On the last Friday of September, scientists crashed the brave sturdy little space craft called Rosetta into the surface of comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko thus ending its 12 years in space chasing this dusty ice ball as some journos called it. Kind of sad in a way, but they didn’t want to just land it and leave it to hibernate on the off chance they could reboot it when the comet came back next time. So as Matt Taylor of the European Space Agency was quoted as saying just before the impact, "It's like one of those 60s rock bands; we don't want to have a rubbish comeback tour. We'd rather go out now in true rock'n'roll style."
Still, there was 10 years of flying alone in the darkness of space chasing the dirt ball and then 2 short years of stalking it around our sun, lobbing the little satellite Philae onto its surface (poor little thing fell over and couldn’t get it’s solar panel to work so kind of starved to death). Maybe it was better to crash it and make sure it was dead, better than the lingering hopeless lonely death of the Mars Rovers. This must be one of the very few times when crashing is considered a great success – unless you’re running a crash dummy testing site. Space science seems very cruel somehow. What happens when the probes and rockets become sentient, will we still send them on suicide missions? You know, Petunia, humans are weird.
They are probably no weirder en masse than any of the people of little Suschewalden. Although on the first high tide after the summer equinox the curious event of fish fall is celebrated, if that is the right word. Fish Fall is an event that happened in historical Suschewalden when for no apparent scientific reason fish of all species and persuasions spontaneously committed mass suicide on the foreshores of the little town at the end of winter. Aside from being a notably smelly affair, it was a completely unexpected answer to the question of empty larders that had come to a head over the previous hard season. Henceforth, so folklore has it, the grateful citizens celebrated this event by throwing a bucket of fish on the town beach; a tradition continued to this day when hundreds of citizens with their buckets converge on the coves and beaches of Suschewalden. Generally to the delight of the town’s resident seagulls and dolphins, and the consternation of sunbathing tourists. Why the event is commemorated in mid-summer during the height of the tourist season, instead of say, at the beginning of the spring thaw for example, is a question only STOOP (Suschewalden Tourism and Other Opportunities Promotions Committee) could answer.
On this particular occasion the local police in the figure of Officer Hadrikson were in charge of firing the starter pistol to begin the festive fish throwing. He squinted into the sky and noted the presence of a very large flock of unidentifiable birds lazily circling high in the sky. The crowd shuffled expectantly behind him on the promenade, a clunk of buckets and the occasional murmur along the lines of “That’s a nice haddock” being the only sounds. The normal shush of the waves and happy chatter of holiday goers on the beach several metres below, wafted up to the crowd, only to be damped by the anticipatory silence. All eyes watched the town hall clock as its hands stiffly jolted towards the magical moment of 11.27am; the official start of Fish Fall.
The pistol shot startled the seagulls into flight and the tourists upright on their beach towels. The luckless ones were those who had chosen to sit close to the promenade’s high stone wall. They received the full bountiful blessing of the Suschewalden fishing fleet’s catch of the day; or previous day to be exact (and in the case of a few thrifty citizens the catch of some days past). Mrs Bowsplint, the town’s prominent hairdresser and keeper of knowledge, threw her bucket load over the chain which looped along the top of the wall. She was satisfied to see that she would be receiving a few clients this afternoon in her salon. The special shampoo and conditioner she kept on hand for just this occasion, which removed the oily residue of fish scale, was remarkably effective.
Tony Alboney of “A Pressing Hurry” drycleaning was also suitably content as he surveyed the astonished faces of the hapless tourists below. He waved cheerfully at those shouting from the water’s edge. This year he had cunningly attached his business cards to his fish so clients could find his laundry more easily. It was likely business would be good over the next few days as Fish Fall ran the customary three days, and the local college students took to their traditional light-hearted shenanigans of spontaneous fish fall pranks. He also pretended to not see the daggers Mrs Bowsflint shot him when she spied one of the card-carrying fish on the beach below. She never liked someone stealing a march on her, even if they weren’t in the same business. He mentally reviewed his security system and reminded himself to triple lock the doors on the drying rooms and pick-up area. It had taken him weeks to pick out all the cooked fish from his dryers last time.
Tea-drinker, writer and editor. Ecologist, environmental scientist, futurist and student of irony.