“It’s as black as your hat,” says my dad when he comes to stay. He’s got a Derbyshire accent though so “your hat” becomes one word: “yerat”.
Every time I step outside my back door in the darkness, especially at this time of year, I think of his expression. Because it is. Extremely dark. You cannot see your hand in front of you.
At our last home, on the housing estate, we had a street light right next to our house. It would glow outside our bedroom window, leaching an orange haze over our sleeping forms.
But here? There are no streetlights. There’s nothing except the distant pinpricks of light from the dual carriageway. Eventually my trees will grow and we won’t even be able to see that.
I have to go outside in the darkness every night to shut in the chickens. At first, before we got the dog, I would not go out in the field after dark. I once cast the torch around (to my left, straight ahead, to my right, behind me, argh what’s that noise?!) and saw two eyes staring at me from the bottom of the field. The eyes were well above ground level. It freaked me right out.
It’s funny, thinking back, that I used to be so bothered by the darkness. Because now I don’t give it a second thought. Yes, I still quickly scan my torch all around me, checking the shadows to my left and right, but I’m actively looking for glowing eyes.
Then there’s the moonlight.
I knew the songs, of course I did. Dancing in the moonlight. Moonlight shadow.
But actually seeing moonlight? Seeing the shadow of our house cast by the full moon? I didn’t really understand that it had existed other than in a Famous Five novel. Living in a town with light pollution we lose that wonder of seeing a giant elm tree reflected on the ground as a moonlight shadow.
But once every few weeks I can go outside, as long as the sky is clear, and not need my torch to see in the dark. The moon is bright and luminous. Shining down, my shadow walking ahead of me.
My Chicken Story Stories is a collection of my thoughts as I pull together the first draft of my memoir.