Once in a blue moon

We spent the last weekend before the second lockdown in England doing normal things.

Saturday started with some breadmaking (not sourdough this time).

Avoiding the tube, we travelled to Greenwich Market on the Thames river bus. This service has been rebranded Uber Boat by thames clipper.

Greenwich Market was quieter than normal. There were fewer stalls because of the extra distancing between vendors. Two of our regular eateries were still there making crepes and Ethiopian food.

We walked around town. Despite being a Saturday, the atmosphere was subdued. Some people were wearing masks, some weren’t. With physical distancing not always being observed, mask wearing inconstant, and the track and trace system not reaching the 80% follow-up recommended by the Government’s scientific group (SAGE), it’s difficult to see how we’ll avoid further lockdowns. It’s Groundhog’s Day.

There’s always the hope of a vaccine or anti-virals. Typically, a vaccine takes 10-15 years to get to market; the fastest — for mumps — took four years. In the 1980s, the HIV vaccine was repeatedly promised within a few years. Thirty-five years later, we’re still waiting. Fortunately, anti-virals were produced to treat HIV. There are more than 150 coronavirus vaccines in development so there’s hope that some will prove effective soon.

On leaving Greenwich Market, we took the boat back. The Thames is a beautiful sight at night. On Saturday, it was illuminated by a full moon, which happened to be a blue moon. As luck would have it, I forgot my camera. I had to make do with my phone. The photos don’t do justice to the huge moon we saw just above the horizon.

There are two definitions of blue moon: (1) “seasonal” — the third full moon in the season; and (2) “calendrical” — the second full moon in a calendar month. Blue moons occur (using either definition) roughly every 2-3 years — hence the phrase “once in a blue moon”, which is used to describe rare events.

On Saturday, the blue moon (which is not blue) was both a seasonal and a calendrical blue moon — and it occurred on Halloween. This is rare: it will be 2039 before Halloween sees another blue moon! That’s another way in which this year has been unusual. Apart from the blue moon, we’ve also had two full supermoons. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds some causal link between this special year for the moon and the coronavirus.

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