Saturday, 16 February 2013

Blackout means Black


The nocturnal world is divided into two sorts of people - those who like to sleep in complete and utter darkness, and those (like me) who prefer the reassurance of what ever ambient light there is to be had in the room where they go to bed.

Whenever H.I. and me go on holiday, we are usually forced - for reasons of economy - to share a room (something that we would never willingly do under other circumstances), and there is always a tiring little tussle involving black-out curtains, and whether or not they should be drawn all night, leaving us to guess if and when dawn has broken in the morning.

There is usually a sort of compromise, but it is the sort which falls heavily in favour of H.I. and if I have to get up for any reason in the night, I often end up walking into unfamiliar furniture and bruising myself as well as waking her up with my stifled curses. There is only so much starlight you can squeeze through a six-inch gap in heavy brocade.

How my daughter came into being:

The year was 1971, and I had just completed a four year course in Fine Art (Sculpture) at the West Surrey School of Art and Design, when I was cycling down West Street on a black, vintage bicycle. Suddenly, a young girl stepped out into the street and held up her hand like a policeman, forcing me to bring the bike to an unsteady halt.

She did not mince words - unusual for an eighteen year-old - and immediately said that she had seen me around and wanted me to take her to see an Ingmar Bergman film that evening (The Hour of the Wolf). I thought for a few seconds, we arranged to meet that night, and then I cycled away again.

Unlike most of my fellow students, my amorous conquests during college life amounted to about one and a half - or three halves, more accurately - and so I was somewhat flattered to be approached in such a direct way by a recently enrolled Foundation student. I had spent most of the previous three years fending off the advances of a genuinely psychotic and eccentric young painting student, so this girl seemed almost normal by comparison.

We met and went to the film, which turned out to be as depressing as any of Bergman's dark offerings, then I escorted her back to her home on the outskirts of town where we spent an hour or so drinking filthy herbal tea before finally going to her bedroom and getting into bed. The first thing she did was draw the heavy curtains and put out the lights. If I had put my hand up in front of my face (which I actually did) I could not see it or any part of it.

So the whole night was spent grappling with a complete stranger whose face was so unfamiliar to me that I forgot what it was like within the first three minutes, and would not be reminded until well after dawn, when it was time to draw the curtains and leave.

I didn't see her again for several weeks, so had plenty of time to refresh my amnesia until I received the inevitable phone call and we met up again to discuss the situation.

I spent two years trying to get to know her, but the more we understood each other for what we really were, the more we understood how utterly incompatible we were to each other.

Eighteen years later, our daughter drew the curtains in a room containing a man who was actually older than her real father, and this is how our first grandchild came into being. I don't know whether or not she knocked him off his bike as a prelude.

I really do need a little starlight in my life most nights. Street lights will do at a stretch.

12 comments:

  1. Memories, memories.... Luckily most of what I got up to at Art college (the same one as Tom's) did not result in a football squad of infants. But only by LUCK!

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    1. I seem to remember that you began your squad about the same time as I did.

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  2. This definitely earns a place on all our hopes and dreams.co.uk (see Slow Lane Shuffle on my side bar Tom)it is brilliant (sorry about the pun) and honest. Nobody ever stepped out in front of me in such a romantic way - but then I never rode a bike, so that knocked that sort of romantic encounter on the head for a start.

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    1. It would have been better if I was driving a car, I think.

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  3. I think it is a marvellous story.

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    1. The story will carry on long after I am gone too.

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  4. Are you sure it was 1971 and not 1961 ?

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    1. Yes I am, Heron, and do you know why? Because I am talking about my own life, and although I have a terrible memory for birthdays, I don't think I will forget that year.

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  5. Dear Tom,
    nothing speaks against an offering of herbal tea - Lindenbl├╝te? to bring the blood to the boil? - but maybe that could have warned you in relation to the darkness that was expecting you?
    I really appreciate a gem like "We met and went to the film, which turned out to be as depressing as any of Bergman's dark offerings".

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    1. Not Lindenblute, but some other flower which - when combined with the music of Bert Jansch - takes me right back to 1971. 'Wishing Well' does it for me, and I wish it didn't.

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  6. Where i live now, there's very little light pollution so at night, there's not much light unless the moon is out. It took me awhile to realize that i sleep more soundly here, so i'm guessing the dark nights help. I guess that puts me in H.I.'s camp of closing the curtains.

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  7. It must then have been 1974 when I met that small person. She wore a bright red coat. Her gingery curls and shy smile briefly lit up a dark landing.

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