The joy of darkness.

One of my first ever (very short) posts. Enjoying the dark nights of Beetley, back in 2012.


It takes a while to get used to driving everywhere after dark with headlights on, and no street lighting. After a lifetime in London, lit everywhere inside the M25, you feel like the proverbial rabbit at first. But you learn to love the darkness. The night sky is little short of a miracle, a myriad of stars never seen in London, with all the light pollution. Sleep is a joy in total pitch black too. Turn off your lights World, and embrace the darkness!

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Lighter At Night

For so long now, it has been getting dark by 3:30 in the afternoon, and pitch black an hour later. Almost sixteen hours of every day, spent in darkness.

Then last night as I was cooking dinner, I had to pop out to the spare fridge in the garden shed to get something.

It was 6:01 pm, according to the clock on the microwave, and it was still light, with the sun not completely set to my left. The sky glowed pink in the far distance, and I could clearly see to the end of the garden

Now that is definitely a sign that Spring is just around the corner.

Sound and Vision

Reblogging this old rant from 2016.
Six years later, and nothing has changed!
If anything, it has got worse, as I now have to have my finger on the sound ‘mute’ button during any advertisement break, and more and more programmes and films are driving the plot with text messages that I cannot read.


Last night, I settled down to watch a film on the TV. It was ‘Prisoners'(2013), starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhall, Melissa Leo, and the underrated Paul Dano. I had heard good things about this abduction thriller, and was pleased to see it arrive on TV so soon after release. As it was premiered on the usually excellent Film 4 channel, I concluded that there would be no cuts, and the full film would be shown. Allowing for the breaks for ads, the film got its full running time, so I prepared to immerse myself in the great cast, bleak story-line, and compelling visuals. So far, so good.

I have (moaned) written before about the shortcomings of modern televisions. The four year old, 40-inch Flatscreen LED TV that we own seems incapable of rendering true black. As a result, night scenes, or gloomy locations, are hard to watch, at the best…

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Messing With Time

In case any of my British readers are still unaware. the clocks go back tonight.

Yes, we get an extra hour in bed before getting up on Sunday. But that is small comfort compared to the start of the long dark evenings beginning soon.

Dark by 4:30 in the afternoon most days, and that extra hour of daylight in the early morning will hardly be noticed by anyone outside of the farming and outdoor community.

I say it every year, but I think it should be scrapped. Let time be what it is, and stop playing around with it.

Light and Sound

As any film fan will tell you, light and sound make up so much of the enjoyment of a film. Just think of a film-maker like David Lean, and his films ‘Great Expectations’, and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Or Carol Reed’s use of light and soundtrack in the superb ‘The Third Man’. You get the idea. Some films have been made by their use of lighting, and become legendary for the cinematography that resulted. ‘Cat People’ (1942) is an example of how simple lighting techniques, and use of shadows, turned what could have been an average film into an acknowledged classic.

Then things began to change. I first noticed this when I went to see the film ‘Heaven’s Gate’ (1980) at the cinema. Michael Cimino had made an expensive and ultimately flawed film that ran so far over budget, it almost bankrupted the film company behind it. It also divided the critics, and audiences stayed away. I actually thought it was a very good film, but for one thing. Cimino had decided to use ‘natural sound’. This was very apparent when characters were speaking in front of a noisy steam train, or trying to make themselves heard during a raucous party scene. As a result, those conversations were inaudible to the audience, and any plot developments resulting from the scenes had to be guessed at.

Not long after, films started to get darker, and I don’t mean their themes. ‘Natural lighting’ became the thing. If the characters were outside at night, then it was pitch black, and we had absolutely no idea what was happening, unless the script explained it. I sat in cinemas peering into the gloom, or straining to hear what was being said. And this was at a time when Dolby stereo was being rolled out, and picture quality had reached a new peak of perfection too.

I see the argument. If somewhere is dark, like a cellar or cave, or outside in a forest at night, then it is going to be dark. That’s realistic, yes I get that. But if the audience is then left to simply imagine what might be happening, and who is doing what to who, then there is no point bothering to go and watch the film in the first place. People whisper, I understand that too. If they don’t want to wake the kids, or wish to conceal a plot secret from a character in the next room, they talk quietly. That’s also realistic, I know. But if we can’t hear what they are saying, then why are we bothering to follow the story?

This has nothing to do with my age. Despite wearing glasses to read any print, I have no issues with watching films, or looking at TV shows. My eyesight is good enough for almost everything, but not ‘natural darkness’. And I am not remotely deaf. I only have my TV volume set at 17 out of a possible 30, and can hear all normal conversation, even spoken quietly. But if I can’t hear something on screen that is not meant to be heard by other characters, so delivered in a hushed whisper inaudible to normal people, I have to question why I am continuing to bother.

More recently, this has migrated to TV drama. Made worse by flat-screen LED televisions that rarely have ‘true black’, night scenes in dramas now favour ‘natural darkness’ too. As a result, us viewers are left literally in the dark about what is happening, so that the director can claim to be ‘on trend’ with his vision of the adaptation. This reached a peak when the BBC serialised ‘Jamaica Inn’. They hired a great cast, an equally good writer to adapt the story, then filmed most of it in pitch darkness, with whispered conversations. So many people wrote in to complain, we can only hope such vanity will not be repeated in future.

My tip to those film-makers and TV directors is to look back at great films and TV series of the past. We want to see the drama, not imagine it. If a room is historically candle-lit, then by all means throw in some candles. But also light the scene, so we know what is happening.

Artistic credibility is one thing, but presenting something impossible to watch is just pointless.

Coming to terms

After living here in Norfolk for quite a while now, I have finally begun to believe it. For so long, it didn’t feel real, as if I was always going to be going back to London, or moving on to somewhere else. It has taken a long time to fully embrace the peace, and the unreal slowness of life here. I used to think that I was deluded when I told myself that I didn’t miss anything about life in the city. Part of me always thought that I would snap out of it one day, and wonder what I thought I was doing here.

I now realise that I have come to terms with this life. I am living life in a way I never previously thought possible, and I am glad about it too. I have written a lot about the weather in many posts, as regular readers will be only too aware. I think that this is because I have come to understand weather in a very real sense. I now like to prepare for it, to be aware what might happen, and to make it part of my life, as opposed to disregarding it. I welcome the darkness, and the way that it closes things down around us. I enjoy that slow pace of life, and adjust my own speed accordingly. This is where I live now, and I won’t be going anywhere else.

I expect that many of you would never consider giving up the comforts and amenities of life in a large town or city. I know that I once thought that I never would. There are trade-offs, it would be foolish to suggest otherwise. Life outside villages has a convenience and simplicity not found here. We have to plan ahead, make sure that the car is reliable, and be aware that we cannot rely on public transport. Going to a theatre, a good restaurant, or an exhibition, is not something that can be done on the spur of the moment. It involves forward planning, and of course, driving. Yet it restores that sense of occasion, so often lacking in cities, where these things are so common, they become almost mundane. They can still be achieved, you just have to think about them.

In return, you get a great deal, once you understand what it is. Sky, darkness, stillness; a sense of safety previously unknown.

I can really recommend it.

27 Minutes in the 18th Century

Tonight in Beetley, even without the need for a time machine, we were cast back into another age. To a time when electricity and gas power were both unknown, when candles were the only illumination, and night meant dark.

I had just finished preparing our evening meal. It was a traditional Sunday repast, of roasted meat and vegetables, in this case, a plump chicken, with all the trimmings. As we prefer to eat in the evenings, it was around 7.25pm when I called Julie to the dining table. We seasoned our meal, and both pronounced how appetising it looked. Ollie was lying quietly in the living room, as he is not allowed around us, when we are eating. No sooner had I plunged fork into potato, and our time travel began. The lights went out.

A quick check outside confirmed that it was not just us. The whole of the street was in darkness. As there are no street lights anyway, that means proper darkness. Luckily, it wasn’t too long past sunset, so not inky dark, but it was certainly night-time, and too dark to see our meal, which was fast growing cold. Julie quickly found some large scented candles, bought for completely different occasions, and not intended for power cuts. They did the job though, and illuminated our table, just enough for us to be able to tell parsnip from carrot. It struck me then, that all meals were once taken in this half-light, which when you are trying to eat a long-awaited feast, is far from romantic in feel.

As we struggled with our dinner, we wondered how long it might continue. No TV later, no hard drive recorder, and no Internet. Even the walk-about phones will not work, as they are dependent on power. With appalling signal and service on our mobiles, chatting on the phone was ruled out also. With no gas, a hot drink was not possible, and it was lucky that we had both had baths, as hot water would not be available, with no electric pump in operation. The washing up would have to be left until Monday, and any clothes we wanted to wear, would have to be put on without the benefit of ironing. We would have to retire to the sofa, and read a book. It would have to be a real one, as the electronic ones would soon lose charge, though it could be a magazine, or sales catalogue perhaps. I doubted that there would be enough light to write letters by, and wondered how the great writers of the 1700’s managed, with flickering candles of spitting tallow. I also realised that my failing eyesight, requiring spectacles for reading, was undoubtedly unable to cope with candle illumination. Perhaps I would just spend the rest of the evening thinking. Even the tradition of a family singing around the piano was not possible, as we have no piano, and neither of us can play one if we did. OK, we had the advantages of running water, and a flush toilet, but it still felt very primitive in the gloom.

I speculated further about life in the evenings of darkness. They must have used an enormous amount of candles, in order to live even a half-decent existence. But they probably went to bed a lot earlier as well, to cut down on boredom, or sleep off the tiredness of a day labouring in factory or field. Unlike us, they could not have decided to drive somewhere away from this localised power cut, in order to avail ourselves of light, and entertainment, should the need arise. Their life was always like this, ruled by the elements that we have since conquered. At least until tonight.

Twenty-seven minutes later, as I had almost finished eating, the lights came back on. Timers were flashing, electric clocks showing the wrong time, and Ollie walked into the dining room, confused at the comings and goings of darkness and light. We snuffed out the candles, seamlessly returning to the 21st century, without another thought. Moving through to the living room, we sat in front of the TV that had just come back on, and decided what to watch. I said that I would put the kettle on, during the adverts.

How lucky we are, and how seldom we realise it.