FROM 2-14. Cape Town-Kerguelens

HTTG and other trash

Glassy calm – in the southern ocean yet! – Dagelet's 'luminous sea' and, as he wrote, it's not as bright as in the tropics but it is heartwrenchingly beautiful – we have the engine at idle to keep the old barge pointing SE and not flogging her guts out and she just folds the water around her stem enough to make little greeny blue ripples and there's a long glowing trail stretching out astern with diamond sparkles. The sky is clear, the stars so bright you could touch them, Higgs fields notwithstanding! I've been reading more of Brian Greene's Fabric of the Cosmos – wish I could write like he does – lovely taut use of metaphor and a smashingly gentle line in dry irony. I guess you all know from the HGTTG that the universe is really really big but did you know that scientists have now calculated on the basis of observed data that it is stretching so fast that light shining from an object at its outer edge (not a real place but conceptually useful) will never reach us? The outer edge is beyond our horizon for ever. His metaphor for size – if you reduce the universe to the size of the earth, the bit of it that we can see and observe would be smaller than a grain of sand. Really really small. Our little speck of dust will follow the second law of thermodynamics into a state of higher entropy real soon now in spacetime so eat yer porridge and enjoy it while you can!

There was a clever revisionist piece in, I think, the Guardian before we left the UK reviewing the 30 years since the first appearance of the HGTTG. Way oversimplified but as I remember, it seems that those of us who know, love and understand the jokes are just a bunch of smug yuppies. Ah well! I've been called names before. The sixth book in the trilogy, written by another smug yuppie, Eoin Colfer?, is on the stalls and my copy is now chasing me from Cape Town in the Heart of Gold. Infinitely improbable but it will one day overcome the stretching of spacetime and reach me. Perhaps it already has in another universe.

Dawn just breaking. Yesterday as the cold, drizzly grey front clammily wrapped us, there were Storm Petrels all around the boat. They aren't usually with us in groups and almost never when it's calm enough to look at them closely. Usually, just a spray wreathed glimpse of a tiny apparently fragile dancer in the storm. These were Wilson's Storm Petrels jittering and flopping and bumping the waves and running along the surface, wings stretched to provide just enough lift for a skyhook – and scooping for food. Tried to film them but the camera couldn't cope. Please, whoever designs these things, bring back the viewfinder! Screens are useless especially on video cameras.

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