Edinburgh international science festival:day or night

3rd March 2000 at 00:00
Isn't it amazing how a few simple words, when they are arranged to take advantage of the natural rhythms of the language, can burrow their way like termites so deeply inside your brain that it feels as if you will never be free of them?

It could be one or two lines of a poem taken out and repeated, or a particularly catchy phrase from a popular song, an everyday saying or even, as Scottish pupils are discovering, the educational message of an EISF science show rendered rhythmically.

For example, try this: "It's day-time and night-time in different places at the same time." Listen again: "It's day-time and night-time in different places at the same time." And once more: "It's day-time and ..."

Now imagine you're seated on the floor in the half-light of a big silver dome, staring at two giant figures in white space-suits standing either side of a translucent globe of the Earth, with rather large models of the sun and moon on their heads. They are chanting this refrain and at the same time they are perfectly matching the words with dance-moves and actions that throw out huge shadows on the spacecraft walls. You are six years old.

"I can see a great city below us," space cadet Pip (Tom Gibson) tells the infants from Burgh primary, Galashiels, while beside him on the globe, as if by magic, a little red light located on the east coast of America winks on exactly on cue.

"Down there in New York it's 12 o'clock midnight. What's the time boys and girls?" "TWELVE O'CLOCK MIDNIGHT."

"Little Sarah is fast asleep, but if we look out her window we can see the city still bustling below.

"A taxi moves along the street, among the skyscrapers lit wih neon lights, past a tree where an owl is hooting in the night.

"But across the Atlantic in Edinburgh it's six o'clock in the morning.

"What's the time boys and girls?" "SIX O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING."

"In Edinburgh the postie is walking along the quiet streets delivering his letters, and wee Jimmy is just thinking about getting up for his early morning paper round.

"But in Madras it's 11 o'clock in the morning. What's the time boys and girls?" "ELEVEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING."

"Little Chandra is at school and her mum is in the market place walking among the stalls, shopping for the family with the smells of aromatic spices wafting around her."

"Down in Gold Coast, Australia," space cadet Fwee (Alasdair Taylor) takes up the global story, "it's three o'clock in the afternoon. Wayne and his friends are heading for the beach with their surfboards under their arms.

"On Easter Island it's seven o'clock in the evening.

"Phyllis is fishing on her parents' boat, while the seagulls are flying overhead and the stars are just coming out in the evening sky.

"In Los Angeles it's nine o'clock at night and Tiger Lily has just brushed her teeth and gone up the stairs to bed.

"As she turns the last page of her book and switches off the light, the day is drawing to a close in her city of Los Angeles, but for people on the other side of the world it is now only just beginning.

"And why's that boys and girls? Because ...."


The Day or Night workshop is suitable for pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 and Primary 4. To book a show, tel: 0131 473 2070.

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