Between the months just passed when the sun sets when I’m already in bed and the months to come when it sets in the middle of the afternoon when I’m at work and I only get to see it at weekends like a divorced parent there are nights like tonight when we’re in the same place at the same time. It only happens for a couple of weeks before we go our separate ways again so got to take a moment to take it all in just in case it doesn’t come around again for a while
In the handful of weeks between around about the autumn equinox or maybe the August bank holiday or perhaps sometime in between and some time before the day when the return of GMT shunts what daylight remains to these islands over winter to well before most of its citizens finish their working day is a short period when darkness falls at a time that is it is available to some of us at least, sometimes, to watch it happen without skipping work early or staying up a bit too late for a school night. It is as satisfying to be out as the day turns to night as it is to be around for the reverse process. A kind of calm descends on the fells; livestock seems less skittish, hobbit-footed grouse venture from the heather to pad around the grazed-short road verges, the soft rustle of breeze through bronze leaved branches or a stoney-bedded beck tumbling down an unseen gully come to the foreground of the senses, the echo pings of bats hoovering up bugs bounce unheard around the sky, and then there are owls; the to-wit-to-woo from the woods of the tawny variety, the silhouhette of the short-eared version gliding gracefully across the rough grassland it timeshares with the miltary training school or the one that hangs around barns, rare as it is becoming, underwings white and a yard across catching the light leaking from a bike headlight like the ghosts they were once thought to be. Soon all this will happen unseen, during the week at least, and evening bike rides, starting out in the dark as they will be, as dependent on will power and motivation as on time or weather or being able to find my left hand glove, although having a certain strange appeal will be by comparison joyless utilitarian affairs but these glorious few weeks, nearly over now, of seeing the day to the end are to be made the most of while they last.
Upon speculating whether a move to the southern hemisphere for six months would be one way of preserving the long days now fast becoming a wistful memory a bit of research revealed a slightly restricted choice of holiday home locations at fifty four south, the likely seasonal neighbours being some gauchos on the Tierra Del Fuego or the penguins of South Georgia. Although the spanish I picked up from Gustavo in Breaking Bad
might be enough to ensure I didn’t spend too much time trying to entrar through the salida door the prospects for an english stranger affecting a questionable chilean accent in Argentina might make a diet of raw sardines at the arse end of the Falklands the price that has to be paid for the dream of late night sun so for this year at least it’s looking like I’m stuck in the dark with the rest of the northern half of humanity like Huis Clos
with the lights turned out. It’s not over yet though. Although they may be selling out fast with no resupply due till spring there are a few evening glimpses of daylight left on the shelf so I will drink slowly and deeply, savouring every drop. Don’t need to go far, don’t need to go fast, just need to go out, to see the day through, to say don’t be away too long.
The road is closed at one end so tonight it’s just me and the sheep and the blissful warm still silence of the end of summer.
Yorkshire writer Simon Armitage wrote a poem Evening
about the passing of time, and of life. You should check out his stuff. He writes as he speaks; softly and with thought. It’s getting late in the summer now. Dusk falls earlier and by increasing increments each day. It’s still not properly dark until nine of a night but it’s the sense of movement, of the direction of travel, accompanied by those few extra degrees of coolness on an early morning or late afternoon that have the effect, the journey not the predictable and familiar destination. The awareness and sensation of the passing of time is one of the joys of spending a lot of time outdoors, and one of the poignancies at the same time; like alcohol it accentuates the mood it finds you in, lifts the high, the positive, the optimistic and accentuates the low, the melancholy, the reflective. There were a lot of bike riders out this evening. I don’t know whether they were experiencing a ‘crikey let’s get out there quick because in a few weeks it’ll be pitch dark and freezing cold at this time in the evening’ kind of vibe or if the ‘it’s still August, it’s warm, it’s light for ages so let’s make the most of it’ call was what they were answering. Probably they’re like me, the same awareness as every other day of the lateness of summer, but whether riding with sense of grim urgency or of joyful seizure of the moment very much depending on where they are in terms of the rest of their life; work, family and all that other less important than riding their bike stuff.