Two became one, or… The Universe Just Wasn’t Big Enough for Both of Them, or… A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…


It happened about 290 million lightyears away. That’s 1.7048014 x 1015 miles, rounded to 8 digits or  2,381,607,497,437,875,000 over 1,397 miles if displayed as a fraction.

A figure that may be easier to digest is 18,339,912 astronomical units, an astronomical unit being roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun, which varies as the Earth makes its merry way around the sun due to its elliptical orbit (which, as you know, partly gives us our seasons), so another figure that’s not quite exact, but as an Astronomical Unit was set in 2012 to be 150 million kilometres (93.2 million miles) it is about as accurate as we can get given the circumstances and the vastness of all things space and my limited ability at maths (all mathematical credit goes to my Casio FX-83WA scientific calculator, which I’m so pleased with, I’m giving it a picture credit).

big calc

Basically, it happened a very, very, verrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy long time ago and very, very, verrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy, far away.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about something that happened 290 million years ago. I’m talking about two galaxies colliding and merging into one, I’m taking about interacting galaxies to give them their technical name, and to be completely precise, I’m talking about the Mice Galaxies, or NGC 4676A and NGC 4676B to give them their proper name, collectively known as NGC 4676. They are two spiral galaxies, located in the constellation Coma Berenices (you’ll find it between Leo and Bootes in the northern sky, somewhere in the fourth galactic quadrant if memory serves me right), and they were first photographed by Hubble in 2002 (that’s them in the photo up top), and came into my life courtesy of a National Geographic article about Hubble around about the same time, back in the days when I subscribed to said publication, and for a reason only known to me, stuck in my head. Waiting for this prompt to drag them back out again!

Life was mostly shite for me back in those days due to poor decision making (giving up a promising career to run a pub, which was an utter, utter disaster and the beginnings of my first breakdown). To make life bearable, I used to escape into astronomy and astrophysics in a bid to find out exactly what my place and purpose on our rotating rock was, and as a consequence, discovered a whole lot more to boot!

I would really like to go on, but my 10 minutes is up! Mainly from fucking about with my calculator!

Maybe I’ll write a longer blog post on why this particular part of the night sky did stick in my mind at the time for such a long time and is so fascinating to me, as indeed all the night sky and our galaxy and the universe and everything is, but this bit in particular.

If I can find the time and the inclination to do so.

Anyway, as Eric Idle once said, “Whenever life gets you down, Mrs Brown…”

written between 12:20 and 12:30 (add another couple of minutes or so faffing about with the images) and prompted by this page

Big Universe – Dead Deer

Big Universe

The vast array of a pristine icy clear night stretched out above them. Out here, with no man-made light for thousands of miles, it was clear to see. Uncountable numbers of pin-pricks dancing in the sky. A great sweep of light marking our own Milky Way, visible from within.


Why? Why did he have to spoil everything? Even this majestic vision wasn’t enough to stop his thoughts turning to his infernal herbal tea. She shook her head gently. As long as he doesn’t speak, she thought, the magic may remain. He was clanking and huffing preparing the stove, however, and the spell was broken. Sitting here, on this snowy ground, cold but invigorated she realised. It was time. She pulled up her bags over her head and dropped off to sleep. She wanted an early start.

He couldn’t sleep. He knew. He understood how his very breathing irritated her. Yet for him it was the opposite. Nothing made him happier than her little sounds. Comforting, exciting, even, to be this intimate. What to do about it?

He was cold. Yes that is the solution. Freedom. He slept outside his bags that freezing night. He could even see his last breaths as they left him, insignificant grey puffs disintegrating into the night. Peace for him; peace for her. A perfect deal, he thinks to himself, she will be so pleased.

She did wake early the next morning. She woke to the perfect, unsullied, absolute silence she had been seeking all these years.. It was horrible and terrifying.

Today I wrote from 11:00 to 11:10. I was prompted by the idea “The Universe Wasn’t Big Enough For Both Of Them”   here. My other writings here. All my prompted writing here, and my tweets here

Jan 22nd – It was a ludicrous request but one that drew his attention

January 22nd – It was a ludicrous request but one that caught his attention


“You want me to do what?”

She looked across at him, smiling. There was a look in her eye, almost imperceptible, and the slightest of smiles playing at the corners of her mouth, teasing.

“Well, if you don’t want to – ”

“No, I’ll do it. But next week – ”

He left the sentence hanging. Next week it was his turn to ask: his request. This was the way they worked. Keeping things alive. Each week, alternately, a request. More than a request, really: there was no real alternative. It had to be done. Whatever the other wanted, they got.

Which, to be fair, had worked. It had kept things alive, added a spark. On request days the air was heavy with the electricity of the unsaid, waiting for the request that was to be performed there and then, that evening, when they had time to themselves. Us time. Request time.

She allowed the smile that was teasing around the edges of her mouth to break and soften her lips, put down her glass of wine, almost finished, on the coffee table, and raised herself from the sofa.

“Five minutes. I’ll be ready.”

He watched her as she crossed the room, hips swaying in self-satisfaction. The bedroom door closed behind her. He swirled his own glass of wine in his hands, watching as the rich burgundy coated the sides of the glass and fell, a heavy waterfall.

Four minutes

There were the sounds of her undressing from behind the door: her shoes hitting the skirting board, softer materials dropped onto the chair. All of his senses were alert; listening, waiting.

Three minutes.

The flush of the en-suite toilet. A running of taps. He finished his wine.

Two minutes.

The drawer of the bedside cabinet opening, objects moving, a hand reaching for something inside, finding it, closing the drawer. Her side.

One minute.

Soft creak of bedsprings settling.

He put his glass next to hers on the coffee table, hesitated a second, and then picked up and emptied her glass. It was time.

He crossed the room, opened the bedroom door, and stepped in. Without raising his eyes, he closed the door behind him.

Then he looked.

She was on her back, on the bed, in a short silk robe, her hair released from her daytime ponytail and spread across the pillow.

At the foot of the bed, a cushion, circular, firm. Her feet raised.

Next to the pillow, a file. Nail clippers. Polish.

The request.



Inspired by a prompt from here