My East Borneo Diary – Let there be light

eastbourne-by-night-2Compared to our ancestors, we are advanced beings. We can dial up the website for our chewing gum ( and Skype our grannies in the rest homes far from where we live, to save having to see them. This is progress. No other people in history could tell total strangers what they had for breakfast, and imagine that they care.

But a part of our reptilian brain remains, lurking underneath the sophistication of modern times. And that ancient grey matter remains entranced by signs in the sky. We see images in clouds, sometimes spaceships in the distance, and what have you.

Lights in the sky were once a sign that Gods existed. Lightning, for instance, came from Zeus. Where once we ran from extreme weather conditions, now some of us drive towards them. The direction may vary, but the fascination remains the same.

Eastbourne, my new home town at the edge of England, is one almost continuous light show. Weekly, in season, a display of fireworks ends the brass band concerts at the Bandstand, a relic from a time gone by. Other firework displays happen elsewhere with some frequency. Like cave-dwellers, we can only stare in awe as the sky lights up.

At special events near my shack, a machine of some sort is employed to cast light beams onto the clouds above. Although of limited scope, these lights are equally fascinating. The only hard part to grasp is how the operators know in advance that there will be clouds, in what has been a largely clear sky since I arrived.

The local authority has erected street lights, as you’d expect, which from height give off an eerie, electric glow that seems to have nothing to do with being human. Linking the lampposts on the Parade (the promenade nearest to the water), strings of fairy lights add a Stardust Memories dimension to the whole thing.

Best of all, however, is the fantastically slow-speed light show that is mounted just about every night, but most especially on Saturday nights, as convoys of boats and ships make their way across the horizon, from west to east. The English Channel is one of the world’s busier waterways, and every floating thing seems to slowly move along the horizon.

What I see is one-way traffic. Vessels moving in the other direction must lie beyond the ones I can see, but so far away as to be invisible, with the exception of the odd cruise ship plying its way towards the Bay of Biscay, perhaps, or America.

I don’t have a TV, and may need one if winter ever arrives in these parts. Until then, all I have to do is to peer out of the window to see a varying display of lights that would have scared our ancient ancestors back into their caves, to lie quaking in fear of the gods.

Nowadays, of course, the only thing we fear is the tax bill, bad refereeing and the inevitable lawsuits that follow telling the truth. Best to keep schtum, methinks, and gaze at the lights in the sky.

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