Sunday, 27 July 2014

REVISTITED - I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

I wish I had had the courage to share with my parents, especially my Mother, how hurt I was by how low down her priority list I seemed to have sunk by the time I was ten years old. By then my brother Stephen was at university and I suspect that my Mother had got rather bored with parenthood.

She had stopped paid employment in 1946 when she became pregnant and never started again. By the mid 1960s her twice weekly coffee-mornings, a “morning” that in practice lasted from 10:30AM to 3:30PM, were sacrosanct and nothing was ever allowed to interfere with her attendance. She used to say, only half in jest, that if she wasn’t there she would become the main topic of conversation. Add to the equation the drama group, the poetry group and the “I’m just slipping out to see Aunty Chris” and her week was comfortably busy. It was just a shame that none of it ever involved me.

I used to devise my own entertainment, sometimes with school friends, sometimes on my own but school holidays always felt rather like living in B&B - with a landlady who wasn’t particularly welcoming and one who rather regretted being in the business at all.

The best example of my Mother’s approach to parenting was when I broke my wrist at school. I would have been about 13. The school didn’t help the situation by sending me home rather than taking me to the hospital in St Albans but when I did get home after a 2 mile walk, a train ride and then another 1 mile walk I was not in a very good state of health. Her response was to give me the bus fare (2s/6d) to take myself to Luton and Dunstable Hospital (about 6 miles away) because she had the poetry group meeting to attend. Getting myself to the hospital involved a 1 mile walk and two bus journeys and looking back I still don't know how I managed to get there in one piece. After what seemed a long wait to be seen I had an X-ray taken and it was discovered that my wrist was broken. I had no money to get home or to even use the pay-phone provided but luckily the lady at the reception desk took pity on me.

Dad drove over to pick me up and we had an "interesting" conversation on the way back! He hadn't realised that I had had to make my own way to the hospital. He and Mum had one of their very few major rows when we got home - she kept saying "but it was my poetry group" as if that was the clinching argument for sending me off to hospital on my own! I rather suspect that social services would be contacted by the hospital if something similar happened today!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

I don't think that my hobbies ever die a natural death

“Enthusiasm never dies a natural death. It dies when we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies from errors and tarnishing and from weariness and withering.”

What was special about Sunday 20th July 2014?

It was the date I resigned from my final astronomical forum too bored, too frustrated and too tired to be bothered with the bad language, bad manners and bad science for a moment longer. Of course my formal involvement in the hobby - as in subscription paying involvement - had come to an end in late 2013 but July 2014 very much represents the end of an era for me.

It wasn't that long ago that I would have labelled myself as an "enthusiastic amateur astronomer". I was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and I used to write peer-reviewed articles on both double stars and variable stars. So what happened?

Part of the reason was the lack of new challenges - once you have over 1000 of your discoveries in the standard catalogues the thrill of the chase pretty much disappears - but it was also the ruthless streak that now seems to have sweeping through the pro-amateur section of the astronomy hobby that finally did it for me.