It’s no good. I cannot sleep. Might as well write. Get this post out of the way so that it’s not waiting for me at the end of the day.
It’s 5am. I haven’t slept. I’ve had one of my “tooth-paste” nights. One of the less appealing aspects of my Parkinson’s. It happens every now and again: my muscles feel like they are being squeezed by wave after wave of contractions. Like a tube of toothpaste. Slowly but relentlessly. It’s impossible to sleep. To lie still. So, I skulk off to the spare room to read. To try and take my mind off the contractions. Usually, I eventually become exhausted and find sleep. But, not tonight. Tonight the contractions have been focussed in my arms. That’s new – normally it’s my legs. Typing is proving slow and laborious. Maybe the toothpaste is a consequence of too much typing recently. Who knows?
Anyway, it’s gone 5am and it is still dark out there beyond the window. And I was going to write about Darkness.
I like the Dark. Always have. I remember lying awake as a child waiting for the dark to come. My bedroom was on the ground floor of my parent’s house. When darkness came, I would rise from my bed, open the bedroom window and climb outside. Into the Dark world. I didn’t go far. Just stood on the back lawn. Listening. Smelling. Feeling the cold, damp grass on my bare feet. I didn’t need to go far. Right there was enough. It felt magical. Totally different to the Daylight world. Better. My senses felt sharper. I felt more alive. I was aware that this sort of behaviour was frowned upon. Forbidden. That it had to be kept secret. All of which made it more appealing. And I couldn’t understand why more people didn’t do it. Maybe they did. But I never saw them. Nobody else ever spoke about doing it. So, I learned to keep it secret.
As I grew older I grew to like the Dark more. Found new ways to explore it’s touch. As a teenager, it was where I met other teenagers. In groups. On the street. Drawn like moths to gather beneath a yellowing street lamp. But, essentially, Outside and in the Dark. Because Inside in the Light was the realm of Adults who did not understand. Had they never felt the magic of the night? Why did they want to stay inside. Inside: where everything seemed mapped out, arranged, predictable, safe. It was the 70s. The food was bloody awful. The TV worse. Why the hell would you want to stay inside? Strange how things have changed. How technology seems to have trapped the Youth of today inside. Now, the magic lies in the endless possibilities in the flickering light of a computer screen. I get that. But I can’t help feeling a sadness about it.
For us, then, the possibilities, the magic, all lay Outside. Mostly just kicking around town in the evenings. Dossin’. Doing nothing in particular. Just passing time. Dossin’. But, every now and again, we would hear about a band we liked coming to a venue nearby. We saved up. Bought tickets. Got excited. Talked about it constantly. Imagined how great it might be. Made arrangements. Travel plans. Then the day finally came. School was unbearable. Lessons dragged slower than ever. But, eventually, the bell rang and we dashed home to get ready. To put on whatever tribal markings were appropriate to keep us safe in the Dark. You did not want to be the only Rocker at a Punk gig. Then, out into the glorious Dark where all manner of adventures lay in store. On the 261 to JBs in Dudley. Or the Wolverhampton bus to the Wulfrun or the Civic. Or, best of all, the bus to Stourbridge Junction, then train to Birmingham New Street and onward to the Odeon for big names or Digbeth Civic Hall for the more obscure bands. Typing those names, even now, is like some magical incantation.
Then, when I left home, I got to really explore the Dark. During my university years, I seemed to inhabit the Dark pretty much full time. Most of my memories of that time are of the Dark. Watching bands in smoky clubs. Playing in bands in smoky clubs. Dancing in smoky clubs. Lancaster. Manchester. Leeds. London. The playground got wider and wilder. Climbing up Pendle Hill on Halloween in search of witches. Riding the London night buses. Dawns experienced in the parks and streets of strange cities. The kindness of strangers willing to offer a floor to sleep on after tumbling out of a gig far from home. Drugs taken so that you could stay awake all night and miss nothing.
But, you can’t stay in the dark forever. After university, I worked at an Outdoor Pursuits Centre in the Lake District. It was nice to be back in the Light for a while. Climbing mountains. Standing on summits in the sun. But my favourite activity was when we took groups out for night hikes. No torches. Allow your eyes to become accustomed to the dark. Trust your other senses. Learn not to be afraid of the Dark. I loved that.
And, as I grew older, a little more sedate, I discovered yet more ways to connect with the Dark. Some of them holding the memory of childhood pleasures: sitting around the flickering flames of a fire outside in the Dark, wild camping, sleeping outside, going out in the woods searching for owls, badgers. Overnight hikes. Walking 50 miles across the Shropshire Hills none stop through the night. And these new ways seemed better. More sustainable. Definitely more healthy than the smoky clubs and drugs. I think that is to do with the different qualities of Darkness. Which I intend to explore tomorrow. I am tired now…….and it’s time to get up …..bugger!
But before I go: today’s gift: We went to see Patti not so long ago at Wolverhampton Civic. She was awesome.