A. Not at all. Now is a good time. No-one else is mentioning it. You're on your own.
Q. Well, I just wanted to say that viewing the eclipse the other day has had a tremendous, if not permanent effect on me...
A. You mean - you've gone blind?
Q. No, no. It was just such a very beautiful experience, very moving, to see the power of nature at work.
A. No doubt.
Q. Weren't you impressed?
A. Oh, sure. But I am the man who supplies the answers, hiding under the pseudonym of A, and I am never moved by anything. I am here just to supply answers.
Q. And I, as the character known as Q, am here to supply questions?
A. You're getting the hang of it.
Q. Right. Well, my question is - why oh why do we have to wait for a hundred years to have another experience like that eclipse?
A. You don't.
Q. I don't? My goodness. When can I have another experience like that?
Q. There's going to be another eclipse tonight?
Q. Will it be visible in Britain?
Q. What will happen?
A. Well, in the eclipse we saw on Wednesday, the sun was hidden by the moon. Tonight, it will be hidden by the earth.
Q. The whole of the sun? Hidden by the earth?
Q. For how long?
A. Six or seven hours.
Q. That's incredible!
A. What will happen is that by a process known as planetary revolution, one half of the earth will prevent the other half from receiving any light. It will be quite dramatic. Birds will stop singing. Animals will go to sleep. Even flowers will curl up and go to sleep!
Q. By gum - this sounds as total as an eclipse ever gets!
A. Oh, it's way more total than last Wednesday's eclipse. That was nothing. Ten minutes of pseudo-darkness? Fooling around with dark glasses? Child's play. This is real darkness, real totality!
Q. Crumbs. What precautions should I take? Can I look directly at this eclipse?
A. Yes. Trouble is, you won't see anything, and that means you might very well fall over an unseen object and kill yourself, so our advice is - stay at home! If you must go out, take a torch. If you go out in a car, drive one equipped with extremely bright lights fore and aft. To drive a car without bright lights would be madness. Also illegal.
Q. They have laws about this eclipse?
A. Oh, yes. Many.
Q. Blimey, this is going to be a bit expensive isn't it? I mean, buying sunglasses is one thing but buying a special car...
A. And don't view the eclipse in a big city. Much better to go into the countryside, far from street lighting. That way you can see the stars, too.
A. When this occlusion of the sun occurs, the darkness allows you to see a myriad heavenly bodies which are normally invisible. They twinkle like diamonds in the sky.
Q. Sounds fabulous! But they weren't visible on Wednesday...
A. I told you it wasn't much of a show last Wednesday.
Q. Great! Will many people be observing this phenomenon?
A. About fifty million. Whether they want to or not. It's that total.
Q. So you recommend that I drive out into the country in a car with bright lights, find a good open space, and wait for -
A. Night, it's called.
Q. Wait for night to happen?
A. That's it.
A reader writes: Dear Mr Kington, How much longer do you intend to drag out this already over-extended comparison? It's clever, but not that clever.
Miles Kington writes: I am not trying to be clever. I am merely humbly pointing out that by going overboard about an eclipse, we are in danger of ignoring the miracles of everyday life. Night-time is as miraculous as an eclipse. It just comes a bit more often, that's all. I see it as my modest task to draw your attention to the wonder of the ordinary.
A reader writes: Thank you. That's very true. It's also very nauseating.
Miles Kington writes: You're very kind. Why don't you come outside and say that again, so I can punch you on the nose?
A reader writes: I will! Just follow me! Hey, it's dark outside! It's totally black here! There's no light! What happened?
(Now start again at the beginning, if you have the strength.)Reuse content