Jodrell Bank


Suddenly it all came back to me:

How standing in its shadow for the first time,

All those years before, had been frightening.

I remembered looking up at it, stunned,

Shielding my eyes from the Sun

With a shaking hand and thinking

“You’re kidding me…”

It looked like a fairground ride,

Ripped by giants’ hands from the sands

Of Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach and

Dropped onto the leafy Cheshire countryside,

Prudishly stripped of all its garish lights

Before being allowed to scan the sky –


“Does it shoot death rays, dad?”

I heard a passing kid ask,

Yanking me back to Today and I thought

To myself ‘Yeah, it should’.

For silhouetted against the angry grey sky,

Slashes and splashes of bright blue shining through

Gaps in its framework of bone grey

Metal beams and girders, it was a 70s James

Bond villain’s dream weapon,

Something designed to fire beams of energy,

Not cock an ear to the universe in

Search of meagre amounts of it.


Then it started to move.


With icy, end of April winds whistling through

Its skeletal scaffolding, the great machine began to turn.

Slowly at first; then faster, greased wheels clunking,

Clanking like a WW1 tank coming to life,

It began a slow motion sweep, hunting for its prey:

Faint beep-beeps whispering through the Great Out There…


All around me children were standing in silence,

Squeezing their parents’ hands,

Seeing – what? I wondered. The wondrous celebration

Of technology and metalwork I saw, or something else?

Something that was about to come to life?

One of those robots in disguise?

Oh yes; the Lovell would make a great Transformer.

Can’t you just imagine it suddenly heaving itself up

Out of the ground with a deafening growl of gears,

The dish revealed, at last, to be just the fearful head

Of a much larger, monstrous machine!

And with an avalanche of dirt and soil

Falling from its long-hidden limbs,

Hauling itself up to its full height before striding

Across the field, that dish would pan to and fro,

Scanning the people screaming below,

Idly noting their slowed-down-pulsar pulses

Before crushing them into a pulp –


But there’s no need for such a fantasy,

Not when the truth is beyond strange.

Standing in the Lovell’s long shadow you know,

You feel it, in here, that every tone it hears,

Every chirp and cheep collected from the starry deep

Reveals the true beauty of the universe

Hiding behind our cerulean sky:

Choirs of singularities singing at the funerals of stars;

The bawling of newborn-suns, so far

Away their infancy ended a billion years ago;

The whale-song of whirling galaxies,

Doppler-shifted dirges, mournful and deep.

 © Stuart Atkinson 2012

Illustrated version here: click to enlarge…




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1 Response to Jodrell Bank

  1. Pingback: Eddington Astronomical Society’s Grand Day Out to Jodrell Bank… « Cumbrian Sky

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