On Monday night I gave my lecture, ‘Travel and Exploration: a new direction?’ to the Royal Geographical Society. I really enjoyed it, but with about five hundred people in the audience it was fun in a pulse-quickening kind of way. It is time for a little confession.
Last Friday was a full moon and no ordinary full moon either. It was a perigee full moon, when the moon passes closest to the earth and appears a lot larger than normal. On Friday evening it was due to be the largest full moon that we had seen for 50 years. There were also due to be meteors from the Germinid showers.
I am not generally a hugely superstitious creature, although I do enjoy reading about the historical and cultural associations surrounding sky omens. At the end of last week it was easier for me to see how these connections and beliefs have evolved. The talk was very much in my diary and my mind for the days leading up to it and so if truth be told I did not especially welcome unusual celestial goings-on. I was grateful for once that the weather was atrocious and blotted out the sky. I know, this is a sort of vulgar and egotistical navel-gazing, a rather base and vain belief that the moon and meteors could care less what I was up to of a Monday evening.
As it happened the stage did not open up and swallow me, the audience did not metamorphosise into dragons and scorch me with their flames. They gave me a generous round of applause and headed off to the bar in the Map Room for a nip of something to brace against the elements. Even if the omens did not seem portentous on this occasion I think I will forever have a greater sympathy for the historical figures who read so much into them.