From the 21st of September, night displaces day and dark replaces light. Autumn, with all its’ decay and death, symbolises the changing of the guard between bright colours and inky blackness. Chasing light away, as the wounded animal it has become, is the switch flick of GMT plunging this seaswept Atlantic island into perpetual darkness for three long months.
Something to look forward too then, along with the commercial parody of the long debased religious myth that is Christmas, wind, rain, gloom, doom and – to bottom it all – trails below the water table. And yet before the storms lies a windless lull of a two tone world – impenetrable and moist as daybreak pushes feebly westward, and then blue, crisp and really quite agreeable as weakening sun rays burn away the fog.
This makes commuting a bit of a bugger.
4.1 degrees is not motivating weather. But set off we must, uncomfortable in heavier clothes and half blind from refracting light beams dissipating against a nebulous but impenetrable wall. Today a bike piloted by memory and internal gyroscopes is quicker than meandering cars, and their too powerful headlights groping at the darkness. But it doesn’t feel safe; if they can’t see the road, what chance they notice a one foot wide by six foot tall mobile statistic, whose dimming lights emit nothing more than a ghostly halo.
Riding scared, I ran away onto unlit side roads where looming dog walkers – zombified by the fog – lurched in late surprise as the hiss of damp tyres warned of my approach. The fog tamps down sound as well as light and little of each escaped to stimulate the senses. I was reduced to 3/4 speed, straining eyes and ears for pain giving obstacles and cranking peripheral vision to separate the murky green edges from greasy tarmac.
Soft rain sizzled off clothing, sweat beaded under now a too warm jacket and still cold breath merged instantly with the clamping fog bounding my world. But only once did the journey go bad, when frontier stones – guarding a tended lawn – loomed large like dirty ogres teeth ready to chew up this knight in shining lycra. A fast shimmy, as wet grass plucked away traction from slick tyres, and a desperate course change saw us plot a lucky line back onto the blacktop.
I fear there may have been collateral damage in terms of carefully planted perennials. Certainly as the station emerged fromunder fuzzy streetlights, it became apparent that the bike was considerably more shrubbery accesorised that it had been twenty five minutes previously.
But there was a feeling of worthy which is not earned during the summer. A flapjacks’ worth of extra effort, a coffee double-shot of not taking the easy option, a warming winter pint coming back the other way. Still a thousand times better than taking the car.
* I hope Seb doesn’t see this photo. Technically it’s all over the place. Compositionally it would blow a randy goat. In my defense, the camera was on my phone, the temperature was still bloody chilly and the bloke on the platform thought I was stalking him.