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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Switch on the Northern Lights, we’ll deal with the rest

It’s not often I’m given cause to count my blessings and find I have more than Joanna Lumley. Smug – and happily so. No other word for it. Not so posh, not so old, not so anxious for another Ab Fab Christmas special to put a turkey on the table, not so bound up by all that bothersome London stuff. And then there’s the bother of travel.

That otherwise blessed lady had to traipse to the Arctic Circle in her Damart thermals and Ugg boots to see them. In Cumbria she could have parked herself in dressing gown and slippers at a bedroom window, makeup off, mug of low-cal-not-quite-hot-chocolate in hand and waited for God to flick the switch.

Which He did this week. Obligingly and no doubt a little boastfully, He pushed the button to show Blackpool how it’s done.

Northern Lights. Wow, what a wonder! It suddenly goes without saying... they shine on the righteous.

Not for the first time this year, Aurora Borealis bathed great swathes of this county in a technicolour, kaleidoscopic show of tutti-frutti spectacle.

Sensational wasn’t the word to do it justice. Like celestial traffic lights, stuck in an extended breakdance fit, swirling, shimmering, primary colours transformed Cumbria’s big skies into a spontaneous Cirque du Soleil – so much classier without the men in tights.

Norway? No way. All in all Joanna, I’d rather have been in Whitehaven. And I reckon, had you paused to think about it, you would too.

It was there, in the west, the show was at its brightest.

In Whitehaven the best front row seats were to be had for finest views of a totally natural appearance of gloriously garish harbour lights. Stunning.

If only they could negotiate a deal with the Big Guy upstairs for regular appearances, the good folks of that suddenly troubled coastal town could maybe market a Northern Lights festival, sell tickets and hot dogs, make a bob or two to plug some of the gaping holes in their government funding shortfalls. As a Plan B, it’s perhaps not the most reliable – but it fits the looking on the bright side bill.

The spine-tingling sky-lights were pretty darned good in other parts too. Eden Valley had its own reasons to gawp in awe. The colours over Keswick were gobsmacking. But it seemed there was also a bit of a disadvantage to Mother Nature’s heavenly gift after all. We should have expected that. Nothing ever comes as a perfect package.

Apparently the Northern Lights are the product of a magnetically chaotic, hysterically spitting sun. And when the sun spits, satellites go mental.

Professor Brian Cox might choose to put it another way – with background mood music, Norwegian location shots and an email address for his fan club. But uncontrollably loopy was my take on the cosmic info being put out in news bulletins.

When the sun coughs and splutters like a chain smoker with bronchitis, televisions showing repeats of Only Fools and Horses and Brideshead Revisited (again) go bananas in response.

If Sebastian Flyte ends up driving a Reliant Robin recklessly and Del Boy suddenly discovers a quick-buck, secondhand line in dog-eared teddy bears, we know now to blame the spitting sun.

Worse still – or more annoyingly inconvenient, anyway – truck drivers with satnavs, heading for Amsterdam with a consignment of clogs made in China, find themselves inexplicably lost in Aspatria – where footwear tends to be more on the glamorous side.

Brampton starts to host chocolate hauls meant for Belgium – which will do nicely, thanks – and Scottish shoppers wander bemused in Carlisle’s Tesco looking for cheap beer. As Scots will tend to do. But not yet boys and girls. Just a touch too soon for Cumbria’s bargain booze. Reset your satnav.

So you see, there can be a catch or two when Lady Nature does her stuff. But all things considered, they’re probably worth the suffering.

As one more likely to use road maps and avoid Star Trek repeats, I’ll take celestial entertainment any old day... or night.

But if notice could be negotiated with the Big Guy, it would help. Some of us – though younger than the lovely Ms Lumley – are not too bright after a sleepless night.

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