The road between us and the neighbouring village – the strangely named Mejou Roz – has no frills. It runs around fields, through a hamlet and looks across to the sea. It has no markings, no kerb, no street lamps and it is very winding – 4km for us, two for the crows. It is also bordered by the occasional ditch, sometimes deep. In the daylight it is restful, even enticing. That night it was a real threat.
We had just moved into our cottage and were invited by friends in Mejou for dinner. In a high-spirited moment we decided to cycle and when we set off it was broad daylight. We were not yet fully familiar with the route but in a car it was no distance and after puffing up two little hills we arrived with time to spare.
Four hours later it was time to go home and by then it was dark, in fact pitch black. In our planning we had not taken into account that the weather was overcast and that on that night there was no moon. We had also forgotten to bring any front lights – my wife had one of those tiny lights to be seen by, but not to see with. In keeping with country life the lights of the few houses along the way were now turned off and the road itself was deserted. The journey home in complete darkness was simply horrible, not to say menacing. Being filled with a mixture of fear and anxiety was not where I wanted to be.
Because Rohan had a sentinel light and has better night vision and is as braver, she went ahead. I could not see her or anything else for that matter, not even the outline of the trees against the sky. Orientation and navigation were done by word of mouth. Rohan kept talking, encouraging, and I followed her voice. It was the spectre of falling into one of the ditches, possibly breaking something on the way that was the most worrying. And because we could not even see when the road turned, this was a distinct possibility. Moreover, as we did not have our mobile phones with us, getting help would have been difficult.
An hour later we got home. We walked in the door and collapsed with relief; it had been a truly awful journey. Almost immediately the phone rang to ask how we were. This was our friends’ third call. They knew how difficult the journey would be and were just about to send out a rescue party. What they could not understand was why we had declined the offer of a lift home. With hindsight, neither could we. We had even turned down their offer of some bicycle lights. Something to do with pride, they had thought. In fact it was more to do with foolhardy ignorance.
A few evenings ago we were driving back along the self same road and again it was pitch black. I stopped the car and turned of the lights as a reminder. Memories of the cycle ride flooded back. Rohan confided that during the ride she was certainly frightened but this fear was laced with a sense of excitement. For me on that night there was nothing so positive. I am not a person who is easily frightened but on that night I was terrified and the danger was immediate.
In retrospect the journey had been a nightmare, a nightmare of our own making. Never again!
One thought on “Once upon a moonless night”
Those long late autumn nights. For me it’s very familiar experience, when running through the pitch black night in the early morning. That’s the color of the runner’s universe in this time of year: black.