“It’s been a hard day’s night, and I been (sic) working like a dog …..” sang The Beatles in 1964 and having scribbled PC 124 about ‘night’ it was the most obvious thing to pull together something about ‘day’ for my next blog.
I guess we have all been here? Eyes open, looking at the blackness of the night around one and then, gradually, becoming aware that there is an infinitesimal lightening, the darkness is lifting, objects have shape and meaning, the sky is discernible …….. dawn is breaking. That hour before sunrise is magical for those of us lucky enough to be up and out; sort of allows you to own the day that’s coming. ‘Day’ – the time during which the sun is above the horizon; the time it takes for the earth to revolve once on its axis; but the ‘Solar Day’ is defined as from noon to noon – go figure that!
Often playing around inside my skull is the song ‘Let the sunshine in!’ from the musical Hair. I never saw the show on stage but I am sure we can all identify with those lyrics. Many years ago I visited Osborne House, the summer palace of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert situated on the Isle of Wight on our south coast. The mirrored shutters in one of the state rooms were a very clever idea and I replicated them here in our apartment in Amber House. Wooden shutters are good insulators and it’s a joy to open them on a sunny morning and ‘let the sun shine in!’ The large windows face due East so facing the direction of sunrise ……. well, not quite true and actually only twice in the year, on the equatorial equinoxes. As summer arrives, the sun rises further and further to the north, until at the summer equinox it’s rising almost due North East! Conversely on the winter equinox it’s well down into the South East; almost 90º difference.
You may have read PC 45 about our trip in 2015 up into Alaska. On the longest day we were in Dawson City, preparing to drive further north to Eagle.
This was sunset (!) at 0125 on 20th June
Did you see that 2002 film Insomnia with Al Pacino playing a detective sent to a small Alaskan town to investigate a teenager murder? He has trouble sleeping, due to the almost endless daylight in the summer at that latitude. We had no such trouble but it is a weird thing, living in constant daylight. It seems the body needs that rhythm of awake and asleep/day and night.
And these celestial moments define so much for us. Hands up who hasn’t taken endless photographs of magnificent sunrises and fabulous sunsets?
Sunrise over Portland Harbour, Dorset
Sunset in Hove
The worship of the sun has been a constant feature of man’s existence, for we would not be here without its light and warmth. In the UK we have the 4m high Sarsen stones forming Stonehenge in Wiltshire where, on the summer solstice, the rising sun lines up with particular stones; Druids celebrate. Did you read of the alternative idea, that actually it was used at sunset on the winter solstice, as that signified the beginning of longer days, warmer days, days for sowing crops? You’ve heard the term ‘the sun shot’ probably; the altitude of the sun relative to the horizon can be used in navigation to determine your latitude, providing you know the time accurately.
When you know something to be true, it’s sort of difficult to imagine it otherwise! In PC 120 Virgins I mentioned that in biblical times it was not understood that both man and woman were needed for procreation, something we could not comprehend now. Similarly, it wasn’t until the C16th that it was proved, by a Polish mathematician called Copernicus, that the sun is the centre of our universe, and not the earth! And you can see why – we sense the sun rises and sets and don’t sense that the earth spins on its axis.
We get used to the way it is and hardly question it. The time it takes for the earth to complete its orbit of the sun is 365 days. Yes! Of course! Well, actually it orbits a common centre of gravity, pulled and pushed a little by other planets, but ‘around the sun’ works better huh? And this takes 365.256 or 365.243 days ……. so every four years working, with the Gregorian calendar, we add on an extra day, February 29th . Folk lore in Britain says that’s the day a woman can ask a man to marry them, as it was a man’s right on every other day of the year; post-Harvey Weinstein that may change?
The sun defines our days but in Britain it can be a rare occurrence, this ‘sunshine’. Here our days are often cloudy, misty or sometimes foggy, the latter so disruptive if travelling but magical if just contemplating life. Without sunlight life would not exist, right? Crops wouldn’t grow; they use photosynthesis to convert the light energy into chemical energy which fuels the organism’s activities. Oxygen is produced as a by-product and this maintains sufficient levels in our atmosphere for life. But recently the Planet Earth series has shown life in a multitude of forms living in the complete darkness at the bottom of the oceans, at pressures that would crush a human.
We have hard days, good days, bad days, birth days, fun days, sad days, ‘Go ahead, make my day’ times (Clint Eastwood in Sudden Impact (1983), reinforced with his .44 Magnum), POETS’ Days (‘Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday’ – often used at work on a Friday), and the Sunday Times series ‘A Life in The Day’ where well-known individuals describe a typical day. The day, this 24 hour period when we work, rest and play, can also be an analogy for life itself, the span of our lives. This John Ellerton hymn is often sung at funerals; this is the first verse (read the rest please!)
‘The day Thou gavest Lord is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.’
Enjoy your day!
Richard 3rd June 2018