Thursday, 14 January 2010

A new year. A new start. A final goodbye.

Today is the first new moon of 2010. You can’t see it: it’s a new moon. But I sensed it (after looking at my lunar calendar). The new moon signifies the restart of the lunar cycle. But this new moon, for me, signifies the end of Moonwalking 2009. Not the end of my relationship with the moon, oh no no no. But the end of this blog, and the diary of my year of lunar living.

As our American cousins might say, I had a blast.

The original purpose of taking a year to moonwalk around Britain was to throw myself into an adventure – in which I’d learn lots, meet loads of new and interesting people, and, I hoped, get over a slightly messy break-up. I also had this crazy idea that if I told enough people it would become a book, it might become a book. After all, I have spent the last 10 years of my life reading travel literature, loving Bill Bryson and Charlie Connelly, dissecting Geoff Dyer and Roger Deakin, studying language in south-west London, America and Cornwall. And generally falling for the idea of spending my one attempt at life travelling, learning and writing.

As yet, it’s not a book. But in October last year, the project attracted an agent. And even after three hours of chatting with this agent, I still couldn’t put her off me. So I gained that agent.

Anyway, you know all this. And if you don’t, it’s all documented in this blog, which I assume will sort of linger on the internet forever.

Last year became the most exciting, most demanding, most exhausting, toughest, most exhilarating year of my life.

But it would’ve been nothing without the people I met during the year. And the people who supported the idea. And those who told me their stories, who taught me about Luna, who walked me miles and miles and miles, who put me up in their homes, who cooked for me, who said such nice things and wished me so well. So many people. Time and time again.

So, here goes. This list is in no way complete. It’s a stab at trying to thank as many people as I can for helping in ways that only selflessness and kindness can produce. (For all the rubbish things that happen around the world, there are still many good people on this planet.)

Firstly, thank you to everyone who read the blog, still reads the blog, who commented on blog posts, who emailed me and followed me on Twitter and sent such lovely messages to me.

Then, hugely sincere thanks to,

Mum, Dad, my two bigger brothers, Natalie, Susannah M, Debbie the lovely white witch, Dan O, Jan Dooner, Sam C, Matt and Sarah, Christophe Philipps, Dr Das Baskill, Colin S, Sir Patrick Moore, Steve Owens and the IYA, Charlie C, Steve and Pat F, David Phillips, lovely Maia, Mark L-E, Miles the Beard, Frea L, Kate W, David B, Head Moon (Rosie), Victoria F, Candy S, Carly, Pete the Mapless and John the Foot-Compass, Barb, Katy C, John Girvan, John Harris, Ben the drunken Highlander, Harry C, Agent Susan, Louis S, Tavi G, Rob K, Dorothy, Roz D, Doe D, everybody who contributed to, Colin the pen man, Tangle Goblinwand and Abbey, Brian F, Aluna Laura, Penny S, Christina, Hayley S,

& many many more,

& Luna.

Sorry to anybody I’ve missed out but to all I met, and to all who offered support, I’m forever grateful. You made my year.

(photo by Maia)

But do not fear (I doubt you were going to):

@waxingmoonman will continue tweeting on Twitter
I’m still writing stuff – about 2010 (a year of big change) and how she develops (
And since the end of last year I’ve had an idea crashing around my head for my next adventure – which, I hope, will take me into a new world.

One clue.

You’ll have heard of them. You’ll have wondered about them. But you’ll never have been mad enough to track them down…

Monday, 4 January 2010

I'm a moonwalker, not a terrorist

This isn't an excerpt from the book. I'm not really allowed to give any of that away (main reason: there is no book). But this is a story from my bluemoonwalk last Thursday. There's a lesson here: it's how not to ask a policewoman for directions.

I stood below Big Ben, chatting to Dr Darren Baskill: a man I’d never met before, but a man who insisted I call him Das. We talked about how his emails had helped me through my year and how his photos from the evening were so much better than mine. He’d photographed a clear, crisp partial lunar eclipse above the clock tower ("Big Bill" as he decided to name it); I’d been stopped by police on the Embankment so got a slightly blurry, slightly hurried eclipse above the Thames. It looked more like a dodgy lightbulb photographed by a drunk horse.

As Das disappeared into the crowds (over 200,000 revellers, I heard the next day on the news), I headed the other direction, towards Birdcage Walk. It seemed westerly and the right direction for Hyde Park, home to my next lunar investigation of the night. The moon hung behind me, to the east. And everybody else in London was walking past me, to the river, to the east.
Must be this way, I thought. But then I’m hopeless with directions. So a few feet from Big Bill I whipped out my A-to-Z. I’m even worse with maps.

A policewoman sidled over and stood beside me.

Now, I knew I hadn’t killed anyone tonight. I was confident of that. But I did have a rather large bag over my shoulder. And I’d been walking around London for the last five hours taking photos of the city’s most famous landmarks, while checking my watch and looking skywards every few minutes. And I’d just stopped talking to a man with a super-duper camera, who, for hours, had been taking close-up shots of Big Ben. But did that really make me look suspicious?

Now I was consulting a map, and on that map I’d highlighted lots more terrorist sites. I’d highlighted each with a big circle, and arrows, and the occasional skull-and-crossbones (you mean you’ve never done that?).

OK, yes, I looked very suspicious.

So I was pleasantly surprised when the policewoman apologised for standing so close.

“Sorry, have I-”

“No, no,” she said. “Sorry. It must look- I just- Are you OK? You look lost.”

Ha! Me? Lost? Me, a man who’s just spent a year walking around Britain. At night! Me? The moonwalker? Moonman?

“Yes, I am actually. Is that west?” I replied.

“Where are you trying to get to?”

So I explained that I’d spent the evening walking between 13 lunar sites in the capital and now I needed to find Hyde Park, because it’s where 15,000 women walk half-naked once a year.

Now I looked
and sounded suspicious. A perverted astronomer.

But she continued without a blink, as though that was one of the more sane stories she’d heard tonight. And instead of arresting me there and then, which – I admit – may have been wise, and would’ve become my best New Year story ever, she took a map from her pocket. “New Year Celebrations Map.”

A drunk man dressed as a horse cantered by and wished us Happy New Year. I expect he was off to photograph the eclipse.

“There’s Canary Wharf,” she said, pointing to the Isle of Dogs. “And there’s London Bridge. Oh, and there’s the London Eye.”

“Ah yes. I’ve been taking photos of those all day. London has so many great targets. Not ‘targets’, sites of national interest. Not like that. You know, nice places to visit. If you have no interest in terrorism or…”

She just stared at me. And smiled. “Go down Victoria Street.” She followed the route with her finger. “Through Westminster. Turn right there.”

“But that’s completely the wrong way. Sorry. I mean, you’re right because you’re the police, but I think you’re completely wrong. You trying to give me a bum steer? Sorry,
bottom steer.”

Not once during the whole evening did I witness an angry member of the police force. Full moon. New Year. Testosterone bashing into alcohol. And not a belligerent copper in sight. Just very pleasant ones who were as bad at reading maps as I am, and who shook the hooves of passing pantomime horses.

“How about Birdcage Walk?” I asked.

“Oh yeah.” The young lady’s eyes lit up. “That’s a much better idea. I only said Victoria Street because I walked up it earlier.” She paused. “Though I’m sure there was something else about that Bird walk you mentioned…”

With reasoning like that, I decided it was time to stop asking her advice and head on to the Winter Wonderland of Hyde Park, where I wanted to meet a singing moose from Germany. So I thanked my police friend (deciding against asking if I could take her photo), passed two men dressed as cows, and departed.

As I reached Birdcage Walk, I discovered the “something else”. The thing that would stop me from taking the nice, quick, direct walk to my moose, and instead push me into another mile-long detour on dodgy knees, through sub-zero temperatures...

Friday, 1 January 2010

Blue Moon Above London - the final moonwalk of 2009

Snow. Floods. Friends. Astronomers. Eclipse. Goddess. Brother. 42 floors. Police. The Queen. Luna. Clouds. Wharf. Harriot. Isis. Full moon. Wheel. Aches. Fireworks. Time. Reflections. Reflection...

For the first time on this blog, I'm not sure I have the words to summarise a moonwalk. Not this moonwalk. Not the bluemoonwalk.

So here are my favourite photos from a night on the town. London Town. A night spent watching a bright full moon, surrounded by a shivering halo, which followed a day worrying that I'd see no blue moon, I'd have no stories to tell, and my year would end with a cloudy whimper.

In the next couple of days, I'll tell more. I'll explain what happened when I strolled through the grounds of Syon House Gardens. Without permission. I'll tell you about my brother's moon-hunt 42 storeys above London. I'll tell you how the police helped me watch a partial lunar eclipse above the Thames. And I'll reveal what I've learned in this fantastic year of living a lunar life.

Until then...

Syon House, Richmond - where Thomas Harriot became the first man to sketch the moon using a telescope in 1609

The Meridian Laser across London

Blue moon over Greenwich

Lunatic under blue moon eclipse

Eclipse above the Thames

Luna looks on

Big Ben, little blue moon

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

This Is It...

Oh wait, MJ used that one.

"Moonwalker's Final Walk"?

He probably used that too.

OK, so it now seems like I'm trying to cash in on poor Michael Jackson, whose face changed with the phases of the moon. But I'm not. Honestly, Moonwalking has never been about Michael. It will be a little bit about him tomorrow, when I search for the spot where thousands of MJ fans gathered for a mass moonwalk soon after his death. But other than that, this year has been about Luna. Our constant companion.

Tomorrow, my legs take me on my final Moonwalk of 2009. After tomorrow, I drop the capital 'M' and moonwalking returns to being a hobby. A fine, peaceful hobby. One that doesn't require batteries. One that doesn't break every few minutes. Though one that is sometimes hampered by clouds.

New Year's Eve promises to be one of those evenings - when we stand below the dark sky, which is clogged with heavy clouds, and we wonder how our lunar friend is feeling, so distant, so far removed from the celebrations on Earth.

But wait.

Something magical has happened over the last few days. The world, Earth, humans, people over 200,000 miles from the moon, everybody has noticed what's happening tomorrow night.

The blue moon is coming and thousands of us, around the globe, will be looking up.

The International Year of Astronomy is involved.
Askyfullofstars has embraced it.
In fact, over 688 newspapers and websites from around the world have picked up on it.

It's breaking news! It's breaking news that I broke a year ago today, but I'm so chuffed that Earth is involved.

I'm spending all day tomorrow Moonwalking. From Syon House, the site of Thomas Harriot's lunar sketches, to New Year fireworks above the Millennium Wheel (consider Arianhrod, the Celtic moon goddess, or "silver wheel"), I'm crossing London.

Yesterday, I learned how much of the City will be closed for celebrations. Which is a pain.

But surely it can't be as painful as walking 26 miles in a bra. Or climbing fells in pouring rain. Or crawling through sludge while smuggling brandy. Or being spat at by drunken Highlanders. (Have a read; it's all in this blog!)

The bluemoonwalk is coming. It's tomorrow. It's free. And you can do anything you like - walk anywhere you like (unless you're in London). To the beach, to the moors, to the mountains, to the lake.

This is the first blue moon on New Year's Eve for almost 20 years. It's rare. Very rare.

Time to get get involved.

See you on the other side!


Sunday, 27 December 2009

City of the Moon

As my final moonwalk of 2009 approaches, I'm locked away in my study planning for the big night. New Year's Eve. The bluemoonwalk. And where will moonwalk number 13 take me? Why, back to London of course. Where this adventure began all those months ago.

Charged with energy (and full moon juice) after my fantastic moonraking adventure in Wiltshire earlier this month, I began to research London's lunar links. I knew the Royal Observatory connection, because of my first trek from Greenwich to Waltham Abbey along the Meridian in January. I knew the Thames could be interesting - it being a moon-pulled, tidal river and gateway to England's capital.

But how was I to know London could harbour so many lunar treats? Honestly, it's quite unbelievable.

Without giving too much away, here's what I'm hunting for on New Year's Eve, for the blue moon of 2009.

The Temple of Diana, Roman moon goddess. The Temple of Isis, Egyptian moon goddess. The mass MJ moonwalk of 2009. The London MoonWalk. Moonrise from Canary Wharf. A lunar Millennium marker. A terrifying London landmark. And much, much more.

Many, many miles, all in one night. Among friends and strangers. I just hope the clouds part and Lady Luna smiles upon us all.

As Big Ben strikes midnight, and the country celebrates the arrival of a new decade, I'll be celebrating the end of a capital adventure, the end of an astronomically successful year. And the beginning of a year that has gigantic shoes to fill. I think I'm up for the challenge.

(Oh, and I'm now the proud owner of the moon. Well, an acre of it. I'll tell you more after my birthday...)