Journey through space to the Planet Fabulous, where the Ruler of the Universe will see you shortly.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Great Mysteries of the World Solved: Part XIII

It was Jean Michel Jarre who brought up the subject: "So, how does ze Earth stay where it iz, and iz not flung into ze... howdusay... out into ze galaxy?"

I leant away from the Frenchman. I couldn't believe that, despite several best selling albums and many world tours, someone somewhere hadn't told him his breath smelt like a flatulent sewer rat has died in his throat. I have to say without guilt, it was at that point I decided at that point that the French were not a breed to be trusted. And it was not a baseless assumption, particularly after that gruesome stay Stockard Channing and I had in 'La Maison Merde' last year. All I shall say is we thought the name was ironic when we booked.

Dame Angela Lansbury moved her attention from her knitting, taking the thought in. Knitting was a new hobby she'd taken up to stop herself smoking, theorising that it would give her hands something to do. I actively encouraged it, especially after the last week when her 'idle hands' had lifted several bottles of champagne from Fortnum and Masons. That handbag of hers is surprisingly roomy.

"Ooh, that's a good one," she said, rolling a boiled sweet around her mouth. I had no idea Nicorette came in Imperial Mint flavour. "If you think about it, we're spinning around at, ooh, lots-per-hour. Why aren't we flung out to the edge of the solar system with the momentum?"

"67,000," said Cher, with some slight feedback in her voice. It just meant that someone nearby was using a mobile phone.

"Excuse me, dearie?" asked Dame Aggie, pulling herself a little higher with indignation.

"We're travelling at 67,000 miles per hour," said Cher simply.

"Oh. Oh, right then," said Dame Aggie, backing down. "I thought you were casting nespersions, or something." I raised my finger to correct her, but she'd already moved on, and dropped several stitches. "So even more point to ask the question."

I scratched at my head, half in thought, half due to the paper hat made my head itchy. It seemed odd that we were meeting again for a birthday, but then they did have a tendency to fall whenever I was at my poorest. Though it was very sweet of Cher to think that the home-made cake was an extra-special gesture, even if both of us knew that she wasn't going to touch a crumb. I had already decided that I'd make it up to her on her 'unofficial' birthday in a couple of months time; she had two - the second one we now only refer to as 'The Taussauds Incident' - that glorious night when we all almost got arrested and blacked out the whole of Central London.

Dame Aggie had started the party several glasses back with the ritualistic "So, how old will you be?" We'd all cried "37!" along with the slender songstress - the age she'd been for what seemed forever. Almost certainly all the years I'd known her. Her real age was apparently lost in the mists of time (or The Great Fire of London, she'd joked once. We all giggled that odd, strangled laugh of people who weren?t sure whether someone was making a comic aside or not).

"Do you know, when ze toast, she has cooled, ze crumbs stick to ze plate with ze same adhesive power as glue? It is true, yes?" I nodded, trying not to breathe. "Well, per'aps ze Earth, she iz stuck in place with some sort of super-crumb. Like ze superstring, yes?"

"It's a good theory," said Dame Aggie. "Supertoast. I like that."

"Yes," said Cher, with an odd tone. "Shame we can't ring up Stephen Hawkin to ask him."

Aggie and I winced slightly at that. We'd been drunk one night and phoned him up, using a Speak & Spell to talk. He'd thought it was his long, lost brother on the line - until Dame Aggie couldn't take it any more and burst out laughing, that is. Now he wouldn't talk to us.

"More cake, anyone?" I asked, trying to change the subject.

"Oh, I'm as full as a fat lady's shoe, dearie" proclaimed Dame Aggie. I eyed her suspiciously; she'd been hanging around with that foul-mouthed northerner Judi Dench again, you could just tell.

"I will 'ave un morceau - uh, a piece," said Jean Michel, sticking his 'Lilo and Stitch' paper plate right in my face. A scowl clouded my features momentarily. "Would you like a breath mint, too?" I enquired before I could stop myself. The party froze. Jean Michel shook his head, but from everyone else's reactions, he could tell something was wrong.

I flustered with the crisps while he picked at his cake for a second in discomfited silence before announcing he was off to turn the monkey bars into a laser harp for later. As he retreated, I gave an apologetic smile and a shrug to Cher, and whispered I was sorry. She shrugged back, saying she'd only bumped into him in Maplins and felt obliged to invite him along. Apparently they met when Cher was first experimenting with lasers - for sound, as well as for shooting them from her eyes at Sonny Bono when their TV show started to flop - and they'd had a begrudging respect for each other since. Well, that explained that great mystery.

"Are we really travelling at 67,000 miles per hour, dear?" asked Aggie, flicking her wrist so a tangle of wool came free of her handbag. I couldn't tell at all what she was knitting.

"Yes," said Cher. "Amazing, isn't it? You'd think we'd at least feel some effect, wouldn't you?"

"Well, it just puts more into my theory that drink is not only a good friend, but it helps you see the universe as it really is, dear."

I had no idea what she was on about, and told her such. She sighed a happy sigh and raised her glass.

"I tells you, dearie, another seven of these, you close your eyes and you're really going to be able to feel every single one of those miles spinning around." She drained it. "Well, six. Judi Dench and I tried it once, and - well, it took her another five on top of that, but then she's carrying so much extra weight, ain't she?"

"I think it's something to do with gravity," said Cher after a pause.

"No, she's definitely big boned," said Aggie. "Honestly. I saw her give a cow a fireman's lift once."

"Probably straight to a barbecue," I chipped in with cheer, hiding my dark thoughts.

"I mean, gravity is why the Earth doesn't fly off. The Sun is generating such a gravitational field, it's holding everything in place. The Sun holds Mercury, and that helps hold Venus. All three keep us in orbit, and so on."

"Blimey," said Aggie. I echoed the sentiment. We really couldn't believe that everything was so well balanced. I sat back to marvel at this, about the infinite complexity and wonder the universe slowly reveals to us. All running like clockwork, and has been for millions and millions of years.

"You know," said Aggie with a sigh, "I hope my niece is born a spastic - I've really fucked up the arms on this."

"Aggie!" I hissed.

There was a blast of a c-sharp, a child's cry and the smell of pork crackling on the breeze. Followed by some swearing in French.

And sometimes, I mused, the universe just enjoys showing how unbalanced it is.

Ah. Happy days.

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