Aurora Borealis and Joanna Lumley

I enjoyed it a lot more than the TV guide reviewer did. Particularly when she finally got to see the actual Northern Lights in the far north of Norway, complete with Edvard Grieg soundtrack (Peer Gynt,? Suite No. 2 Op. 55: Solveigs´s Song). This particular clip of her watching the aurora has a sign language translator for Lumley’s voiceover.

I can’t find a proper transcript, but here’s a vivid description of the aurora display from the producer Helena Braun, who heard Lumley talking of her childhood dream of seeing the Northern Lights on the Desert Island Discs radio show, and thought “I should pitch that idea to the BBC”.

Patience doesn’t come easy when temperatures are nearly minus 20. But one night, swathed in multiple layers, with survival suits over all that to make us look like Michelin men, we finally got lucky with the fantastic display we’d been longing for.

I’ll never forget what we saw that night. You can’t quite get over the surprise of seeing this unearthly light in the night sky, reaching from horizon to horizon, constantly moving and changing, sometimes so fast in so many places at once you don’t know where to look.

For about an hour and a half the lights performed their magic, while we alternated between being lost for words, and shouting and laughing with the sheer joy of it all. At one point, there were three huge curtains hanging down across the heavens – just like the illustration in Ponny The Penguin [Lumley’s childhood storybook].

The biggest surprise to me was the colours. There were hints of greens, reds and purples. It’s hard to describe the gentle wispy tints and hues that seem to whistle across the tips of the lights as they hurtle across the sky – the northern lights truly are one of the wonders of the world. We were amazingly lucky.

The display we saw was so magnificent it even made the news in Denmark. Lying on my back in the snow, looking up at the sky, I thought my job doesn’t get much better than this.

And as for Joanna, who had dreamt of seeing the northern lights since she was a child, it was an altogether emotional experience.

And perhaps the last word is best left for her: ‘It has all come from the sun and our little tiny planet that we’re trying to save… you see how majestic it is, and that it’s part of the massive universe, and you begin to feel very humble.’

More about auroras, via this APOD page showing an auroral display photographed from the ISS.



Categories: arts & entertainment, Life, Science

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3 replies

  1. I also liked it much better than the review. The bit where she and we got to see the lights was just wonderful, but she’s a damn good traveller: she managed to be funny without ever being disrespectful – except possibly when she disparaged herself a mad grandmother, but that hardly makes her an Ugly Tourist.

    • Jonathon, I think perhaps the reviewer simply couldn’t cope with the posh. Some people just can’t stand such cut-glass vowels. Sure, she was slightly repetitive about how it was all her childhood dream, but I found that bit of gushing quite charming, as a sign that she wasn’t tightly scripting her remarks.

  2. Yes, at that point I realised she was probably telling teh truth about her childhood dream. Up to that point I thought it was just a conceit to hang a narrative from
    .-= Jonathan S´s last blog ..A Raffish Experiment launch =-.

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