Way back when, in the time of never-never. Before sinister government face recognition software trawled tagged helpfully pictures on Facebook adding your face to the giant database that “does not exist”. Before the twin towers fell. Before the millennium of anti-climax. A much anticipated event occurred. Warnings in the estoteric press and from hippies and floaty vagina types about how the world was going to end because of the event were abound. The foolish paid daft wads of cash to observe the event from the furthest point south they could get to. Boats and aircraft were chartered. My pre-wife and I headed for relative isolation equipped with tent and telescope with solar observation module attached.
The main intent was to follow the hordes to the overpriced traffic jammed Southwest to observe the total solar eclipse of 11th August 1999. Common sense, however, reigned. Travelling south with all the holiday traffic to Cornwall, the Guardian destination of choice was utter madness. However, I knew of a relatively quiet place. Not many people went there for it was relatively undiscovered. It faced south over the sea, took about the same amount of time to get to and promised to be an adventure and a half.
So it was agreed, we would head to North Wales and to Aberdaron, camp, then ascend Mynnedd Mawr to observe the eclipse.
We packed our stuff and set off in the green nasty. Long term readers will remember the green nasty as the car that was killed by fire. It was a good car. Handy for camping. It had a cassette player and a selection of cassettes were chosen for the journey. I even compiled a “eclipse” compilation. Driving over the hill and into the village with Aberdaron and the bay before me while today’s song was playing burned itself into my mind. Whenever I hear today’s song, I am there;
Brain Damaged/Eclipse by Pink Floyd
….Driving down the hill into the village….just as….”and the sun is eclipsed by the moooooooooooo-ooooooooooon” is sung.
It was quiet there. Few people about. This was, of course, before being popularised in the Guardian and other such papers as the area to go because “Cornwall is too expensive, far away and full of awful tourists like yourselves”. We pitched our tent in a relatively unpopular field and the next day ascended Mynnedd Mawr. With, it seemed, everyone else who had the same idea.
Usually that place is quiet with few visitors. We got there early with the campsite being literally at the base of the mountain and as we set up and prepared ourselves for the event more and more people arrived with the same idea. Indeed, the look of horror on other people’s faces echoed mine as it meant that I was not alone in the realisation that that part of Wales was becoming more well known than before. Coach loads of people started arriving, all up the old army track way people had parked their cars blocking the passing places and being horrible and common. I was pleased because we had got there relatively early and as a result we were able to park right at the top by the coastguard view point.
Of course, with all these young types in their flash cars there, the radio seemed to be playing in unison. Which ever station it was….was playing today’s song too. Everywhere you went that week you would drive or walk past other cars also playing the album that today’s song is from. Collective imitation? Who knows? What I do know though….it was a bloody good eclipse enhanced by the beauty of Bardsey island. Sure there were lots more people than I had expected but I understand that there was nowhere near as many people than who were trying to get into cloud covered Cornwall. And when ever I hear today’s song, I am there….on top of Mynnedd Mawr, with my telescope with solar observation module…Total eclipse of the Sun 1999…Fantastic.