In Dublin days there was a habit that seems odd in retrospect. The rectory study had a wooden Venetian blind. When open at night, bars of light from the streetlights outside would shine in illuminate the room, in an eerie way. Sometimes, at the end of the day, between 11.30 and midnight, I would switch out the light and sit and stare out into the darkness. A person passing the gate and looking in might have wondered at the strangeness of someone sitting in a darkened room.
Perhaps a psychiatrist would make something of such behaviour. For me, it was simply about a fear of the night. There was a wish not to have to go to bed, to be able to see off the night hours and see the daylight. Maybe the night is troubling for many people, maybe it’s about the isolation; maybe it’s all those childhood fears of unknown things; maybe it’s just about darkness having a negative effect on the psyche and the circadian rhythms of our body that cause the early hours to be a difficult time. Whatever the reason, to see daylight was always a relief, it meant the possibility of human contact would return.
To know another human being was out there was important, perhaps the attraction of the study window was the view of a road traffic junction where there would always be vehicles.
Even if they could not be seen, to be able to hear another person was helpful.
Driving the M9 motorway through Co Carlow early one summer morning, heading to Dublin for an early flight, a scan of the FM waveband for some company, brought a live voice at around 94 or 95 FM. Between 3.45 and 4 o’clock, as the day was breaking, the voice played oldies and talked about the fine morning ahead. Assuming it to be South East Radio from Co Wexford or East Coast from Co Wicklow, the thought never occurred to note the frequency. A later check of the respective stations’ websites suggests neither was on air live at the time, certainly not to allow a broadcaster to comment on the weather prospects for the day.
It was perplexing that a moment of connection might never be open to the possibility of being repeated, that such a drive in the future might allow no reception of any living voice, that there might only be a sense of isolation.
The night always brings that danger.