First light

It’s 5.30. This will all be over in 40 minutes, whatever. Nothing I can do about it.

I’m staring at the app determined to get it right. Third attempt this week. I won’t try again if it’s another bust. The ephemeris, and a one-trick camera. The former will find the place; the latter, the picture. I’ll need to be alert. And move quickly. A bit like weddings, these gigs move very slowly until they move very fast. The camera’s not ideal. Nothing’s ideal.

5.45. I’m on the beachside drive now. Blueing sky, thick orange band above the horizon. Flat, right the way across. That’ll change, and soon. I have to be ready. Pacing around, doing the corkscrew thing for better GPS, checking and rechecking the app. It’s the fault of the cathedral, really. I’m supposed to be on holiday. Sun and moon look so much better when something else is in the frame. Something distinctive, a Tor or a Shard.

A thing like the Duomo di Cefalù. They started those towers in 1131.

6.02 is the official sunrise. But then there’s elevation to cathedral-height. The app will tell me the horizon point, but then what? I made this mistake with a London moon last year. Lockdowns led to a lot of experiments with sky hardware. I thought I’d get a moon-on-Shard, unoriginal, but fun – instead I got a moon-hovering-somewhere-near-Guys-Hospital. By the time they rise above the horizon, sun and moon also shift sideways. But which way?

At least I knew that answer today. Three days ago, I didn’t. Forgetting that it must veer south, I miscalculated and got my golden lantern shoved up against some fencing. I need it between the towers. I’m on holiday. I am not taking any pictures. I still want to see if I can, though. Why am I doing this?

5.59 and the orange band bulges now. I have a pretty good idea where it’s going to burst. It’s on! But I’m a bit off, and need to adjust. 6.00 and a flock of swallows burst into the air. They know. No app required. It’s coming. Irrational panic about being dive-bombed by birds and missing it.

6.02. Just a fatter band. I need the jewel. Where’s the sparkler? Glow swelling to bursting point.

6.04-and-a-bit. It’s there. Not bang bang centre, but between the towers. A laser, a blowtorch. Now the DJ adjusts the speed and we’re going Crazy Frog. Warmth on face, already, and not just from the dashing. Playing with railings, avoiding clutter, moving for a better angle around the balustrade. I am making tiny adjustments, perhaps one or two metres, dancing a tango with a partner 93 million miles away.

And that’s it! That. Is. It. A flash of realisation as the pulsing sun rises, the light burning its flares and glows and orange mess all over the cathedral silhouette. That’s why I find this so addictive! Tiny me, on tiny planet earth, gets to party with big space things in real time. I’m significant. I’m in this game. I matter, just as much as the sun. Parallax has always fascinated me. Me and a thousand year old building a couple of miles away are dancing with the sun. It’s not a tango, it’s a waltz-for-three, and I’m directing the orchestra.

A side-step here, rotate a bit there, and all the balance changes. Life is orange and yellow and golden heat and I probably won’t use the pictures anyway because the flare is so bad on this cheap superzoom and and. It doesn’t matter.

Job done.

I wave at the sun. Have a good trip. The sun laughs at me and roars down:

“ME, pal? Ha! I’m not going ANYWHERE.”

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