Ixion does the Eclipse

A quick guide to the Eclipse as witnessed in France, and its surrounding events:

Tuesday: Load up Daytona 900, chuck Dee on back (of bike, not me), head down to Newhaven. Filtering round the M25, I think I'll try a bit of back brake and nothing happens. I continue, remembering to use the front brake only. As normal Daytonas have 4-pot fronts and 2-pot rears (= 10 pots) and I have 6-pot fronts, I'm still 2 pots up anyway.

The ferry is off at a bit after the 1400 sailing time, and we meet up with Jez and his mate Tim, and Graham Arnold and Helen. After an uneventful crossing, we disembark into rain and crawl through the Dieppe rush-hour traffic and down the coast to Veules Les Roses. Already there are Mik'n'Mel'n'Kai, Mick and Jane Whittingham, Steve Cooper and George, and Alan Coubrough and Louise.

The rain has now stopped, and putting up the Omar Khayam tent is dead easy. I then inflate our new airbeds and we settle down for a BBQ (ta Mel). Jez inspects the Daytona and finds brake fluid on the line under the swinging arm. More inspection reveals that the brake line has been wrongly routed, not through a bracket which is there to hold it but in front of the bracket, and has worn through.

Bryan Rozier and Meta arrive, and we finally all retire.

Wednesday, the big day. We assemble and head off for the cliffs, a few hundred metres away. I take a hole with a piece of card round it, to try this pinhole thing. Mik has a pair of binoculars, and Mick has his super-duper SLR and his video camera. The sky is cloudy, but we live in hope.

The eclipse starts, and briefly the clouds blow away from the sun. We see a rather chipped-looking sun. As the partiality moves towards totality, the clouds come and go, sometimes blocking the sun totally, sometimes allowing viewing with just sunglasses, and sometimes allowing full force sun through. I project the sun onto my T-shirt with the pinhole. Mik uses the card to project an image from his binoculars onto. A few minutes before totality, the clouds clear, and we see a little sliver of sun left, like a little fingernail looked at end-on. Then this disappears, and the diamond ring shines briefly at us. The shadow rushes across the sea, and we see flashes from further along the cliffs as cameras are used. Dogs start barking. Mik looks through the binoculars, and lets us have a look too, while Mel watches a stopwatch to make sure we're not still looking when the sun comes back. The light is now shimmering strangely, and then the diamond ring reappears. In an amazingly short space of time, the light is back up to what seems normal levels (for an overcast day).

We go off for grub afterwards, do a couple of mandatory Ixie U-turns, and I decide not to eat those mini-lobsters (languistines) ever again. No meat, and they look at you in a very guilt-inducing way.

The evening is once more a BBQ, after which Jez, Tim, Dee and I head off into town and really live it up. Well, a bit, anyway. And so to bed.

Thursday is R&R day, and me'n'Dee go into Veuly les Roses in search of eclipse T-shirts. The bureau de tourisme had them for sale, but has sold out. By dint of broken French and not-so-broken English, we find out what to do, and leave a big envelope for the T-shirts (if any more are printed) to be sent on to us. (They arrive a few weeks later - bargains at four quid).

In the evening, we all head into town and eat at the Restaurant Marine. Jolly nice food, jolly nice wine, and jolly nice cocktails. The cheese was jolly nice too. We walk back past a jazz band which is playing in the street, and a few of us more cultured musical apprecionationists hang around for a while to watch and listen. The band consists of drums, keyboard, and Chapman stick - an intriguing instrument, ten strings arranged as two sets of five, a guitar length fretboard, held vertically and tucked into the belt, and played by hammering on rather than plucking. I've only seen two played before, and it wasn't the sort of thing I expected to see played in a street in a small French town... There's also an old chap in a beret playing sax, jamming well with the trio.

The final day dawns, those of us leaving strike camp, and we head off for the ferry. It's delayed by about 3/4 hour, and then after disembarking I take a wrong turn and head off to Tamworth via Eastbourne. Get home, swap bikes, change clothes, and head back down to Lydden, arriving there at 11.00 at night, and pitch the tent again. The riding takes its toll the next day, though, and with rain threatening in the afternoon and a back suffering rather a lot, I head off early for home.

Thanks to Mik'n'Mel for organising, and everyone else for making it a fun trip. I await the photos Mick took of the totality with bated breath...