I’ve been terrified of the dark since way before I can remember. I slept with a light on until I was thirteen. Until I was about fifteen walking down my road without a torch could reduce me to tears. Even now, being alone in the pitch black without my anti-monsters duvet is one of the worst situations I can be in. It’s not quite at phobia level, but it’s pretty bloody close.
Which is exactly why I went to sit on my own, on a cold, windy hill in the pitch darkness with a thermos of chamomile tea. Well, it isn’t the exact reason – but it did seem like a very, very stupid thing to do. The actual reason I did it was to look at the sky. Stargazing Live is back on at the moment, and a solid hour of Dara O’Briain and Brian Cox begging you to go outside and look up is surprisingly effective.
Down where I live, there’s one hill which is particularly good for looking at stars, and that was my destination this evening when I set off with my camera, torch, tea and compass. I don’t own a telescope that I can use, so I was going off my own eyes and the awful exposure on my camera.
Getting there was bad – it’s a short walk, but I was stupidly tempted to just go home and never leave again. I didn’t. I persevered, and was rewarded. Sat on a cold hill, with two layers of socks and a bag shaped like a hedgehog, I saw the stars. Properly. I looked at them and said their names (but only in my head, in case any murderers were listening). When I’d got mostly used to them, I turned off the torch, and shoved on my iPod. Halfway through Gypsy, by Lady Gaga, I saw my first shooting star.
I’m not having the best of times at the moment. I’m usually either stressed or lonely, but sometimes I have moments of startling calmness, where I become very, very proud of myself. That was one of them; sitting in the dark and not being scared, watching a shooting star fall from Orion’s belt.
If you live somewhere where the stars are visible, go and look at them. Properly. I promise you won’t regret it.
Unfortunately, my camera isn’t good enough to get shots of the stars, but I got quite a nice one of the moon.