Sunday night was the peak of the Persaid meteor shower, so the local astronomical amateurs were going to meet at a viewpoint ont he ridge of the island. I was keen to see the shooting stars and keen to get to know some more amateur astronomers, so I decided to go, even though it was an hour's drive away.
Then I remembered that I'd promised to take my son camping some time this summer, and there was a camp and BBQ site nearby. Great! It would get him away form the video games and perhaps get him interested in astronomy.
I suggested to my friends from Franceses that they might like to come too, since they're keen amateur astronomers. Besides, they have a good tent and we have a grotty one. They accepted, and my husband cried off, since he had to work on Monday morning. And then Helen felt unwell and had to cancel.
So in the end I set off with Julio and Theresa, rather later than we'd planned as usually happens. We had hoped to drive above the clouds as we went up the mountain. Instead we found the camp site was just below the cloud base.
We got the tent up well before dark, and headed over to the BBQ area to cook. They have lots of these on the island. This one has maybe 20 BBQ pits built out of local stone with roofs and chimneys, and there are taps and climbing frames for the kids and a toilet block. It's a really nice place.
Someonne had left a BBQ burning, so we added more fuel. The trouble was that the cooking grid was well above the embers, so our chicken cooked very slowly. As the light faded, we switched to the camping gas cooker and wound up eating tandoori chicken and salad by torchlight.
Then it was time to go to the viewpoint an attempt to see shooting stars.
It was very cold. There were perhaps ten cars there, most with headlights on ruining any chance of night vision. There was a TV camera, also with a spotlight. And there were people taking flash photos, with the flash pointed towards the crowd.
It takes at least 20 minutes to get full night vision back after something like a camera flash.
Not that it made much difference, since we were in the cloud. In fact the headlights sweeping through the mist were spooky, especially when there were people standing in front, casting long shadows.
Most people gave up and left, so we at least had some night vision again.
We had a couple of good conversations. My son was interviewed for the local TV. The cloud swept back a couple of times and we had a brief, glorious view of stars. During one of these clear intervals, we did see a shooting star.
We gave it up and went back to the tent. By now I was sorry we had a tent waiting for us, as I'd have much preferred the drive down the mountain. So in we got, with Theresa and I sharing an air matress, and Julio on a duvet.
"Um, Sheila," said Theresa. "If I accidently put my arm around you when I'm asleep, just poke me in the back or something, will you?"
That's when I realised I was about to sleep with my best friend's wife. In separate sleeping bags, of course.
Talking of sleeping bags, I looked at our old, thin sleeping bag beside the two super-dooper ones Thesea had brought, and my misgivings grew. I insisted that Julio have one of the good ones.
Thank goodness I did, because he slept like a log and I woke at 2 a.m. frozen.
I coped by imagining I was sitting in an arm chair front of a huge log fire, drinking cup after cup of imaginary hot chocolate. Since the calories were imaginary too, I had whipped cream and marshmallows with it.
Even so, the time dragged. By 4:30 I wanted to pee, but I couldn't see any way to get out of the tent without waking Theresa.
At 5:30 Theresa muttered, "I wonder what time it is?"
It turned out that she'd been awake and wanting to pee for ages, but didn't want to wake me up. So we went outside and found a bush. At least the sleeping bag felt comparatively warm when I got back in.
I think I managed to doze a little, but it was a huge relief when we got up and made some tea. As we drank it, I discussed with Theresa how much we'd need someone to pay us to use the shower - given that it was obviously draughty and presumably colde water. I said I wouldn't do it for 100€, but I might consider it for the price of a wide-aperture lens for my camera. Theresa said she doubted if she'd get in there for 1000€.
When we finally got home I treated myself to a bath to warm myself up as well as get clean. I fell asleep in it.