“Light is the fastest thing in the world,” announces little elf, my seven year-old daughter. I think of the Discworld where light pours over the edge of the world like Golden syrup each morning. I wonder when she’ll be old enough for the Tiffany Aching novels.
“That’s true,” I say.
“But even light can’t escape from a black hole! Did you know a black hole is a dead star?”
“Yes. I think that’s interesting – even stars die.”
She jumps conversational track slightly, the way we both do and my son and wife don’t.
“It’s a shame we can’t see our own Galaxy.”
“But we can. Mostly. It’s called the Milky Way.”
“Can we see a picture of it?”
“I don’t want to get out any screens right now.” (Because we’d never get off them.) “But I can tell you what it looks like.”
“What does it look like?”
Oops. Have I ever really seen seen it? I remember a glimpse of something on the rare night when camping, the countryside and the dark coincided with a cloudless sky.
“It’s…a sort of grey-silvery thing. You don’t realise your looking at it at first because the other stars are brighter. Then you realise there’s a kind of stream running across the sky, full of dim twinkly stars. It’s…”
She isn’t listening. I carry on trying to remember. Did I see a stream of stars, full of myth and wonder? Or did I make it up? And does it matter? I still remember it.