At five o’clock yesterday afternoon the sun started to move closer to us again and, from today on, there will be a little more light for us to enjoy at either end of the day. Although it will be a while until this increase in sunlight is very noticeable the fact is that, week by week, we are gaining ground gradually and by about February, the difference will be palpable. I was surprised and disappointed, therefore, to find that our afternoon walk today was swathed in premature murk just as profoundly as it was yesterday and that the beach as desperately lonely as the curlew’s cry would suggest. We see and hear them every day.
As one carols overhead, I love nothing so much as an empty stretch of sand on which to gambol and race. Nicholas and I are particularly fond of a trial of speed, the little fellow belying his size as his powerful nose helps him to track me instinctively, barking as he chases. He is a devoted dachshund, and Bamburgh beach is the playground on which I have learnt to respect his courage and persistence, however early in the day.
But the darkness, morn and night, curtails our fun, bringing us to Kemo Sabe’s heels, where although we can prove to be a bit of a nuisance, we are safe and can keep her sound. We haven’t seen a sunrise like this one for over a month now; no wonder the street is alive with tiny sparkles, hung from bushes and in windows – now is the time for humanity to bring its own kind of light to the party, whatever the time or place. Glittering fairy lights throw the darkness and the waiting of Advent into relief. The grass in our back garden is sodden and slippery; none of us wants to go out there and walk on it much. The sparrows have only a few hours to fill their tummies with fat-balls, seeds and bread before they disappear into the ivy, where they cling on through the hours of darkness, their knees locked against the wind. As we hunker down for sleep in the radiant warmth of the kitchen, the tiny brethren outside shrug and ask, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’