…”Oh No It Isn’t!”
Well, It’s pantomime season. If you don’t have Pantomime in your part of the world, let me explain it in the briefest way i can.
Pantomime: A short story where the men dress as women, the women dress as men, the hero goes through a series of adventures and triumphs in the end, but it’s the bad guy that every really loves and remembers and who gets the biggest laughs. A bit like America I suppose. At any rate, if you have never been to a performance, dont fret, you haven’t missed out on one of life’s choicer morsels. Sure, it’s a laugh, the audience get involved, but there’s no hiding what panto really is, theatre for thick people.
And it’s a lot like astronomy……….
Ladies & Gentlemen, may I present, “Jack & The Giant Beanscope/Telestalk!”
Narrator: Not long ago on a planet 93 Million miles from our sun, there was a young man called Jack. (Much more dynamic than my real name.) Jack was devilishly handsome, the offspring of Adonis himself. At least, so his mother says. (His mother-in-LAW however will insist that he is the personification of the devil, with a family line including Attila the Hun, Pol Pott, Adolf Hitler and Robert Mugabe.) Jack was poor. Although he worked every waking hour, and proof-read blog sites while he was asleep, he never had much in the way of golden coins. Not only that, he was the sole provider for several mouths, always open and squawking for food, new shoes, handbags and playstation games. Luckily the absurd fashions of the day made Jack’s ragged clothes look deliberately torn. But Jack had a dream………
Jack: Oh yes! I DO have a dream! I dream of building a ladder to the stars, and climbing on every rung! I dream of ……
Narrator: Thank you Jack, we get the picture. I would point out that whilst Jack’s outburst may give you the impression that he wouldn’t be out of place in a ‘luvvy’ (theatrical) crowd, he is in fact so masculine he makes the late great Barry White look like a schoolgirl. But would Jack’s dream ever come true? But Wait! Who is that wizened old woman standing by the road with www.stargazerslounge.com written on the back of her cloak?
Old Woman: Hello Jack! How about swapping that faithful old cow you are leading around for this magic box?
Jack: How dare you call my wife an old cow!! I guess you were joking, so I’ll tell you to pull the udder one! THIS is the cow that makes me jump over the Moooon, THIS is the cow that provided my rugrats with their Milky Whey, THIS is a really SPECIAL cow, no bull. What’s in the box anyway?
Old Woman: In this box is the first rung on your ladder Jack, but you have to swap. You can’t spend your nights with the cow and with what’s in the box. What do you choose Jack?
Narrator: Our hero makes his choice. Vowing to return for her when he is rich and famous, or bored, he swaps his beloved ‘Daisy’ (Much less dynamic than her real name.) for the box. Jack set off in the direction of home. The old crone set off in the direction of the abbatoir. Back home, Jack starts gingerly opening the box, when all of a sudden he gests a surprise….
Jack:…..Just pull this little bit here and WOWEEE! A giant beanstalk jumped out of the box! And what is even more surprising is that it looks just like a tripod. I’m going to climb it right now!
Narrator: So Jack set off up the tripod, sorry, beanstalk. Eventually after what seemed like seconds of climbing he reached the top. Before him lay a cavernous room, full of mirrors and glass and tubes, like the House of Fun at the fair. But Jack had a problem.
Jack: Oh No! I’m Lost! How will I EVER find my way around in here? All this glass and mirrors, how will I know which way is to the stars? Help me!
Narr: Jack’s pleas did not fall on deaf ears. In the distance he heard the tinkling of a bicycle bell, or was it the beeping of an electronic box?
Beeping thing: BOO! Heard you call for help, I’m the one who knows everything round here, I can start you on your way!
Jack: Oh, Thanks, but who are you?
Beeping thing: My official title is Skywatcher SynScan Goto The Third, but everyone just calls me Buttons.
Narr: Jack felt he had at last found a friend. He playfully poked Buttons on his ample belly. At once there was another BEEEP and the cavernous room started to spin around. Just as suddenly the room stopped spinning. Jack made a silent promise that he would never have more than three wine guns again.
Jack: Where are we?
Buttons: You just took the first step on your ladder Jack, look out through that round window!
Narr: Jack looked out in amazement. There was nothing there. Buttons had a smug look on his face that said “Alignment successful”. Jack had a quizzical look that said “I could have been snuggled up with my cow right now, and I swapped it for THIS?”.
Jack: What’s going on? I thought this was gonna be great?
Buttons: It IS Great!! Look! It’s the Seven (Ugly) Sisters!!
Jack: What the! For a start I can only count six, and they are just stars!
Narr: In the background there was a deep and evil laugh. Jack thought his mother in law had turned up, but he swung round to see a giant with a torch shining it in everyones eyes. Jack himself was half blinded by it.
Giant Moon: MUHAHAHAHAHAHOHOHOHEHEHEHEHAHAHAHAH!
Jack: Damn You! I can’t see anything! (He was exaggerating, he could see six ugly sisters).
Buttons: Oh never mind the moon, I call him ‘Karate Kid’. Its always “Wax On, Wane Off, Wax On, Wane Off!”, you just get used to it. Why dont you try somewhere different?
Narr: So Jack pressed Button’s buttons. Buttons promised him a deep sky tour. Through Jack’s mind there raced all sorts of scenarios, he was being chased by Great Bear, he was riding the wings of a flying horse, he was dodging the arrows of a mighty hunter, and was playing matador to a giant bull. Suddenly Jack was breathless…
Jack: Quick! Where’s my asthma inhaler?
Narr: Jack pressed another button, the promise of the jewels of the sky lay before him. He paused briefly to contemplate what sort of dilbert could be so unimaginative to come up with a name like “M31” for such a fantastic nebula. He decided that when Mr Whittington was deposed, and HE was mayor of Londontown that he would rename the entire Messier list with much more better names, like “The Swirling Spinning Super Smashing Star Party”, and “The Fluffy Red White & Blue Amazing Fantastic Gas Explosion”, and so on. So it was with great excitement that Jack once again approached the little round window………
Jack: OI! BUTTONS!! Now What? Where’s the amazing stuff? Where’s the colours? Where’s the galaxies?
Buttons: (Smugly again) Right there. Its right there.
Narr: But try as he might, Jack could see jack. Up above, the laughter echoed around the room again….
Moon: ITS BEHIND YOU! HO HO HO HAH AH HAH HEH!
Jack: Oh No it Isnt!
Buttons: Oh yes it is.
Narr: But Buttons was wrong. He had guided jack to a completely boring part of the sky. Of course, in the court case that followed. Buttons’ defence insisted that Jack hadn’t told him where he was properly in the first place. But now Jack was all alone, he was hungry, he was freezing, and the cavernous room was covered in dew. Jack had opened the box with a promise of magic, and had come away without even seeing a cheap conjurers trick. The moon rolled with mirth, and flashed his torch brighter still in Jacks face. Jack picked up the giant beantripod, and hauled it into the nearby stable. The stable where once he had frolicked freely with Daisy, now just accompanied by the beeping Buttons.
Jack: I’m pulling the plug on our friendship Buttons!
Buttons: Ok, but you’ll be back!!
Narr: Jack pulled the cord on Buttons, the light in his eyes dimmed, and he stopped beeping. Jack knew they hadn’t got off to the best of starts, he knew their friendship could have been so much more rewarding, If only he had taken time to get to know him properly. Slowly, Jack made his freezing way to the nearest window which showed the warmth of a firelight glow. Longingly he gazed in. Were his eyes playing tricks? There, snuggled happily by the fire was Daisy! Jack rushed inside.
Jack: Oh Daisy, Daisy, I missed you so, its so cold out there, there’s nothing to see, the moon is laughing at me, Buttons doesn’t know what he’s doing…..
Daisy: There there Jack, I’m glad you’re back. Now then, do you promise you won’t go out there again and leave me all alone? It really wasn’t worth it was it?
Jack: No, I have learnt my lesson, you won’t catch me out there again in a hurry!
Narr: And at this point I would like to tell you that they all lived happily ever after. Jack gave up on his ladder to the stars, Daisy stopped asking for handbags, the mother-in-law emigrated to Jupiter, and chocolate was prescribed as a wonder medicine and made freely available on the National Health.
I’d like to tell you that. But this very night Jack found himself watching the weather forecast. Unaware of the impact of her words, the innocent presenter simply said “and there’ll be some nice clear nights on their way.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed. The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. In the back of his mind his dear old mother’s voice whispered to him….
Dear Old Mother: Make sure you wear clean underpants…
Narr: No no no! The other one!
Dear Old Mother: Follow your Dreams Jack! Always follow your dreams! (And dont forget to wear clean underpants!
Narr: Jack opened the door and looked up. Time to build a ladder.