juice. After I told this tale, several people asked me the same question. Why are you so dependent on a book? Can't you just look at the sky? Not during a rainstorm I can't. Even on a clear, dry night, I can only see the bit of the sky that happens to be over my head. To make proper forecasts, I need to know what's below the horizon as well as above it. I also need to know precise positions; measurements accurate to the minute and second of tropical longitude. As the cosmos runs to a strict, tight timetable, it's much quicker to look it all up in a book full of sums that someone else has already done. So THAT'S why I was so glad when the book dried up in the Sun - leaving me with a stained but readable page!
TUESDAY JUNE 6
Here comes the summer solstice
The summer solstice is fast approaching. That's the first day of the year when the Sun rises in the sign of Cancer. It is also known as the "longest day". For thousands of years, the people of this land have celebrated this time. It occurs precisely six months after the great midwinter festival. Yet while we all make a fuss about what, today, we call Christmas, we seem to have lost interest in its calendar counterpart. We don't do anything special in late June. Or do we? Intriguingly, both periods involve a few weeks when we cast off inhibitions and break our routines. In December, we focus on families, feasts and firesides. Come the second solstice, we start travelling with our loved ones and, round a million barbecues, we feast by the fireside once more.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 7
Spokes on a wheel
Calendars, these days, tend to be square or rectangular. They only show us a month at a time. Diaries too, focus on a day or a week per page. Even when you go into a well run office and look at one of those year-at-a-glance charts, you still get the impression of time as something that goes in a straight line. Yet really, the seasons follow on from one another like spokes on a wheel. When we draw up that wheel, we get a much more revealing picture. We can see how the shortest day in late December is directly opposite the longest day in late June. Likewise, we can instantly see the symmetry between the dates in late April and late September - when the days and nights are of equal length.
THURSDAY JUNE 8
Circles and time and Salibury Plain
Clock faces are round. Perpetual calendars usually depict the months of the year as spokes on a wheel. The zodiac, of course, is circular too. Time is clearly best thought of as a set of circles within circles, within circles, within circles. At different points of the year, marker points on the edge of each circle will line up with each other. Some people subscribe to an ancient belief about such moments. They see them as times when "bridges" are briefly formed between one era and another. They also believe that if you hapen to be at a very specific place on the earth, you may be in with a chance of crossing such a bridge. Which us brings us round to another famous yet mysterious circle in the middle of Salibury Plain. Might Stonehenge actually contain the remnants of a time machine?
FRIDAY JUNE 9
Nobody can explain how the stones at Stonehenge got to be where they are. The current, unlikely theory, is that they were dragged there, one at a time, from a site in Wales. This would have required thousands of people, labouring in teams, day after day, for many years. Nor is anyone quite sure what Stonehenge was built for. The current, unlikely theory, is that our ancestors were primitive people who worshipped the Sun. This amazing structure was simply a temple in which to perform various rituals and ceremonies. But what if this is just modern arrogance? What if the creators of Stonehenge knew more about the universe than we know today? Perhaps they had access to amazinng technology which we have yet to rediscover.
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