Melissa Kite

I demand my right to night

The blinding light through the bedroom window is back

I demand my right to night
[Photo: JamesBrey]
Text settings

The LED streetlamp outside my house was fitted with a ‘compromise’ shield acceptable to a vegan that looked as if it had been made on Blue Peter using sticky-back plastic, and that was bad enough.

But a few weeks later, we were sitting in our living room and the light from this streetlamp seemed almost back to full strength, despite the makeshift strip of black gaffer tape.

We had been forced to accept this most rubbish of solutions – which wasn’t a solution at all really, and which I’m sure totally breached our human rights if I wanted to be that sort of whinger – because our neighbour, the vegan, had the proper shield removed.

She claims she likes the LED bulb at full blast, although how can she? I will say, in her defence, vegans do love harsh light bulbs, especially in the countryside.

It’s something to do with them generally being suburban, left-leaning types who want to make rural areas more like the town. Also, vegans are famously lacking in the feelgood nutrients that make one happy, so they’re going to complain and be unreasonable.

But notwithstanding all that, and with all my sincerest sympathies to her for the diet she has to endure, it still makes more sense to me that what this lady really wants is a blinding light shining through my window because she and I do not see eye to eye on anything.

And as she is the one married to the Surrey county councillor who’s on the Highways committee (amused cough), it’s obviously more likely to be her way with the Highways than mine.

This blasted streetlamp has been torturing me for two years now. After it was first changed to LED during lockdown, I complained to the local authority.

I told them it was causing me sleeplessness, even with blackout curtains. It was so bright it got through even the tiniest gap. And I felt bad for the animals, too, on the 65 acres of common land outside, for there was no need for it down an unmade track.

We know about the right to light, but what about the right to dark? I want my right to night, I told the council.

It dragged on because they were working from home but eventually I threatened to throw myself out of the window through lack of sleep and they agreed to act.

They fitted a regulation shield – a translucent white inner plastic fitting covering the entirety of one side of the casing, the side facing our house. Some months later, however, I came home one day and the shield had been taken out. I dug around and discovered that the wife of the councillor had demanded it come out.

I found a written public rant by her about it in the annals of the parish website. The council fairly promptly capitulated to the wife of the councillor by coming and taking the shield out. And I then had to fight like hell to get them to reconsider.

After a huge row – countless emails – they fitted this compromise shield, which looks like a wad of black tape on a hard backing, covering only half of one side of the light casing.

I videoed it being fitted, and the video clearly shows the wife of the councillor chatting to the head contractor from the council as he explains to her what is being done.

This guy then came and knocked on my door and managed to persuade me to give it a go. I felt it might be a bit better than nothing, so I agreed.

But a few weeks later, the builder boyfriend said it looked as though it now covered only a few inches at the top of the casing, allowing more bright white light to shine in on us again. We got out the video of the thing being fitted, and we compared it to current photos. The compromise shield looked half the size. The edges were puckered. Shrivelled, it was, like a vegan without access to plant-based sausages.

Despairing, I pushed it to the back of my mind. But a few weeks ago, while turning myself inside out to close the blackout curtains without leaving the tiniest crack, I thought: ‘No!’

I emailed the council and said I thought the shield had slipped. They replied by bombarding me with an unreadable dirge about ‘photometric measurements’ and the Institution of Lighting Professionals guidance on obtrusive lighting.

A file attached consisted of 174 lines of figures in two columns, one headed ‘Time-stamp’ and the other ‘Lamp Level’, where each line is like this: 4/13/22 19:54 100. Or 4/13/22 22:00 50.

They think they’re being clever. But they’re not being clever. I told them I took my previous comment back. The shield hasn’t slipped. Of course it hasn’t.

People who asked about