A New Dark Age

My local council, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to start replacing its streetlights with energy-saving ones, which would seem to be a good idea. So in my neighbourhood the old concrete pillars with lantern-shaped sodium lights have been removed – they felled them like trees! – and they’ve put in the new ones. These are about three to four feet taller, thin steel poles with black plastic wedges at the top and a stubby white aerial which talks to a central control. The idea is that the lights can report when a bulb goes, and can have the on/off times varied and be dimmed to save extra energy. The new streetlights are ugly. They look like the temporary lights used at music festivals or – and given the current attitude of the government towards the population, I suspect this was deliberate – like the lights around a prison stockade.

They do what it says on the tin – they light the street, mostly, except where they’re too far apart to cover the area properly. It’s a harsh, white light and it’s directed straight down. There’s no spread of light as there was with the old yellow ones, so the footpaths, car parking areas, garages and gardens are poorly lit, and some areas are even plunged into the kind of primordial darkness that monsters creep out of.

I’m an urban child – I’ve spent most of my life living in towns. I’m finding it hard to sleep in the new darkness and I miss the comforting amber sodium light. The place just doesn’t feel safe anymore. I’m glad I’m not working and don’t have to use the bus, as I wouldn’t want to walk along the footpaths in the dark. Ours is a nice neighbourhood with little trouble, but I’m predicting that the crime rate will go up, especially burglaries and thefts from cars in the inky-black parking areas.

I don’t know why I’m whingeing about this, as the council isn’t going to change its mind and give us our old streetlights back. I’m not sure it will even save energy – the council’s electricity bill might go down, but I can see a lot more lights being installed by local house-owners. I’m even considering putting in one of those motion-detector ones, which I hate, so I can see to walk down my garden path at night.

Did you see that picture NASA took of the Earth with the golden glow of cities like a magic spider’s web across the world? Next time they take the pictures, I’ll be living in one of the dark blots.

Happy New Year

Good wishes to all of you as we enter 2013. I’m not sorry to see the back of 2012, as it had some really bad stuff in it, some of which I’m still struggling with. So it goes!

If I made New Year resolutions – I gave them up years ago! – I might decide to post more often to this blog, maybe weekly, maybe more frequently, and I might start talking more about writing stuff. It probably doesn’t matter, as only a handful of people ever come here to read it. When I first had a website, back in the last century, there were webrings and communities to join to increase traffic to your site, but I haven’t discovered anything similar with blogs.

So thanks for reading this, you happy few! Have a great year.

The Kindness of Strangers

As you know, Bob, I recently spent a week in hospital. I was in a four-bedded bay and the throughput of patients was pretty rapid, so I was thrown in with quite a few people. Most of us were post-op and all of us were in pain – at times I felt guilty that my pain relief was so effective that I wasn’t suffering as much as some of the others.

What amazed me was the level of kindness and caring that developed between the patients on the ward. Magazines and newspapers were shared, and most people talked openly and honestly about why they were there and what treatment they’d had. Those conversations helped pass the time and were filled with much laughter. The most mobile of us, a woman in a wheelchair, made numerous trips to the hospital shop and never failed to ask if anyone wanted anything before she left. She also helped one of the other patients who was having trouble working her phone, and all of us let other patients use their phones when they ran out of credit or charge. There was a very expensive bedside TV and phone set-up, and everyone who had bought some time on it and then was discharged made sure to transfer the unused time to someone else, so as not to waste it. Best of all, when you were awake and in pain in the middle of the night, a voice would come out of the darkness saying “Are you all right? Do you want me to call a nurse for you?”

In these times when the news is full of horror and terrible things, it was a surprise to find that people could be so nice, especially folks thrown together by misfortune and illness. I’ll probably never meet any of those women again, which is a shame, as I want to know how they are now. I hope that they’re all recovering well and that the outcome of their surgeries was as positive as mine.

So, to all of you, particularly Tasha, Jeanette and Janet, thanks for making my time on the ward better in so many ways.

Recovering, but slowly

I’m gradually getting over the op, still on painkillers and still pretty sore. I don’t sleep well, being forced to lie on my back, and I get up and sit at the computer in the middle of the night, just to change position. The wound’s managed to get infected on one side, so I have antibiotics to add to my daily handful of tablets.

On the up side, my consultant rang me with the preliminary histology results, which were good. I apparently had endometrial cancer at an early stage, confined to the lining and inner layer of the womb, and as that was removed, I’m probably cured. Hurrah!

Now I just need some patience to cope with being housebound for the next five weeks, and some space to relax and heal. I can’t concentrate at one thing for very long, so I’ve been reading a bit, watching TV and even doing a little writing.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows

I had to drive across the heart of England this weekend, to attend the wedding of the daughter of one of my oldest friends. In April the hedgerows were full of white blossom, blackthorn and wild cherry, with a touch of pink from crab-apples and escaped ornamental cherry, but in May the main colour is yellow. I don’t remember ever seeing so many cowslips in the verges, great drifts of them along the roadside banks. They’re such a gentle, fluffy yellow, not as pale as primroses nor as bright as dandelions. The rape was in full flower as well, fields of vivid, fluorescent yellow, turning the landscape into a green and yellow patchwork quilt. I stayed in a Travelodge next to the town’s bypass, which should have been noisy, but was so quiet that I was woken by birdsong and the sharp calls of pheasants in the woods behind the building. More yellow here, with the gorse in flower.

The wedding? The weather was unkind, grey and overcast, with occasional rain, although it did stay away during the photographs. We went to the church in a red London bus, decked out with flowers. The bride was stunning, so beautiful she might have stepped out of the pages of Vogue or Country Life. The groom wore black and white co-respondent shoes, and the bridesmaids were in purple satin shot through with black.

The reception was a delight. Each table had a cake-stand full of sweets at its centre – flying saucers, penny chews, Love hearts and the like – and there were paper bags for the guests to take some home. The tables were named for superheroes – I sat at Wolverine – and those not in the know struggled to find Aquaman, the Beast and the Martian Manhunter. The room was decorated with bunting, made by the bride and a group of loyal friends, and there was heart-shaped confetti on the tables, painstakingly cut out of books* by the groom, which started a game as the guests tried to find rude or silly bits in the text. We ate fish and chips, with ice-cream cones for dessert. The cake was a triumph, four tiers adorned with Batman logos and silver stars (are you starting to see a theme here?). The bride and groom cut the cake with a Batman-handled knife, while the audience spontaneously sang “Dinna dinna dinna dinna, Batman!”. I had the lemon drizzle cake layer. which was gorgeous. Wish I’d tried the sticky toffee pudding layer!

I had a wonderful time. I wish Libby and Pete all the best in their married life together.


*He used three books – a Star Wars title, one by David Eddings and a Mills & Boon. I found one heart with ‘bastard’ on and another with the phrase ‘I stabbed him in the heart’.