Thick cloud cover meant no moonlight and left the village shrouded in a deep darkness. Standing in the cool air of a late summer’s night, everything was as I remembered it from childhood, lights on the landscape from neighbouring villages, a glow in the sky to the north from the street lighting of Street and Glastonbury, shadows that needed no deciphering because their daylight forms were as familiar as the proverbial back of one’s hand. Darkness needed to have no fears, Spike Milligan, of all people had dispelled all apprehensions concerning ghouls and ghosties and long-leggety beasties. In a few brief lines, possibly in his collection “Silly Verse for Kids”, he wrote:
“Things that go bump in the night
should really not give you a fright.
It’s the holes in the ears that let in the fears
that and the absence of light”
Darkness held no fears whatsoever, we had always been taught that the living were the people to worry about, even if there were ghosts, which we doubted, they were unlikely to present even the slightest of dangers.
Darkness held no fears, but it was worrying because it represented isolation. In the daylight hours, it was easy to stand and contemplate the hundreds of square miles of Somerset countryside that lay around our hilltop village, but when night fell, the way of escape from oneself was cut off. It did not need to be so, the darkness could have enclosed a place of friends and happy memories, but that had been a road not travelled. Shyness, insecurity, a lack of self-confidence, one by one the negative character traits had conspired together to bring an isolation from all those known during childhood years. By the 1980s, there was no-one left who might have recognised the awkward, gawky kid with whom they had gone to school.
Of course there were opportunities in later years to set things straight, chances to re-engage with the community that had been home, but they were never taken; there was never to be a moment of saying, “this place is my place.” So, almost five decades after arriving in this village of August darkness, there is a feeling of being a stranger, of being someone who would barely recognise most of the people encountered, of being someone who can walk through the village without being known to anyone who might be passing.
The darkness leaves no space for distraction.