This week’s theme reflects the news of a vaccine for Covid-19.
I couldn’t find any really good poetry or other literature reflecting the theme so, for once, I thought I would tell you about my own experience of light at the end of a tunnel. Please forgive me if it is overly literal.
About ten years ago I decided to walk from my flat in London to my mum’s house in Stornoway. I did this piecemeal. The first day I walked, with my friend Carole, from my place in Archway (Islington) to High Barnet at the end of the Northern Line which took me right back home. It was a lovely day, much more rural than expected, but we did get lost twice which was a bit worrying as I had hundreds of miles of wild Pennines and the small matter of the Scottish Highlands to navigate my way through.
The next weekend I got the Northern Line back up to High Barnet and walked out of London, ending up in Harpenden where I got a train back and so on.
Day four was a bit hellacious. It was winter and I had reached the muddy midland plain. Huge plowed fields with no paths, just a right of way across claggy clay soil. And footpaths are few in those parts. To avoid a busy road I had to take a zig zag path and I was exhausted by the time I reached Northampton.
So I was looking forward to the next leg. It was an icy but crystal clear winter’s day and my route took me, after a bit of getting out of Northampton, on a disused railway line that had been turned into a path and cycle track.
It was great, dead straight, due north. It might have seemed a bit tedious I suppose, but after the previous leg of tacking back and forth across enormous fields of mud, believe me, I was not complaining. There was no navigation to do so I put the map away and enjoyed the sun glinting off frost and the occasional bird life.
There was but one hazard on my route, well two. Large railway tunnels that the guide I had read said were really dark. No matter, I have a head-torch. In fact I was quite looking forward to them. The entrance, when I got there, did look a bit forbidding. But not half so daunting as it did when I realised, after a frantic search, that I had left my *%^*!! headtorch at home. Never mind, I had a wee maglite torch on my keyring. A maglite torch, it turned out, with a battery that was very nearly gone.
Walking around looked like a hassle and anyway I didn’t want to miss the main point of interest of the day so I entered. Within a few steps the sunlight from the entrance failed to illuminate the floor. It was pitch dark and my feeble torch was useless. I had to walk on, unable to see my feet, trusting that the track was even and not strewn with trip hazards. After a while I saw some lights dancing in the distance and hear voices. Cyclists coming towards me! I hoped the torch, useless to light my way, might gleam enough for them to see me and got out of their way as best I could.
‘Hello!’ I called out as they got closer and got a surprised sounding greeting in reply, then they were gone, their voiced echoing around the tunnel walls.
I got a respite when I reached an air shaft – a tiny sunlit island in the river of darkness. But staying there was not getting me through this, so I stepped back into the black and went on my blind way.
There had always been a tiny pinprick of light in the distance but for a long time it just seemed to hang there like a star in the night sky – my progress towards it changing it about as much as a star on the horizon grows when you walk towards it. But now, at last, it was visibly growing. The point became a circle of light and then I could see ironwork and even some lit up tunnel floor.
A little further and I had made it. Out in the winter sunshine I looked back at the gaping tunnel mouth with pleasure and relief.
Pleasure that lasted until I remembered that there was another long dark tunnel on my way.