Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Every weekday morning, in school-term time, at 7.52am precisely, I start standing at the bus stop to ward off any passing trolls that may step out of the woods and scare the kids. The enjoyment of this task is highly weather-dependent, but in these northern climes, it is far more dependent on light, or lack of it. An ill-placed hedge prevents me from using the thoughtfully-provided-bus-shelter, hidden as it is from any passing buses. So I balance on the pavement edge. In summer, I have often stood there in blistering, blinding sun, but recently it’s been deep, black, unrelenting, brooding darkness.

Right now, though, this is changing at spectacular speed, hence my need to write of this now. Anorak that I am, a spreadsheet has been started to record what’s going on with the dawn. Currently, each day dawns 5 minutes earlier than the day before, that’s 35 minutes a week. This very morning, during the bus-stop-standing, the street lamps flicked off, which proves the Powers-That-Be must reckon it’s time to rely on the sun. How very different from those January mornings just a few weeks ago.

Back then, I was obliged to dress as a road-mender. Decked in luminous day-glow from head to foot, and, for warmth, encased in several layers of wool, fleece, and down, I resembled a high-viz tennis ball. The only shape was round, the only colour fluorescent. It’s not a look I’ll be exporting , but it served my recent purpose admirably.

Of course, this particular winter of bus-stop-standing has been far less dark than others, bathed as it often has been in shimmering moonlight, illuminating the ever-present, record-breaking snow and ice all around. My early morning walk has had a dream-like quality as I slide past fields of undisturbed snow, the moon a bling-like jewel above. And this a good couple of hours before the sun even hinted at showing up.

There have been times in past winters when rain was the main factor...great, horizontal, thick arrows of wetness propelled by vicious winds. Dressed fit to operate a North Sea fishing trawler in a storm, my vision was constantly blurred as water jetted into my spectacles, steaming up the lenses until I hadn’t a scooby as to what might be happening. It was like trying to stop a bus while standing in a carwash. Sometimes, even the street lamps gave up, petering out as if the effort was too much. And on those days it was really dark. Wet-dark seems much darker than dry-dark. It was very, very dark. Darker than the darkest of the dark darks.

It is wise to learn not to mind. There is no way of surviving this level of darkness unless one can embrace it, learn to love it even if the passion is muted. Norwegians in the north of this long, long country, where there is no light all day for months, are world experts at this. As we live on the same latitude as Orkney and Shetland, I realise people there are accomplished at this too.

But dark has its advantages. The main, big one is that I can go out in the morning looking like the wrath of Odin. There is no chance of scaring anyone. Sartorial elegance, hair-do and make-up would be a frivolous waste. Provided I am luminous, I can wear whatever I like, which is usually pyjamas with numerous layers on top. The bus stop is neither Paris nor Milan. The fashion police are absent.

Darkness depresses some people. SAD, Seasonal Affected Disorder can hit the most vivacious of minds. Solar lamps are installed in an effort to ward off the winter blues. Perhaps I’m just weird, but as time has gone on, I have surprised myself in the strength with which I have come to relish the darkness. Once used to it, it offers a further advantage, and affords a kind of intimacy, a quiet, private time for reflection, contemplation, and restoration of the soul.

However, it doesn’t mean I can’t wait for the dawn. Now, where’s my lippy?


  1. Great stuff! I think as one gets older the seasonal variations in day length become much more affecting. I am so pleased you noticed it too and described it so well! Sensitivity to most things drops as we age - both to nice things like taste, and nasty things like pain - but this seems different. I wonder why... Kurt Weill composed "September Song" when he was "only" 38, (days grow short etc) so maybe he got this earlier.

  2. Professor Damson,
    What a charming name! And I'm alarmed to note our sensitivity drops with age, along with several other things.
    Will seek out the Weill.