I went to bed early because I can't bear seeing in the New Year watching TV and would rather curl up with a book. Our bedroom window has a magnificent view over watermeadows stretching all the way to the city in the south. It was full moon, with the moon directly overhead sending out halos of radiance that illuminated the clouds and made house roofs look frosty. Through the patchy moon clouds I could see bright planets high in the sky, but over in the south west was a red, winking light. A plane, of course. I got the binoculars, which didn't help much, but after five minutes I decided I was looking at Mars and went and turned on the computer again.
Yes, Mars is bright in the south west at the moment, in retrograde and heading towards Cancer. Well, that explains much of what is going on in my life and I went back to bed resolving to contemplate Venus to temper her lover's malignance. It's a good book by Humphrey Carpenter on the Inklings, but I was soon asleep.
There was a gasp, as if everyone in the village said 'Oooh!' or 'Ahhh!' at once. Immediately the fireworks began. With a view like ours, the best place to be on New Year's Eve is snuggled up in bed and watching everbody else's fireworks. There were green ones and red ones, shooting ones and crackly ones, and of course exploding globes of light. But what was that? On the southern horizon, over the city, there was that planet Mars again, now travelling at a lick. I'd have decided it was a plane of course, except that it was followed by one, two, three, four, five, six others in close formation. Oh, now, time to call the husband, because there isn't much doubt any more. Alien spacecraft have come to see what all the fuss is about.
'David! Come up here! There are seven UFOs flying in formation.'
So he came and shared my vantage point and soon decided War of the Worlds was being played out over Oxford. Then, in the south west, one of them came very close. And what we were looking at, as bright as the star of Bethlehem, was a candle flame.
'A candle flame in a balloon,' said David. 'They've invented illuminated balloons.'
Well, clever them, because these are so much nicer than fireworks. I checked this morning and it's true. They are called various things - Lumi-loons, LED balloon floaters etc. You can see them on You Tube. I expect everyone has known about them for years, that they are the hot thing at every tacky occasion, and we're just out of the loop. But dear me, for ten minutes last night things were really very interesting.