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?

35 comments:

  1. When I was a wee lad, we would buy ex-army Morse code lamps from Elisdon's. They were fantastic lamps and came in a very cool looking khaki bag thingy. Of course, none of us could do Morse, so we would just go miles from each other and flash the wretched things until we'd had enough, or the battery failed!

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    1. I was worse than that. I had a proper morse-code tapper (brother was in RAF Signals) and would wire it up to a valve radio to tap out nonsense to the rest of the irritated household.

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    2. My youngest arrives today from Oz via Germany and Sweden. I told him to phone me from Toulouse to let me know what time he will arrive at Cahors station. So I'm now waiting for everyone's favourite phonecall 'I'M ON THE TRAIN'

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    3. Just one little question about your grandchildren - why do they need to wear surgical masks when measuring things in the garden?

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    4. Because they couldn't find any gas masks.

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  2. When I was in the Brownies { Brownies being relevant 'cos I had to walk home in the dark }, I had a torch that you could switch from ordinary white light to red or to green ..... really useful ..... NOT !! It was fun though. My husband has a torch under the bed { it must be a man thing } XXXX

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    1. I had one of those as well. I only used mine to scare a neighbour's impressionable kid into believing that aliens had landed and were about to abduct him.

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    2. Re your hubbies torch - is it one of the black, heavy American ones which double-up as a truncheon? Maybe he keeps it there to club you with if you get too amorous in the night?

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    3. It's actually one of those big rubber ones but,if I was to get too amorous in the night, he would think that he was on a memory training course !!!!!!!!! haha, boom, boom { that was one of my Dad's favourite little quips } XXXX

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    4. Big rubber ones? What does that double-up as? At least I suppose you can see what you're doing.

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    5. No, the blindfold puts pay to that !!!! XXXX

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    6. ....... that's ' puts paid to ' ! XXXX

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    7. I was going to leave it at that.

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  3. I have about 20 torches, about 5 of them the wind-up sort, so I expect to be ok when disaster strikes. It is then, of course, that all your antique candlesticks will come into their own as well, Tom. How we will laugh at everyone else, the foolish unprepared.

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    1. A Mise after my own heart. I have been searching for the semi-mythical, solid gold (silver-plated) candlesticks that were used to smuggle aristocratic wealth from France during the Revolution. One of those and I could buy my own generator.

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  4. Funny, the only reason I carry a headlamp in my handbag is to meet someone, in the dark, on a mountain somewhere.

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    1. I have infra-red night-vision goggles for that Sarah. I like to give people a nice surprise.

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  5. My wireless-torch or radio-flashlight is powered by a wind-up handle. Roughly 100 turns of the handle produces half an hour of radio and a tired hand.

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    1. I would buy one of those, but my experience of - admittedly the early ones - is that they live up to their description - a wind-up.

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    2. They're useless; I have one!

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  6. I have two wind-up torches/flashlights. I keep one by my bedside in case i need one in the middle of the night, and i have one boxy one that's battery powered for the boat. I also have a battery powered one with LED lights that's covered in rubber and has a little hook on the back end, so you can hang it up and use it as a work lamp.

    I also have a headlamp, which i used most recently when kayaking to my friend's schooner in waning light. I could see well enough to get to the boat without it, but i wanted others to be able to see me.

    I also have a battery powered torch/flashlight in each vehicle. Very handy. And yes, i do check every other month or so to ensure i don't need to change the batteries.

    Oh, i also have a few candlesticks and candles as well as a camping lantern. Two oil lamps, too, and the previous owner left a few hurricane lamps.

    I apparently have a love affair with torches, too.

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    1. You certainly sound as though you do, Megan. Fantastic - I feel better already.

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  7. We own about 5 or 6 flashlights. To my knowledge, only one of them has batteries in it. And, yet, I feel strangely prepared for any 'dark ages'.

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    1. One will do - so long as it is your hands, and not your dark husband.

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    2. The only flashlight that works, is indeed mine! I keep it in a kitchen drawer. His 5 non-working ones are all in the garage.

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    3. Hmm. How do you find them in the dark?

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  8. I get the one-for-the-house-one-for-the-car thing a lot Tom, at which point I raise a Roger Moore eyebrow and walk away.

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    1. Roger Moore hated guns, and visibly flinched every time he had to fire one on screen. My eyes stay open with the loudest of bangs. Moral: I am not a film-star.

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  9. Come the zombie apocalypse I have my trusty wind up torch

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    1. At 100 winds, they will get to you first.

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  10. Nice torch. They're £12.21 on Amazon so you've had a bargain as well

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  11. Ah - there may come a day when all the lights fail, when HI has to stay at home and you have to venture out on urgent business - then she will congratulate you on the forethought of buying TWO torches.

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    1. It's supposed to be that way round already, but I often fall short of the urgent business side of the arrangement.

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