Night sights

I’m a bit indignant.  Alene keeps complaining that she has no one at home to talk to after an upsetting day — no one to comfort her and remind her that someone cares for her. Hmmm. What the heck does she think I am? Chopped liver? I’ve had little luck getting her attention this week. It’s very much the silly season where she works and she stresses and agonizes over all kinds of stuff on the bus coming home — barely hearing the podcast she has playing. Then when she gets home, she sits with her iPhone checking one app after another — for no reason at all.

Last night I leaned on her to have some wine. She made iced lemon-and-ginger tea — but added some pino grigio. Then she sat outside her apartment door and watched the sun go down over the Olympic Mountains — and we started to make up a story together.  One day, we might have it framed enough to write down. But I thought it would be fun to share the basic idea for now.

Picture the astronauts in the International Space Station, orbiting Earth once every ninety minutes. As nighttime Europe glides beneath them, they notice something odd — England is in darkness. The borders with Wales and Scotland are clearly discernible as the boundaries between dark and light. The lights are on in Ireland — and across the Channel in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

None of the astronauts is from the UK — but everyone is pretty sure that the UK has a national electric grid — that electric power does flow across the internal borders. But the country of England is definitely in the dark — suffering a power outage confined to its own borders.

One astronaut turns to Twitter — expecting to find a trending hashtag like #EnglandPowerOut — or something like that. (Alene now takes a break to wet down the scarf she has draped over her shoulders to cool her down in her hot apartment.)

But the hashtag trending right now in the UK is #TheSevenDoctors. The BBC is airing one of those Doctor Who specials which reunites a group of actors as the Doctor to meet his other selves. There is no mention of a power outage anywhere.

The crew is now rather intrigued and checks various news sites — including BBC World News. Nothing. As a matter of course, the captain reports the English blackout to mission control — only to be asked what they might all be smoking up there.

“I was just talking to my daughter via Skype,” says someone on the ground. “She’s doing study abroad in London. The power is most definitely on. Are you sure you were definitely looking at the British Isles?”

England remains dark all night. And the next night. But there is no report of power outages. It seems that it’s only dark as viewed from the ISS.

As if that wasn’t enough to wonder about — the crew has noticed something equally odd in another part of the world. The night time view of the southern end of South America shows Patagonia all lit up like the New York City metropolitan area — with a city of some ten million where little Puerto Williams (population around 3200) is located. Navarino Island looks like Manhattan.

Cool, huh?
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