I drove into deepest Cheshire to find a notable grave. As it was such a grand day I had put my bike in the back of the car. About 1pm I pulled into a layby and had a sandwich and coffee. It was only meant to be a pit stop but on the horizon I could see the tip of main dish at Jodrell Bank Observatory. I decided to park there, pulled out the bike and decided to head for the dish.
I cycled down a few narrow quiet lanes and looked at the dish which seemed to be tipping. Deciding to explore I pedalled up and down the lanes and tracks that run round the back of the observatory. Though the dish is about 100m across it seemed smaller than my memory of it formed forty years ago. We’d drove passed it for many years having visited relatives in Middlewich. Its inverted dome sticking out of the dusky Cheshire countryside made for quite a sight. When skateboarding was the latest craze I wondered what it would be like to zoom up and down those sides without going over the edge.
I stopped for a wee. That dish, that sky, those straggling clouds – mmmm, I could try to paint it, I thought. I’d ordered some small canvasses by mistake and have been trying to us them up. They’re so small a painting can be done and dusted quickly yielding a mile sense of achievement. These days I look for slivers of sunlight so when I saw one on a cow’s back I got my camera out and took a few photos. I used one of the shots to paint.
I liked how the cows were unimpressed by the 89m high, 3200 ton dish behind them which is gently pressing into the skies looking for activity all day. It takes 5,300 litres of paint to put three coats on it. It is the third largest telescope behind the Effelsberg Radio Telescope in Germany and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in America (biggest is Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, 305 metres across.) It’s so sensitive that you’re not allowed to use mobile phones on the site. The microwave in the staff tea room is shielded inside a metal box to prevent interference.
In a 1981 episode of Doctor Who the doctor fell to his death from a walkway. In Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Jodrell Bank scientists missed the alien invasion because they were having a cup of tea.
Anyway here is a small canvas covered with a painting of small quality. I did it quickly using a tight band of colours. I didn’t take many photos. I normally take them between painting sessions but I finished this painting so quickly there weren’t many sessions.
I wasn’t sure what to call it but once I’d returned home from the bike ride (I later went to Tatton Park and rode around there) then had a shower and curry I lay in bed thinking how cool those cows were - they only wanted to eat grass and plop poo. They weren’t remotely impressed by the mega dish gently pressing into the skies and monitoring meteors, quasars, pulsars, masers and space probes.
I like how these cows aren’t remotely impressed by technology…
I liked the way that cow is not impressed….also the sun hitting its back. I’m going to paint it…