I completed a Guardian crossword today. Not such a huge achievement many might think, but it’s the first time I’ve ever – yes, ever – finished a crossword. I always assumed that, as a man of words, I would be able to hoover them up without any problem. Absolutely not true. I find them utterly bewildering. Maybe the brain has to work in a different way to do crosswords. I assumed it to be a creative talent but I’m not too sure now. Or maybe my assumption that I should be able to do them with comparative ease is the cause of my extreme impatience with them.
A little late this month. Possibly due to the illusion of darker nights making the time available after work seem shorter. It’s the time of year when we get up in the dark and go home in the dark. Not my favourite season. However, I now have a new toy; a somewhat imperfect picture of it is here. I’ve never really understood people who look forward to winter with the excuse that they can wrap up warm and drink hot chocolate and watch Disney films while curled up on the settee. But I do have to own up to being more than a bit of a pyromaniac. So maybe I’ll enjoy the season more now that I can indulge my obsession in the comfort of the living room.
I guess it’s perfectly natural for us to shun the dark and to seek out the light (no, I’m not going to go all biblical). After all, danger lurks in dark places. It’s understandable that some people become ill through lack of light and need therapy during the dark days of winter. But the light that we need has to be the right kind of light. Quality light. We are, sadly, overwhelmed with bad light nowadays, from personal devices to cars and streetlights. Everything has turned to intense LED light and it’s horrible. We have vans driving round the city claiming that they’re making the streets brighter when in actual fact, it’s making it darker. Whoever decided on the LED lights knew nothing of the physics of light or even the basic workings of the human eye. The old sodium lights were designed to cut through mist and rain whereas the LEDs suffer from bonkers refraction. In addition, there is such intensity of light in the immediate vicinity that the spaces between the lights are bordering on complete darkness. It’s almost impossible for drivers to see people on the footpath in the murk between lights. Also, intense light causes our pupils to shrink which means that once we reenter the dark spaces our eyes are in no condition to deal with them. Add to that, the insanely bright Halogen and LED headlights that some people opt for on their cars and the problem becomes manifold.
Sorry for moaning.
November… It’s nearly gone. To be honest, we can’t complain: a couple of frosty mornings didn’t kill us and will have done the gardens good. And rather than rail against the gloom, maybe I should use it for inspiration. After all, I heard yesterday that the sun has now set in the far north of Lapland and won’t be seen again until the sixteenth of January. Now, I love the moon but I’m not sure that I want to see it hanging up there for nearly fifty days. Making the best of the dark nights, not so easy. I have always gone for a walk on bonfire night though. I used to feel a certain electricity in the air between the bangs and whizzes and the steady orange glow from bonfires. But then that isn’t really the same now. The annual fireworks party now stretches roughly from mid October to mid December with everyone who has a birthday around that time taking advantage of the availability. As with many things, the magic has somehow gone. But maybe I’m just being nostalgic. It’s just that I remember the evening inspiring a short story that I wrote about twenty years ago about a man who used the general background explosions and smoke and smells to shoot his entire family in the back garden and to then incinerate them all on a bonfire. Things just aren’t how they used to be.
So, how do I use this gloom and despondency to inspire me yet again? Can I reignite my passion for suburban horror? From an early age I read mostly horror. I started with the English stuff, Shaun Hutson’s Slugs and James Herbert’s Rats. I soon moved on to Stephen King and Clive Barker, gorging on everything I could find. As soon as I started writing, I assumed that this is the sort of stuff that I would write. It seemed obvious. But somehow that just didn’t materialise. It wasn’t for trying: I have a now infamous story about a giant chicken that was being transported on a forty wheel lorry beneath a tarpaulin (entitled Tarpaulin) and a headteacher who is killed with a faulty desktop scanner (some unpleasantness resulting from the glass bed coming loose and shooting across the room. But they just weren’t me. I ended up writing Crime Thrillers and Romantic Thrillers. I don’t even read that stuff. It maybe explains a lot. Nevertheless, I think I might make a supreme effort this winter and come up with something dark and mysterious. Something chilling and unthinkable. After all, this writing lark is meant to be all about having fun.
Just to get us in the mood, meet Frank, a collection of props for an old production of Hamlet.
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