Darkness Enshrouding Buckinghamshire

And so I went, as planned, to Buckinghamshire, there to study the light. I approached the county along a path in Berkshire. Not wishing to waste any time, I had already taken my pocketbook out of my pocket and was holding, in my other hand, my propelling pencil, duly propelled and ready for writing. As I stepped across the (invisible) county boundary, the sun was blotted out, and Buckinghamshire was enshrouded in darkness.

It took a few moments for me to realise what had happened. A gigantic flock of gigantic birds had swooped across the sky, so gigantic a flock, and the birds so densely packed together, that the sun’s rays could not break through. Well, I said to myself, that is an uncommon phenomenon to be sure, but the birds will fly thither and the ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire will again be bathed in light, light which I will study, and make notes upon, preparatory to my hand-written pamphlet on the subject.

But, having swooped in front of the sun, the gigantic flock of birds stopped. I could not see very well, because it was so dark, but they appeared to be hovering in the air, static but for such flapping of their wings as kept them buoyant. The uncommon phenomenon had become uncommoner still.

Not knowing what to do, I decided to eat a sausage. I had several sausages about my person, in two different paper bags in two different pockets. I hoped that in the time it took me to eat a sausage, particularly if I nibbled it slowly, the birds would, after all, swoop elsewhere. I had passed, several yards back, a pathside bench, a suitable spot to consume a sausage snack, so I turned and headed towards it. As I did so, I inevitably crossed from Buckinghamshire back into Berkshire, and – listen carefully – at that precise moment the flock of birds continued their swooping, and the sun reappeared, and light was shining in Buckinghamshire.

If an uncommon phenomenon can become uncommoner still, and then even uncommoner yet, then that is what I had witnessed. Ah well, I said to myself, perhaps I will delay that sausage and start making notes on the light. But as I turned again, and stepped again into Buckinghamshire, that damnable flock of birds swooped in front of the sun again, and stayed hovering there, blotting out all light.

Was I being taunted by birds? There was a simple way to find out. I took a step back, into Berkshire – the birds flew away. I stepped forward, into Buckinghamshire – again, the flock swooped in front of the sun and plunged the world into darkness. I essayed this little pantomime several more times, like a fool, and always with the same result. I retreated to the bench in Berkshire and sat down and ate a sausage.

It was while I was eating the sausage that it occurred to me to make notes on the light in Buckinghamshire from my vantage point a few yards across the county boundary. Then I would not have the pesky birds to contend with. But in the time it took me to eat the rest of the sausage, I had second thoughts. A less pernickety person might have studied the light in Buckinghamshire while sitting a few yards outside the county in Berkshire, but I am pernickety. I have not studied the science of optics with any great diligence, or even at all, but one thing I know is that light, the thing, the phenomenon, is perceived by the eyes, and it is the act of perception, the stimulation of the optic nerves, that is the essence, as it were, of the light. Absent the eye, the light is futile, or indeed non-existent. By this reasoning, if I am in Berkshire then so is the light. I can only see light shining in Buckinghamshire if I am in Buckinghamshire.

But the birds of Buckinghamshire, or at least a gigantic flocksworth of them, were plainly determined to prevent me from seeing that light. Oh, vindictive birds! A poor scribbler sets out on a journey to record the fascinating subject of light shining in Buckinghamshire, and he is thwarted by unfeeling savages of the sky, conspiring against him. Now I had nothing whatsoever to write about. I put my pocketbook back in my pocket, tucked my propelling pencil away in another pocket, and ate another sausage, sitting on a bench in Berkshire where the light, I am sorry to say, was as dull as ditchwater.

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