Now, I have a fairly radical idea, that is probably going just a bit too far - but the idea hit me about 5 minutes onto my train journey home, and my mind has been buzzing with it ever since . . .
I think we should do a little residential practical astronomy course - run entirely by and for ourselves. That is to say - I think we should jointly rent a holiday cottage or something like that for a few days, somewhere dark, and everyone who owns astronomical equipment (telescopes, binoculars, star charts, cool cameras, anything!) should bring it along and teach the rest of us to use it, or just give some cool demos. Maybe you don't own any and you don't know any practical astronomy - I sure don't, so I would love to get a chance at using it, imagine how exciting it would be . . . and I hope those showing/teaching would enjoy it, too, and get something out of it for themselves . . .
It sounds crazy, I know. It would require not so much as tapping into, as ruthlessly exploiting, the vast reservoirs of niceness and kindness I saw in all of you on Saturday evening! It would be a good idea to share transport and so on. We should all bring some of our favourite books, films, games . . . all the astronomy (or not!) things we've been meaning to see, and that everyone else wants to see and has never got round to, we can do together. Those who like cooking, like me, can take care of that.
If anyone else is up for something like this, I reckon during the next Perseids (meteor shower) would be the ideal time. They're in early/mid August - 12th August was great last year, from what I remember. It coincides with school holidays, and hopefully good weather (it might rain the entire time, but I'm sure we'd still have a laugh).
I don't know if this would be anyone else's sort of thing. I'm used to living with strangers and two years ago I went on a "retreat" with the Creative Writing Society (all students) in a holiday cottage, which worked very well - it was cheap, everyone was really sweet and hardworking and co-operative although we were several to a room, and there were lots of themes and events planned so nobody got indecisive or bored. I'm sure lots of us would have things we'd like to show/teach/chat about with everyone else, and maybe we could also go walking and sightseeing in the local area and that kind of thing. It would also be time to relax a bit, which was difficult at Astrofest because it involved spending a lot of time travelling to get to London for just a few hours, and ending up wandering around between noisy pubs, without really time even to speak to everybody! If we were willing to "camp" a bit, it wouldn't be as expensive as say going to a hotel to lie around trying to get skin cancer. And of course, for those who don't want to camp, you could find another hotel or something nearby and come along for meals and stargazing with everyone else.
Personally, for me it would be perfect. But I realise it may not be anybody else's cup of tea. What does everyone think?