Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I am now a Playwright like Shakespeare was and this is my play.

Scene 1. The kitchen.

Radio: Bay of Plenty, Showers. Wellington the Cup'o'tea Coast, showers. Nelson -

My wife: Shall we shorten these trousers to make shorts?

Radio: Canterbury, Fine. Otago, Fine.

Me: What was Nelson?

My wife: Fine

Me: You don't *ucking know, you weren't listening and you're a bastard*unt.

Okay, it isn't exactly Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty place from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death out out brief candle, but I'll work on some of the speeches. The Radio can have a few more lines, f'rexample.

I need to know what the weather is in Nelson each day on account ov I have taken up sailing. I always wanted to, and there was a nice little dinghy on a trailer with a phone number, and I immediately thought "Why, I could buy that and keep it in the drive and never use it, like everyone else never does", and my wife agreed with me so I didn't buy it.

Instead, I got the children's Optimist out and dusted it off and persuaded John to teach me how to sail it. John is sixteen and I am even older and you'd be interested in how slowly a boat designed for a nine-year-old goes with two adults on board. But I had a heap of fun and after he'd finished laughing at me he let me go solo, I having established that sailing consists of zig-zagging up and down the lagoon and not much else. I was surprised how quicklier it went with just me on board, but I had read that Ben Ainslie dominated all Optimist conditions when he was fifteen and weighed ten stone which is nearly what I weigh. I know you don't know who Ben Ainslie is because you don't pay attention to famous sportsmen, but he's an Olympic gold medallist and stuff. There are a variety of famous sportsmen that nobody interesting has ever heard of. Another one is Shane Warne, whose sport comprises driving a large Mercedes and deliberately running over cyclists if he judges their apparel unbecoming. - I gather from his Tweets he doesn't like Lycra. -

The children's Optimist is an early one, and three inches too short and half an inch too wide, according to the UCI equivalent of Optimist sailing. I mentioned the adventure to one who sails on the Thames who replied, just a trifle snootily:

Pretty good for a shoe box with sails. I like boats with lovely curving lines that look like they would glide through the water with hardly any bow wave. The Optimist is a good baby's bath tub...also with a sail.

Lovely curvy boats are pretty, agreed, and the Optimist isn't. But to borrow from Fraunhofer who remarked, when someone noted that there was a visible flaw in one of the lenses he had made - and his lenses were then the best in the world - 'I make my telescopes to look through, not at.'

Furthermore we have uncovered two huge advantages of the Optimist.

1. It's small enough to fit in the van.

2. Its flat bottom means it's stable for me to learn in.

To borrow from Kirkham (another telescope maker) 'If I had to do it all over again, I'd use a smaller instrument'. - This I learnt when I built an equatorial mount for my telescope. It weighed an enormous amount and when fixed on top of the tripod the trial of manoeuvring it through the house stopped me ever using it. It takes four minutes to get the Optimist into the van, three minutes to unload it onto the shore of the lagoon, and another three minutes to rig it.

I did toy with taking measurements and making a bigger boat, but I'm suspicious that I'll then need a helper to launch it, and usage will go down to just two Saturdays a year and much grumpiness on the part of the person on shore.

Unf. all this enthusiasm means using the van to go to the seaside (a mile) in order to learn how to use no petrol in an outboard motor. This is in contravention to the principle whereby I switch my computer off when not in use because that is how I plan to save the entire planet. (Me switch off lights & stuff = planet saved. Me leave microwave on overnight = environmental catastrophe. Funny thing, one's conscience. It has no capacity whatever to understand scale.)

Actually, saving the planet may be a lost cause if the oceans really are more acidic than they've ever been before, which rather depressing chunk of research I spotted the other night. I happen to know that tiddly little microscopic plants in the oceans produce up to four-fifths of the world's oxygen, and if the concentration of oxygen in the air drops from the current 21% to 18%, everybody dies and so do their budgies and hamsters. You'd have thought even economists might give this rather stark fact some mild consideration when they decide that the best thing to do is to drill for oil round the coast of New Zealand in the hope of finding some and burning it. - I think I ought to blog this. Then my 6 followers will switch off their computers at night.


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