This world is created for grownups.
During the day and during the night grownups are in control of everything, from the running of the world’s economy right down to the running of the home and everyone in it.
In comparison when you’re little life is pretty simple. In the day you do things and in the night you sleep. When there’s a light on you’re awake (regardless of the hour) and when there isn’t you’re not.
At no extent is this dichotomy more apparent than during summertime. Six weeks of holiday, sunrise at four, sundown at ten, free reign in between. Mums having the hardest time if the weather is even half decent or if they live near the sea or out in the fields, because from rural England to rural Nebraska as soon as lunchtime’s over the starting gun goes off and everyone tears away from the table like they’ve been shot from a cannon.
It’s getting them back that’s the tricky part.
But when I was young the social belief was ‘Oh they’ll come back when they’re hungry’. And often enough we did.
Except for those two times when I didn’t. Nor did I remember to tell my mom where I was going.
Stressful times for the family but that’s a story for another day.
Bedtime is supposed to be at nine. Yet time always speeds up and before anyone notices it’s ten and everyone is still up, pyjamas are nowhere to be found and there’s a massive queue in the bathroom (singular) to get everybody bathed.
Then, in the ultimate paradox imaginable everyone gets overtired and no one wants to go to bed and that’s when suicide/homicide hour* begins.
And all this on account of the dusk.
The time that is exclusively the property of children.
When I was small the summers were hot. During the midpoint of the eighties, for consecutive June/July/Augusts the needle remained firmly in the nineties. Which was rare for the UK even then.
At this age the garden gates no longer act as a natural border. A disused cut-through backed onto our cul-de-sac and the land there were simple hardened mounds of dirt and clay, peppered with weeds and the largest horde of nettles I’d ever seen. Perfect bike weather, I owned a doctored chopper, but stung ankles were a certainty. In the end mom left the nettle cream on the porch step; better we help ourselves than she have teary eyed children, often some she didn’t even know, come shuffling through the house looking for sympathy and treatment.
Yet after dinner, unless there was something specific on TV it was always the slow procession to bed.
This image reminds me of that time.
For anyone under the age of thirty it’s a rending of the credit scene from Dungeons & Dragons, a cartoon popular in the mid-eighties. Probably my first ensemble tale I can remember, (nowadays it’s more Angel and Leverage) it’s a basic tale of a group of kids who take an ill-fated funfair ride and end up swallowed by the thing and dropped into a very scary alternative reality. Comical by today’s standards it was magic at the time, genuinely scary in places and rudely cancelled before its storyline payoff. Unfortunate events but it got me prepared for the future heartache of Angel and Leverage; both being cancelled the same way almost fifteen years later.
Johnny Douglas scored the closing theme. An adaptation of the title song but slower, softer and subsequently more emotive, it shows the funfair closed and all the children gone, leaving and maturing, childhoods shrugged off like discarded snakeskin.
It reminds me of the ending to Labyrinth. Sarah returns home and puts away her childish things, recognising the necessity of the grown-up life. She looks into her mirror and sees Hoggle and the rest of the characters, all so beloved, all now united in their farewells. They say that they will always be there if she needs them, their presence the idea that we should hold on to a small bit of our innocence even if the rest of our childhood might be less than idyllic.
Maybe Douglas’ theme is saying the same? That feeing we all have seeing the funfair for the first time is fleeting. Wonder is precious and easily lost; replaced by responsibility and purpose, often tied into adult life. One of mortgages and jobs and little ones of our own.
But we can still remember the sunsets, both in reverence to the past and a reminder that even these days the simplest things can be special.
I live at the top of an apartment block, at the top of a hill, many of my windows facing south.
Summer or winter or anytime in between if it is clear and dry I see the sun go down.
The winter sunsets are stark and hard, crisp and sharp, beautiful and honest and mixed with winter cold. But it is the summer ones that bring magic to the world. From Shakespeare all the way to childish cartoons they bring back the wonder for all to use, if only for a few minutes.
For it’s in those minutes smiles seem more heartfelt, love more passionate, hope more radiant and loss more bittersweet.
It is a time for littles really, grownups are just observers. But like grandparents and their knowing smiles it will always be special, if only for those who take the time to notice.
*My best friends in London coined that phrase. And I write this in awe of their patience and ability as parents when homicide/suicide hour is especially fraught, with their own two little ones that at times have a pathological hatred of going to bed. XxX