Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Auroras, marathons and high-heels

Hey there,

apologies, it has been a little while since I have written. Life is trundling along at a moderate pace here now, and last Thursday when the waning crescent moon set, the world outside promptly became as dark as the
inside of a cow. The creamy haze of the galactic plane has appeared above us, and the Southern Cross is at a neck-craning elevation in the sky. The long-axis of the Southern Cross points directly to the south celestial pole, which here, obviously, is at the zenith. Thus the Southern Cross is like the hour hand of a 24hr-clock, tick-ticking around this central point every day, and acts as an excellent measure of the time if you are out and about in the darkness.

The aurora have been disgustingly beautiful in the last few days, some stretching the entire length and breadth of the sky. Yesterday, trudging (and staggering) out to work, the display above me became so bright and enormous I could not look at it all at once. Warm from my walk, and with no wind to cool me, I lay down on the snow, staring up at the green rivers of light snaking their way across the stars. It is hard to describe simply, but when the display falls in curtains, some few hundred metres in depth, where you can see the 'folds' and creases of the light, the aurora give you a sense of the depth and enormity of the atmosphere and the sky, usually so flat and two-dimensional in the darkness. I have had many requests for
photos, they are coming I assure you - it is a bit of a knack, capturing these beasts, but they will be on the page soon. Promise!

A sense of hibernation has come over many in the station, now that we are a month into the darkness. People retire early to bed, are partying less, and on a Sunday, when you might see only two or three people in the galley at one time, you are left wondering where the other eighty-odd people went to! I am, on the other hand, feeling more energised as the months go on, and it is hard to get my head around the fact that it is only six weeks until midwinter. Time is flying by.

Hibernation was, however, shrugged off for a weekend as the Raytheon workers were all given a two-day weekend for the first weekend in May. Our band, Al Dente, had therefore marked this as the time for our first gig of the winter season. Everyone, it seemed, had a plan for Saturday and it was crazy-full. It started with the electricians cooking breakfast burritos with screwdrivers and bloody marys. Then at 3pm, a very bizarre new event took place. We have a hefty bloke on station called Kevin, and I'll leave it to your imagination as to why his nickname is "BFK". He and a few mates coined an idea to fuse the enjoyment of those strange, energetic people on station with those who preferred a quiet sit and a few beers. The "BF5K
Race" was engendered. This indoor race, of 5km in length involved 17 laps of the inside of the station, starting and ending in the galley and including stairs and halls throughout the new building. To run in it, a
runner (or relay team) had to get a Sponsor - who was required to sit in the galley under the watchful eyes of the judges and had to drink a beer for every three laps that their runner completed. There were prizes for the first runner and relay team, and for the best dressed runner or team.

The thirty-odd runners arrived decked out in some sensational kits. The Kiwi team included a cow (with plastic udders) and a pimp. One of the solo runners ran as Fozzie-bear, and the chicks team was dressed in lovely black-dresses, gloves and feather-boas and passed a cigarette to their new runner's mouth as a baton. A 5km race is a bit strenuous at this altitude and it was impressive to watch, not to mention a bunch of fun. Again, photos are coming...

After the BF5K, margaritas were served at the bar - by which time we (the band) were running around doing soundchecks and setting up for the evening entertainment. We had organised ourselves some costumes for the band. I had threatened?promised? Larry that he would have to wear a fairy outfit and
had spent a few days getting him a pair of wings and a tutu - which was quite an effort as my mother will happily tell you that i am not much of a seamstress. However, a few pricked fingers later and he had a lovely tutu and matching wings and he wore them with pride. Steve, our bassist, was horrified that we were not going to have a stage, so Allan found a stage about a metre high by the same width and length and we painted it up so that just Steve could stand on it. We thought there was no way that he would use it, but he stood on it all night! We made Steve into a superhero, replete with mask and cape, and he took off his shirt and painted an "S" on his chest with a marker - apperently, several days later, this is still imprinted on his chest, he can't get it off. I made Steffen, our drummer, a koala-bear hat with fluffy ears, but he exceeded this with a big sombrero, bow-tie, overalls rolled up to his knees and a pair of thongs (flip-flops, for any horrified American readers)...he looked like a tarted-up Mexican cocaine farmer. Fabulous.

I had succonded German Robert's disastrous pair of yellow pants - big on him, but I could have fitted into them twice, and his Eidel Wise suspenders to hold them up. My (now very varied) coloured hair was stuck up in crazy spikes, and I think I looked like a cross between a sad wanna-be punk princess and a lady from one of those weight-watchers ads wearing the pants she used to be fat enough to wear...once again, photos not far away! Since one of our songs included one called "In These Shoes? I don't think so" I needed a pair of high-heels, not a common commodity on station. I found a pair of silver platform heels in the 'dress-up box' and wore these for half the show. As I'd hurt my knee early in the day, this was somewhat of a mission, and the shoes came off straight after the song in question. Oh, the relief. The tunes (we had about 20 songs, four of which were originals) went over well, with more than half the station turning up to boogie for over an hour and a half. We had a blast, and it was good to have some live music in the place. We received a bunch of great comments, which was good to hear. Our next gig is midwinter, and again, frightening as it's only six weeks away...

So, as you've seen, there are many promises for new photos this week, and I do stick by it, that'll be my mission before the next diary entry, so keep checking back if you're interested. Work still goes well, thankfully, and the telescope and I are getting along grandly (and hoping it stays that way!). Much love to you all, hoping all is going well there. Love to hear from any and all of you when you have the chance,


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