If you see Big Tony, tell him I'll be on Bodmin Moor

you now have exactly one year to book your place in the Millennium's final total eclipse of the sun. According to my celestial charts, the best place to be if you really want to get an eyeful is Bucharest. A guaranteed 2 minutes, 22.59 seconds of pitch black. The trouble with that calculation is that it means being in Bucharest. Better to hare off down to Cornwall, I reckon, coming off the A30 at Bodmin, even if you will thereby lose 22.14 seconds of darkness. It's not just the phenomenon you go for, after all. It's also the people.

And who better to be among than the Cornish when the planets start playing up? Don't ask me why, but they're more astronomically connected down there. Some Celtic or Druidical thing. Something to do with stone circles and tides.

The Halley-Bop Comet had every white witch in the county out. You couldn't move on Bodmin Moor for virgins in their nighties. Nine months after Telstar was spotted over Helston, twin children with heavenly blue eyes were born to elderly and infertile parents who hadn't coupled for a decade. Everyone knows that full moons occasion riotous behaviour in Cornwall, but a half moon can get them going just as well; and some of the wildest parties I've ever been to in Boscastle or Tintagel were thrown when there was no moon around to speak of.

Not being a reader of Nostradamus I don't know precisely what to expect of Britain's last total solar eclipse until Tony Blair loses the 2080 election. But I'll be surprised if the Cornish don't seize upon it as another pretext for celebrating the end of the world. I lived in Cornwall for a number of years and we were always celebrating the end of the world. Why not? Wake up in a strange place the next morning with streamers in your hair and chicken giblets in your pockets only to discover that the world hasn't ended after all -well, you can always find a way of coming to terms with that.

The most committed planetary end-of-the-worlder I ever met in Cornwall wasn't himself Cornish. He was from Walthamstow. Big Tony. A huge, bearded shmaltzball of a man - a cross between Father Christmas, Falstaff, Chas and Dave, and Oliver Reed - who ran a Waltham Forest street market in the winter and drove down to Cornwall in a van loaded with cheap sunglasses the moment the sun so much as winked from behind a cloud. He was how we knew the sun was coming. We measured the seasons by him. He was our harbinger of light.

I met him while I was in the employ of my wife, systematically lowering the standard of her craft shop. All very nice, the stoneware teapots and the hand-blown wine goblets at forty smackers a throw, but where were the bunce lines: the Chinese paperweights, the slate paintings, the plaster of Paris pixies? I'd grown up in a market trader family. I liked to see the gear moving out. So when Big Tony blew into the village with a vanload of sort-of-Raybans and a collection of glitzy carousels to display them on, I couldn't say no to him. I took the vanload.

My wife sent every last pair back. And the carousels. The fact that you could mark up sunglasses by anything up to a thousand per cent didn't cut any ice with her. She wasn't in it for the money. But then neither was Big Tony. They were both in it for the sun.

He loved whatever you could see the sun through. Champagne, chablis, tequila sunrises. He loved whatever you could smell the sea on also. Oysters, lobsters, caviar. He would come for a night and stay for a week, drinking the village dry, eating seafood faster than the fishermen could catch it. Hearing his vanload of crappy sunglasses rattling from as far away as Bude, wives would hide their husbands under the beds. Do I have that the wrong way round? No. Lover of women though he was - because you can see the sun through women too, if you know which way to hold them - he loved laughing with men even more. There was an atmosphere of Dionysiac knees-up about him. The trouble was, every other man's knees buckled long before his. After a week of Big Tony the village looked as though it had been hit by famine and plague. And a mysterious outbreak of male migraine.

He gave it all up himself, in the end, to become an artist. Since when I haven't seen him. But I'm banking on running into him on Bodmin Moor when the sun goes black. Solar eclipses are dangerous things - someone has to be out there selling protective glasses. And should it turn out to be the end of the world after all, he'll be just the man to toast the final dying of the light with.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

booksReview: Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments