Author Archives: Stephen Turner

Relative Scale

Observatory 2
Gravesend/ TQ655 745/ Moonrise none

The earth is full of textures and layers. Leaves from different seasons are mulched down in an organic progression to decay, and a universe exists within its compound seams. Beneath the lime tree, the dead bumble bee, poisoned by rich sugars in the nectar, returns to the earth it came from. Ants scurry, earwigs wiggle and the worms, after a hot dry day, have dug themselves deep. Apparent emptiness teems with life.

At the very smallest of scales ‘every atom is a glowing sun’ and each photon a moon.

Cover your Ears

Observatory 2
Gravesend/ TQ655 745/ Moonrise 23.37

When I was five, six earwigs began to rapidly crawl up my arm and disappeared into my T shirt causing huge panic. I knew from my mum that they were headed for my ears, where they would proceed to lay their eggs in my brain. Earwig is in fact derived from Old English, ēare “ear” and wicga, ‘insect’. They do seem predisposed to warm, dark, moist places and so on adult reflection, the ear canal could quite possibly have been their intended goal.

There is one glossy looking character scuttling around beneath the lime trees tonight. What rock or bit of bark near here does his family cluster beneath. How far does his universe extend?

Another Early Bird

Observatory 2
Gravesend/ TQ655 745 / Moonrise 22.55

Blackbirds jump suddenly into view on the monitor and start to peck and pull at the insects and berries. The fifteenth century inhabitants of the Milton Chantry where I sit observing, would have known these birds by the same name. Blackbirds have been the black birds since at least 1486. I wonder why this chap is honoured with the name and not the equally black rook, jackdaw, crow or raven – especially when Mrs B is more of a sooty brown? Of course, Mr B is not pure black. His bill and eye are that cadmium coloured yellow an artist might squeeze out from a tube. Is there such a thing as pure black? Even this night sky, is full of lights.

Early Birds

Observatory 2
Gravesend / TQ655 745 / Moonrise 22.55 / 67.5%

It is not quite dawn, but a very few early birds are about. A pair of collared doves tentatively walk along the path, a female blackbird briefly rests on a branch and a furtive looking moorhen hops into a nearby pool to turn over the abundant weed in search of breakfast.


Observatory 2 (Fort Gardens)
Gravesend / TQ655 745 / Moonrise 22.41 / 77.5%

Observatory 2 has two large lime trees in the immediate line of sight. Watching this location for the last three hours has been an exercise in patience. Nature has its own regularity and some events cannot be predicted or expected. The satisfaction is in a process of attentive watching. Light subtly changes in the moonlight, The fallen leaves get rustled by wind or by insects and the apparently still, is amazingly active, when a journey is slowed over time. Hurrying has no purpose.

In an apparent emptiness and in seeming inaction, there is much to be enjoyed and learnt when time is set aside; but I had hoped I might find another fox.

The Greatest

Observatory 1 (Bob the bailiff’s hut)
Gravesend / TQ655 745 / Moonrise 22.16 / 92.5%

Went on a reconnaissance of the quieter higher ground and away from the waterside gathering of nocturnal fishing folk. At eleven pm, it’s still a warm night and three small shadowy bats banked sharply in front of me. However, tonight must remain a night for the moon. As someone said to me recently, its ‘the greatest show off earth’.


Observatory 1 (Bob the bailiff’s hut)
Gravesend / TQ655 745 / Moonrise 07.19 / 97%

Enclosed in Bob’s Hut watching the infrared camera screen, my eyes going square shaped waiting for these grainy grey pictures to come alive. I’m reminded of those of similar quality, beamed live from the moon in the early hours of July 21st 1969 when Neil Armstrong landed the lunar module on the Sea of Tranquillity. On landing he declared “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Tonight, coincidentally, it’s exactly 39 years on but no eagles have been seen to land in Gravesend.

Nor is this exactly Tranquility Base. I am becoming a hub of park life here in after hours Gravesham, a friendly doorstep for a quick fag and a chance to warm up freezing limbs chilled by a sharp night air. ‘Have you got a Fox yet?’ I’m asked. ‘Have you caught a fish?’ I reply.

Why are we here

Observatory 1 (Bob the bailiff’s hut)
Gravesend / TQ655 745 / Moonrise 06.02 99.5%

Why are you here? This is Bobs hut’ exclaims a young lad and his friend. Yesterdays explanations have not quite spread like a wild fire. ‘He was my dads next door neighbour and made a wishing well in our garden for my nan who died, so we had something to remember her by. So now we have something to remember him by too’. As darkness fell and the moon came up through the trees, these cycles in the lives of people took their place in a longer game. We all know we will die, but I wonder if the other animals do?

What might they have to say on the subject if I find any of them tonight? ‘The foxes will find you‘, I am assured by my final (human) visitor of the evening.

It’s a wild life

Observatory 1 (Bob the bailiff’s hut)
Gravesend / TQ 655 745 / 18.7.08 / Moonrise 04.47 at 98% full moon

Dogs chase children on bikes, cycling about the hut and attracting attention. ‘Are you the new bailiff?’ asks Jim, one of a few men fishing the nearby lake. ‘We need someone down here. Since Bob died three years ago it’s got bad. Dave and me pulled a bike out and a shopping trolley. How can you fish in all that?’

The hut is a time capsule. A teapot, a tray of washed up mugs, keys, nets, a litter picker and pictures of fish caught in the lake adorn the wall. ‘Can I look at the photos? Nice carp that’ says Tony, scanning them by the light of a head camera. ‘We had a kitty and used to have our coffee here.’

‘An old fox comes by, you’ll see him’. ‘One fox? There’s loads of them’ adds a new voice, ‘We leave out chicken bones for them.’

Sounds of jolly shrieking and laughter carry on the wind from a distant high street, one of the dogs barks at a moon nearly lost behind an overcast sky and my camera loses its video signal. Kneeling down to look at the cables beside the fence, I put my hand in fresh fox poo.