I am not a regular night walker, yes, because I don’t see so well at night now, but mostly because I don’t really have anywhere to walk to, or from, after dark these days. If I do venture forth, it is generally out of the village and, therefore, in the car. On the rare occasions I am gadding about after News at Ten, I am in the company of other such devil-may-care souls and often protected by a blanket of alcohol. Yesterday evening however, after babysitting my grandchildren, I walked home at eleven thirty and in my fifteen minute journey I did not see another soul, despite being on zombie-watch the whole way. I was blissfully unaware until then of what a noisy walker I am, nor how loud some people play their TV’s. It was, save for my booming footsteps, a silent walk home except for little ‘puddles’ of noise that bellied around some of the few lighted houses along the way – this is a village in which most room lights appear to go off before 11pm – and if I was smarter than I am, I might be able to put forward a plausible argument that insomnia and encroaching deafness walk hand-in-hand. In fact, I think it is more likely that most of those still awake at this time do not have to get up for work the following day and, knowing this place, are therefore retired and prone to having the TV on at wall-warping volume, as my daughters tell me all old people do.
Where houses sit in troughs of complete darkness and silence, passage by the curtilage almost inevitably leads to a flash of security light, the intensity of which would almost certainly have kept Steve McQueen ensconced within his barbed wire enclosure. I swear I hear the soft ‘click’ of machine guns being cocked for action. Each egress of neighbourhood tabby onto these protected swards is illuminated with a power that wakes troubled sleepers several villages away, and my progress along the road gives the impression of a peripatetic Blackpool Illuminations marching disconsolately along the village streets. I swear I could hear the man from the Electricity Board rubbing is hands with every step I took.
Do not get me wrong, there is no imperative for me to be home before darkness enfolds: I do not turn into a pumpkin at midnight (despite the more-than-passing resemblance in daylight) but the street lights do go off with the last ‘dong’ of the witching hour church bells and the neighbourhood streets, thus, become as black as coal, at which time I become very prone to walking into invisible lamp-posts, falling over non-existent hedges and stumbling along pavements littered with the kind of potholes in which Christopher Robin would almost certainly be able to catch multiple Heffalumps and, mayhap, a Woozle or two. Traversing the few hundred metres of the final approach to home feels like an assault on The Four Peaks and, with the autumn wind whipping the fallen leaves around security light sensors, it is quite easy to imagine oneself lost on a faraway celestial surface, swallowed in the black emptiness of space, walking from who-knows-whence to who-knows-where in the midst of a multi-megawatt, interstellar thunderstorm.
Or perhaps that’s just me?