A cartoon in one of London's papers showed two blokes looking at the eclipse, with one saying to the other: 'I heard the next one's pay-per-view'.
For a lot of the past 200 years it seems people have been complaining about attempts to package what by rights is free for all. Since the Acts of Enclosure, which gave the right to cordon off common land, one of the peculiar characteristics of the packagers is that they always accompany their various appropriations by telling us they are good for us. The pious exhortations to watch the eclipse on tv were no exception.
But the nervous shifting of the television's attempts to chase the eclipse in different places carried the leaden weight of killed time. What football fan has not experienced the bitter disappointment of catching the action replay rather than the real moment? The mystery the tv executives are not privy to is that the more technology manipulates time and space, the more the medium kills the communal enjoyment thatused to produce mass audiences. Enjoyment and its accompanying feeling of fulfilment, commented on by many who witnessed the eclipse, depend on the exact opposite. Unique moments mean you can't shift time and you can't shift space.
The mass thwarting of the tv channels' attempts to eclipse the eclipse was heartening. At that 11th hour, there was a simultaneous realisation that despite the best efforts of despoilers posing as do-gooders, the eclipse wasgoing to go on, free, on its own schedule, above our heads. Unplanned and unorganised, Londoners spontaneously left work and occupied the bridges across the Thames, stopping traffic to see this event through the most benign of all possible viewers: the public spaces of the city.