A brilliantly clear night in Satara, you have just finished braaiing outside your chalet, which you managed to procure in a position almost next to the fence. Your day was spectacular – a pride of 12 healthy lion lying on the S100; a large-tuskered elephant bull in musk that mock-charged you twice (you hoped it was a mock charge, to justify your decision to hang around and take awesome pictures); a herd of around 300 zebra, interspersed with perhaps 200 wildebeest in the vicinity of the S90; and something you have never seen before – two caracal kittens peeping their tiny heads out from behind a large rock. You are in Paradise, and you know it.
Then, just when you think it cannot get any better, your girlfriend of two weeks takes you by the hand and whispers that the two of you take a stroll along the fence to see if there are any nocturnals sneaking along. You are only too happy to do so, and with sated stomach and a Cheshire-cat grin on your face, you interlace your hands with hers and move silently into the darkness.
You know this is it. You've been waiting for this opportunity for a fortnight. You know that all you have to do is dazzle her with your knowledge. But you cannot see anything except the stars, as it is new moon. No problem, you think; you'll just wing it – I mean, how many people really know anything about astronomy! You slip behind her and gently point upwards at the twinkling sky.
“There's the great Scorpion, and his red eye.” You point at a brilliant red star which is about halfway up towards the zenith. She smiles at you and your heart gives a leap. “Wow,” she murmurs, “I've always wanted to see the Scorpion – it's my birth sign, you know?” You didn't know that, but it doesn't matter – you're making an impression, a real impression! “Where's the tail of Scorpius? she asks.
You cannot see a tail, but you know that, if a constellation is rising, then you must be facing east. And so, the tail, which is at the end of the Scorpion, must still be below the horizon. “It's still going to rise over there.” You point at the horizon, continuing, “Maybe we can sneak out later and look for it?” “Mmmmm,” she mutters.
“Oh, and that very bright star over there!” You point at an exceptionally bright, white star just to the right of your red eye. “That's not really a star, you see, but the planet Venus.” “The goddess of Love,” you conclude with rising passion in your voice. She smiles again at you, this time more broadly and definitely more sweetly. You interlace your fingers with hers and move both of your right hands towards the right again. You snuggle up to her and, lowering your voice to almost a whisper, you show her a large cross over the south-eastern horizon. “That cross – that's the Southern Cross. When you're with me you can never be lost because, with that cross (you cross your right arms over her chest), I will always give us direction.” You're making more progress than you hoped, so you murmur to her how you take the length of the longest side of the cross and extrapolate it three times along its longest axis, then drop that point down to the horizon; and, wallah – that is south. All of this talking has given you the opportunity to turn her gently around so that your faces are close and, as she gazes up into your eyes, you lean forward.
Suddenly, she pulls back a little and asks, “My darling. Do you always talk so much rubbish when you're trying to impress me? Why don't you just admit you know nothing about the stars?” You're in shock and hear yourself mumbling some kind of clever excuse like, “Well, I wanted to really make you the star here – it's got nothing to do with those stars, you know.”
She pulls further back in disgust. “You know how much I hate dishonesty!” her voice has risen in pitch and her face is one giant frown. “Just tell me the truth – where did you learn that hogwash?” You have nothing to say; you should have paid much more attention to that book your mother bought you for Christmas all those years ago: “Stargazing for Beginners.” Winging it has brought disaster.
But, then, you wonder if she's bluffing, just to get out of being intimate. “I did tell you the truth,” you try, but you don't get another word in. She turns on you like a Cape Cobra ready to strike:
“That red star is the eye of the bull, Taurus; it has nothing whatsoever to do with Scorpius! And that very bright star on Taurus's right is Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, in the constellation of Orion – Venus is not even up! And, if you knew a little bit about astronomy – like you claim you do – you will know that Scorpius and Orion can never be in the sky at the same time because they're at opposite ends of the Zodiac! And that hogwash about the Southern Cross – Crux is not up at the moment, only the pointers are. You were looking at the False Cross. Even if it was Crux, you extrapolate the longest side five times (four-and-a-half to be precise), not three. Really – if you can lie to me about those things up in the sky so early in our relationship, then what else are you going to lie to me about?”
Your brain is numb and you cannot find anything to say about your behaviour. “But, you never told me you're an astronomer!” you finally blurt out; “That's not fair you know – you strung me along for your fun!”
She looks at you with the sweetest smile again, and you hear her say in the most dulcet voice: “I'm not an astronomer. I've been on the SANParks forum and following onewithnature's Advanced Stargazing Quiz for the last year. All that I know about stargazing comes from him! But, you're in luck: he's coincidentally starting a Beginner's Stargazing Quiz today, and it's for free! All you have to do is follow his questions and answers, and you may one day be able to wow some lady with your expertise. However, Darling – or, should I say, ex-Darling – all you will know for now is that your star has set! Adios.”
You turn away and promise yourself that you will never reveal yourself to be ignorant again. You smile bravely and walk towards the laptop in your now-empty chalet – you go to the SANParks website where you booked this holiday of a lifetime, and find onewithnature's Beginner's Stargazing Quiz. You settle back as the hyaenas cackle outside and begin to read the tutorial on stargazing in this thread. You manage a smile: in a few months, you will be an expert!
EVERYBODY'S TR!TR: A NEW DAY IS S-OWNTR: NECTAREAN NICETIES OF THE NORTHTR: PRIMEVAL PLEASURE"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." (Groucho Marx)