It’s VERY dark on the beach tonight. No moon. And the dog, who is the colour of the wrack that litters the sand, is virtually invisible. Red and blue lights on the wing tips of a plane wink low over the lough, charting a course between bright white Venus and The Seven Sisters. The pulsing light on its belly reflects on the wet sand left by the retreating tide, and startles me, for just a moment.
I head away from the glow of the town towards the deeper dark. The higher-than-recently tide forces me up the beach toward the looser sand and the wall that marks the boundary of the wood. For the briefest of moments I thought the red gate in that wall was opening and my heart leaps. But no, just the creaking of the trees in the high wind.
The dark is disorienting and does strange things to your senses. Looking into the middle distance the only way I can see anything is by NOT looking directly at it. The approach of another late night dog walker is perceived by peripheral vision. To look right at him is to magic him away.
I have my ipod attached. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo are podcasting about movies, something to do with Satanists, and potheads and ‘a car-full of midgets dressed as medieval knights’. When the clip they play lets out a scream, I jump again.
I’m twitchy tonight in the dark. I keep looking behind me, even as I find myself laughing out loud at their exchanges. Was that quick glance a reflex action of embarrassment at making an inappropriate noise? Or am I frightened of who might be following me in the night? Hard to tell, to be honest.
But I tell you this. I know I’m alive in this darkest of hours. Nothing like being scared to get the pulse racing, to feel the tingle of adrenaline rise up from my chest to tousle the short hairs at the back of my neck. And to help me appreciate home and the warm fire in the grate.