Posted by & filed under Personal, Science, Travel, March 5 2007.

Last weekend I spent a couple of days in Cheltenham visiting an old school friend, John. I had a great tour of most of the pubs and clubs and can confirm that yes, the place is small and peaceful, and just a bit upmarket (maybe too much for an unsophisticate like me), whilst at the same time having good nightlife. It’s also a bit of a shock to spend the evening in smoky pubs – I have got used to Scottish pubs and waking up the day after not reeking of tobacco. It’s all change for England too in the summer though.

One thing that made Saturday night a bit surreal was moving from pub to pub underneath the moon as it was being eclipsed, and checking up on the progress of the earth’s shadow across the lunar surface between pints. The eclipse appeared darker than others I have seen, and at one point the moon seemed to almost vanish completely. Needless to say, none of the young revellers were looking and they probably thought John and I were a couple of weird old guys looking at the sky. Which is accurate I suppose – John revealed to me that he has been into astronomy for years, something I would absolutely never have suspected of him, as I’m supposedly the one who does nerdy things like that, and he has spent much of his time doing very non-nerdy things, like going to Iraq.

Another nerdy experience of the weekend was at Birmingham airport on the way back to Edinburgh – I discovered the Aviation Experience and Gift Centre. This aircraft obsessive’s delight is hidden away in a forgotten corner of the airport that appears not to have been refurbished since 1973, and features an observation platform to view the runway, and the biggest collection of aviation books and maps I’ve ever seen. It has loads of model planes too. A great place to spend the time before departures, although it is before the actual departure security gate. It’s only really advisable to go there if you are ten years old, but that didn’t stop a posse of middle-aged planespotters having their own little corner of the viewing area when I was there and talking about the latest Ukrainian cargo freighters and comparing binocular apertures. I wonder if their mothers knew they were out so late?

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