The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE -

S hortly af­ter I left school, I met one of my old teach­ers who told me she’d taken early re­tire­ment. I was stunned — she was one of those in­spi­ra­tional women who you just couldn’t imag­ine do­ing any­thing but teach, and al­though she ben­e­fited from that odd age­less­ness that seems to af­fect all teach­ers, I reck­oned she couldn’t have been more than 50. Why on earth would some­body like her re­tire, I won­dered? And who would tell the chil­dren about monas­tic set­tle­ments in me­dieval Ire­land now?

She went, she told me, be­cause she couldn’t bear to get up in the dark. Sim­ple as that. That hour or so, at the start of each win­ter week­day, was enough to ruin the rest of the day for her. And so she jet­ti­soned an en­tire ca­reer — a vo­ca­tion, in her case — just so that she could open her eyes in day­light.

That was years ago, but I don’t be­lieve that a win­ter morn­ing has passed since that I haven’t thought of that teacher and en­vied her the choice she made. Be­cause I can­not tell you how much I hate get­ting up in the dark. It feels un­nat­u­ral, like a most vi­o­lent crime against the uni­verse. The Dog, I’ve no­ticed over the past few years, raises his head from his bed when I stag­ger down on dark morn­ings but doesn’t ac­tu­ally stand up un­til the sky be­gins to sport hues that paint com­pa­nies might de­scribe as cobalt. He knows bet­ter than to take on na­ture while it is still clearly sport­ing a Do Not Dis­turb sign. Would that we had that lux­ury. And while screw­ing with the world doesn’t ruin the whole day for me, like it did for my teacher, it does start me on a back foot sig­nif­i­cant enough to en­sure that at this time of year, it’s a rare day when the kids man­age to get out to school with­out me bark­ing at them.

We’ve got a brief re­prieve now, of course. The clocks go­ing back last week­end, as well as neatly chop­ping off the end of the day, have al­lowed most of us the lux­ury of ris­ing in day­light again. But in a few short weeks, we will be back to black. And it just feels wrong.

It’s not just lazi­ness ei­ther. In the sum­mer, I have no dif­fi­culty get­ting up at five in the morn­ing — in fact, my syn­chronic­ity with

‘I can’t tell you how much I hate get­ting

up in the dark. It feels un­nat­u­ral, like a most vi­o­lent crime against the uni­verse’

sun­rise some­times presents its own prob­lems: there’s not much craic to be had on a week­end dawn when ev­ery­one else in the house is only get­ting into the stride of their sleep. And I do re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate those rare June evenings when you look out at a gen­tly gath­er­ing twi­light as you’re head­ing for bed — but I re­main to be con­vinced that these dark morn­ings make our long sum­mer nights worth­while.

I partly blame the years we lived in the UK. It’s not as bad there, see, sim­ply be­cause they don’t get to go to bed in twi­light in June. And while there are dark morn­ings in deep­est win­ter in Lon­don, there re­ally are only a few of them. I do re­mem­ber two par­tic­u­larly dark pe­ri­ods in my time there; one when I pre­sented a break­fast ra­dio show, which ne­ces­si­tated me not just ris­ing in the pitch black but com­mut­ing through it as well; and an­other bleak pe­riod dur­ing which I worked on a morn­ing TV show broad­cast from Southamp­ton, which saw me catch the 5.15am train from Vic­to­ria three times a week. What I re­mem­ber most about that was how in­cred­i­bly cold that first train of the day was, and how it would take till lunch just for my bones to thaw. I say lunchtime but of course that was din­ner time for my body, which be­came ut­terly con­fused about not just when and what to eat but, far worse (if you’ll for­give me head­ing south), when to go to the toi­let.

Trust me, there are few more mis­er­able feel­ings than crav­ing your din­ner at 11am — and few more baf­fling ex­pe­ri­ences for your day-shift col­leagues than when you sug­gest drinks at three. Which is why I’ve never ap­plied to at­tend that whole Win­ter Solstice thingy in New­grange. It’s not that I wouldn’t love to set eyes on a rare won­der of na­ture that in­spired our an­ces­tors thou­sands of years ago (I would, I would!), it’s just I’m not pre­pared to get up in the dark to do so. Hon­estly, you’d have thought those Ne­olithic tomb builders, with all their pri­mal con­nec­tions with na­ture, might have taken that into con­sid­er­a­tion.

Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

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