Winter solstice time again. The longest night. And of course it’s a sad and lonely time for many who see celebration and merriment all around but who feel utterly bereft, for varying personal reasons.

Molly Drake, in her poem Lost Blue, pondered if the darkness of night might continue and not give way to daylight.

In the deep uncertainty of the night
The blue plate hangs on the wall
And I wonder: is it really blue at all?
Or was that stolen by the thieving light
And who can say whether it will return?

Oh, how the quiet plate must yearn
For her lost blueness in the dark
For though the day has brought it off before
She cannot quite be sure

And how can I be sure in the uncertainty of the night
That dawn will bring the same world back again?
I take for granted the ceiling would be white
And shadows long
And the yellow morning light limpid with the little midnight rain
And apples lying rosy where long grass grows
But no one really knows

Blue Plate

My suicidal character Tess Picot, on 22nd December 1935, woke up in hospital.

She became wide awake, conscious of the breathing, snoring and occasional groans of the other patients. At the end of the room, through the window, the night nurse was reading a book or magazine by the dim light of a lamp.

Here she was, Tess Picot, wide awake during the longest night. The nights could get no longer and the days no shorter. And, after the shortest day each day gets just a little longer. The ancients celebrated this time as the re-birth of the sun.

She had lived in her own all-consuming darkness for months. There had seemed to be no end to the darkness. However, of course there always is. There’s new life, lambs are born in the spring, the hedgehog awakes, the early potatoes are planted and thrive. Where there had seemed to be no life, indeed where there had been despair, nature from time immemorial had taught that the seasons turn inexorably and that from darkness comes light.

As the black night slowly turned to a hesitant dawn Tess saw things with sudden clarity. She made a vow. This was the bottom of her pit, she could get no lower. On this day she would start to climb again. She would draw on the strength that she knew was within her and she would grow again, and grow stronger. She would embrace the daylight and do her best to make her way in the world. Her dark days were behind her, starting today.


Winter Solstice, Newgrange, Co Meath. Alan Betson.

Eight years ago I was at a pretty low ebb personally. Running and writing kept me on an even keel and I soon bounced back. Over the last couple of days I’ve read two or three quite sad blog posts. I hope that those despairing at this time of year find it within themselves to await the light, which is around the corner. Happy Christmas everyone.