Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 4 October 2013
Mastered by darkness
What is it about men and torches? (Torches = Flashlights, for all you lot who speak English with a funny accent).
Since childhood, I have never been without a good quality torch. I was a little worse when a child, because I was never without a home-made survival-kit either.
The childhood survival kit (water-purifier, bandages, knife, etc. etc.) is a big clue as to what makes your average boy so keen to always be within close range of a torch. He wants to be able to cope with any situation that life - or the imminent threat against it - may throw up without warning, and it's the very slight sensation of imminent or possible danger that creates the slightly sad symptom of torch-ownership.
What if the National Grid goes down without warning? What if your parents leave you forever in the middle of the night without paying the electricity bill?
I am always amazed when I visit people who live in out-of-the-way places which go properly dark when there is no moon, who do not have a torch which works properly, but I also have a sort of admiration for them as well. This admiration is far outweighed by my opinion of them as just plain careless, though.
When H.I.'s daughter lived deep in rural, dark countryside, she never owned a torch. I would - occasionally - buy her a good torch, but somehow it would get lost or broken by the children, and only ever replaced by me. The cycle would repeat itself a few times until the children grew up.
She has recently said to me, "Why would I want a torch? I am not afraid of the dark - I love the dark". That is not the point. I love the dark too - I am always complaining about light-pollution - but, not having natural night-vision eyesight like many other animals, I don't want to be mastered by darkness.
In my own defence, I have always managed to curb the desire to own one of those 10 million candle-power, hand-held floodlights so beloved by security wannabes - I'm not that sad.
A few years ago, I heard a noise out on the flat roof next to our compact but adorable city apartment, and looked out of the window to vaguely make out the shadows of a handful of policemen in search of a rooftop intruder who had climbed some scaffold to get there.
They had just been issued the first prototypes of LED (light-emmitting diode) torches which - although they could blind the user at close range - were bloody useless at illuminating anything further away than about 6 feet.
I went to get my 6 volt traditional torch, and switched it on for them out of a window, making them feel very silly and inadequate indeed. They swallowed their pride and directed me in what areas to shine my beam for them for the next 10 minutes or so.
They would advertise these torches by saying that they could be seen from over 20 miles away, but failed to mention that you couldn't see an object 20 feet away when using them, and the police fell for this advertising trick. Any criminal could see the police coming from 20 miles away but couldn't be seen himself, which is why they never caught anyone on the roof that night.
LED technology has improved vastly over the last few years, and when up in the mountains of Spain recently, I borrowed my friend's little torch which has about 10 of them set into it's front, and was extremely impressed at the light it gave out. They don't - unlike tungsten bulbs - use much power either.
So when I got home, I found the above torch for sale on eBay, which has a 95 LED array (!), set in a sturdy aluminium body plus batteries - all for £9.95, including postage. I bought one immediately and it arrived a few days later.
I unpacked it in front of H.I. and daughter, then switched it on. I was so deeply and boyishly impressed by the effect, that I went straight back to the computer and ordered another.
"Why do you need TWO torches?!" H.I. virtually screamed at me.
"One for the car, one for the house" was my pathetic excuse.
One more mitigating factor: No matter how bright, LED torches still fail to illuminate distant objects without a lens fitted to the front, so I will not be able to use it for detecting intruders from any distance further than about 20 feet, but they will illuminate a room in the event of a catastrophic power-failure.
Since we are all being warned that power-failures will be common events in the future if we do not give the energy company's share-holders even more money than we do already, then I think I can justify the ownership of at least two torches. Can't I?