While Mr McLaren (who I didn’t know at the time) took pics from his student union, I was a bit older – earning a wage in fact. So I decided to splash out and get to Cornwall the only way that was possible from London.
For the princely sum of £100 (which was very expensive in those days, but now is the average price of a ticket to Leeds), I could get a seat on the Solar Eclipse Express, a specially commissioned train that would get people from London Paddington to Penzance, in Cornwall to watch this once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event. (The next UK total eclipse being in 2090.
Of course, what we got for our £100 was a knackered ye olde train that had probably previously seen service during Agatha Christie’s era. Full of very sleepy, slightly grouchy passengers who weren’t looking forward to a six-hour train ride to Cornwall.
But somehow, the train wheezed past Paddington, and eventually arrived in Cornwall – to incredibly cloudy skies. You couldn’t really see much of anything in the sky – and the landscape was full of day-tripping tourists like me looking upwards for any sign of sun.
And when the time of totality came, it got dark. It got darker. People oooh’ed. Birds stopped crowing. Street lights came on – finally answering the question as to whether they had light sensors or not. People whispered.
Then it got lighter again – far more quickly than when it’d gotten dark.
And that was the solar eclipse. I was also trapped in Penzance for another six hours before the train back – and there’s only so many Cornish pasties you can munch on.