Monday, 25 June 2012

Setting myself a challenge Day 11 – Darkness

Shocking I know but I’m back on a wildlife theme with this 1000 words posting. For those of you following my 2 week challenge you will know I’m trying not to write about wildlife. I do that anyway so that would be cheating!

Yesterday, as my posting hinted at, I was in Full Monty (not literally you understand) DIY-Sunday mode. From waking I was on a quest to paint our bedroom wall. Starting at 9.30am I finally got everything back to being ship shape and Bristol fashion by 10pm. It was just emulsion but preparing, cleaning and finishing off takes a lot longer than the painting itself. And I’m a fussy painter too; I could paint in my best suit and still not have any paint on me… hum maybe a second career here.

But by 10 o’clock in the evening with the bedroom back in position, curtains returned to the perpendicular, radiator reassembled, brushed cleaned and stacked away, most people would have collapsed into the bed and the day would be over. But I’m made of sterner stuff (some could question this statement and say I’m just mad). However as I looked out of the window of what had been my cell for nearly half a day, it was a fabulous evening, a glorious sunset had just ended and a calm clear night was developing; and I hadn’t left the house at all in 2 days. Being such a lovely evening I said to Julie how about we go and have a quick drive to Little Bedwyn about 7 miles away, and see if we can spot a glow worm or two. In reality my thought was more, “I’ve got cabin fever, and please can we go and see something outside before retiring for the day”. I didn’t really expect to see any glowing beetles.
Arriving at Little Bedwyn, we parked down a lane and headed for the canal and railway. In society there is something strange about being outdoors at night. In daylight if I was seen wandering about with a pair of binoculars and a round of egg and tomato sandwiches, no one would think anything other than Wessex Reiver on walkabout; mothers would whisper to their children, “just walk quickly past, don’t speak to him he’s harmless really”. Fast forward 12 hours and wander about in the dark with a torch and battery down footpaths and village lanes, curtains twitch, security lights come on and is that the bark of an attack dog about to be unleashed, why I always carry a cudgel and wear a balaclava to blend in unobserved should the dog be on guard; this gets worse doesn’t it…..
Some of you may remember Ann Widdecombe’s cutting remark about the MP Michael Howard that "there is something of the night about him". Unlike Lord Howard, I may not have demonized tendencies but I do like the dark. As humans we are sight dominated animals, which is why our eyes provide binocular vision, point forward, and are able to adapt to differential light levels. Being abroad at night is exhilarating, sounds are heightened; we have to rely on hearing and some primeval subconscious senses more than we do in daylight. And being unable to see we are aware of anything out of the ordinary. And so it was yesterday evening as I stood on the railway footbridge.  There next to the railway line was something out of the ordinary: a piercing bright green light, no bigger than a match-head in size. This was the very bright illumination from a female glow worm; then another and a third.  All in all, in half an hour we saw 11 glow worms next to railway lines, all seen from the vantage point of a bridge, their glow clearly visible with the naked eye.
But night time is something which is becoming less and less prevalent in the World, with the arrival of ever more artificial means of keeping the dark at bay. A fascinating read if you are interested in such things is “Evening’s Empire – A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe” by Craig Koslofsky. I read this book last year when it was first published and it is a wonderful and eclectic summary of how Civilisation has worked relentlessly to banish the night, for example how street lights changed cities for ever, making streets safe to walk in and opening up the possibility of pleasure in the dark through lit theatres. Chapters also cover the devil, mythology, theatre and the gradual removal of the power night had over human activity as the use of increasing light was developed.
One aspect of the night I absolutely love is candlelight, and for me when we lose an hour in October and it is dark before 6pm, it is a perfect opportunity to close the curtains, and sit quietly with no other illumination that a lighted candle or two. A couple of years back when I was painting much more than I am able to do now, I drew a composition in charcoal while a single candle burned. The resulting painting was called “Last Flight” as it depicted a moth coming to candlelight with a terminal outcome, and a painting I sold the week I sketched it. I wasn’t even selling at the time as I’d just arrived at the Black Swan Art Car Boot Show in Frome and busy sorting myself out and erecting my stall. Putting painting on an easel and out of harm’s way, this gentleman walked past, stopped, walked back and came up to me.
“I know you’re not open yet, but please don’t sell that, I haven’t got money but will go to the cashpoint”. He left and returned with a fist full of £10 notes” My first sale of the day and before the event had begun.

This is the only painting I’ve sold which I regretted selling, because it reminds me of a night spent drawing in almost total darkness. I didn’t have time to properly photograph it except at the show, so I often wonder where it is now, and whether it still gives the owner pleasure.
From starting this 1000 word challenge to completing it, 4 hours have elapsed and 78 miles. I’m completing this in Somerset but it began in Wiltshire, such is the life of a 2-house lifestyle, and weakly explains the delayed posting.

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