Stupid things were frightening when I was a kid. Growing up in the West Country we heard constant stories of ghosts and eerie goings on, which, in retrospect, I realised that no-one except me took seriously. I was terrified of ghosts and would sleep in bed at night time with the blanket pulled up over my head so that if a ghost came into the room it might not notice I was there.
I was terrified by stories of UFOs, particularly because our neighbouring county of Wiltshire seemed to be the UFO capital of Britain, if not of the world (Google UFO and Wiltshire and see how many hits you get!) I was convinced that if the aliens arrived they would come in from the West and would therefore have to fly over Somerset to get to Wiltshire. I was so frightened by aliens that I would not watch programmes like Doctor Who and even when I was 13 shied away from watching The War of the Worlds.
I was terrified by stories of the supernatural and if you live eight miles from Glastonbury in the late-1960s, the stories were everywhere. Everything got muddled up in my childhood mind. Stories of a musical called Hair where people ran around with nothing on became associated with stories of séances and occult happenings and with strange lights seen in the sky at night
Even the sky at night was threatening. Patrick Moore’s astronomy programme The Sky at Night should have been filled with wonder for a young boy living in what was being called the Space Age, but it was frightening because the night meant darkness and the darkness meant all the things that so much frightened me.
There are no spectres, no ghouls and no UFOs (at least not in the sense of the supposed encounters over Wiltshire), but night is still an unwelcome time. The poor June weather has meant little opportunity to enjoy the long evenings, and, before the summer reaches us, the days will have turned and the darkness will once more gradually creep up on us. Of course, there is no rational reason to dislike the shortening days; in streetlit Dublin, it hardly made a great deal of difference. Yet the fading of the light brings a sense of profound loss; it brings the autumn and the dying of the natural world, and brings also a sense of isolation, of losing the company of those one might have seen in the daylight, but who, in the darkness, retreat behind closed doors. It is understandable why Heaven is imagined as a place of brilliant light.
Disliking the darkness is a futile line of thought, for who can stop the turning of the planet? Yet it is one that seems to have a deep-rooted place in the psyche.