The streetlighting engineer walked up and down outside my house trying to work out who was right: me, or my neighbour, the vegan.
On the one hand, I was claiming this LED light was lighting nothing of importance on a deserted village green at night while shining through my bedroom window driving me insane, and therefore should be fitted with a shield. On the other hand, my neighbour the vegan was claiming that if the bright white bulb was slightly dimmed on one side, women would be attacked, old people would trip over bins and it would be ‘scary’ to encounter fairground people and travellers in the dark when they occasionally stay on the green.
Why scary? Come on, you committed left-winger with your agenda to promote equality and save the planet, why would it be scary for you to encounter a gypsy in the dark? Spell it out. Don’t just tease us with half an idea that sounds like small-minded prejudice.
This lady, who is married to a Surrey county councillor who styles himself as ‘independent’ but was once a Lib Dem, went on like this for three pages in an email she sent to, er, Surrey County Council. Did her surname help? Did her husband, the councillor, throw his weight about to get the shield taken out of the lamp? I’ve fired off a Freedom of Information request to see.
In the meantime, the council contractors are at a loss to know what to do. Having fitted a shield to help me, then having been forced to remove it by a letter from someone desperate for a Mars Bar blaming them in advance for potential murder and mayhem, they stuck a thin strip of gaffer tape around the top of one side of the glass casing.
For heaven’s sake, I told them. I demanded a site visit and a weary-looking man came after dark to examine where the streetlamp was throwing its light.
He walked up and down the footpath with a light meter because the vegan LED enthusiast has argued that this one streetlight is needed to light a small path that is not very near to it.
It doesn’t light the path. I’ve told them that. It doesn’t light much except my house. It shines on part of the green but can’t light 65 acres of common land. It does slightly illuminate an unmade track nine of us drive to our houses on, which is fair enough.
The man walked up and down with his gadget measuring, and then he knocked on my door and offered to take off his shoes as he came in. ‘Don’t worry. Look at the state of the place,’ I said, as the builder boyfriend tripped over horse rugs flung on the floor while taking the mud-covered spaniels off to the kitchen.
‘The thing is,’ the contractor said, ‘that streetlight isn’t lighting the path at all. The path’s in complete darkness.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘It is.’ We talked for 20 minutes but the only conclusion we could come to was that this blasted LED bulb’s main function is to eradicate the stars, confuse the wildlife and shine into my house.
He went upstairs and took a meter reading in the bedroom. ‘It’s within the legal limit,’ he said, looking at his lightometer.
‘Yes but there’s a strip of gaffer around the top,’ I pointed out. ‘If you take that off the thing is blinding. I guess I could live with it how it is, with the gaffer.’ I said, my eyes pleading with him.
‘The gaffer can’t stay,’ said the engineer, ‘It’s only temporary until we find a permanent solution that’s acceptable to everybody.’
‘And how can that be?’ I asked. ‘We’re designing a shield,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry, I’m confused. You fitted a shield and it worked brilliantly but you took it out when she…’ and I nodded towards Vegan Towers, ‘demanded the shield come out.’
‘Yes, we’re having to design a special shield.’ ‘A special shield?’ ‘Yes, we’re designing a shield that will please both parties.’
I wanted to say: ‘You can’t please vegans! They’re lacking essential endorphins released by the mastication of meat! They’re hollow with hunger and wild-eyed with the desperation of longing for a piece of cheese! They can’t even warm themselves with a nice woolly jumper! How pleased would you be in that situation?’
But I said: ‘I’m not sure how you can get a more pleasing shield than one that doesn’t let light out of the side that shines into my bedroom, but does let light out of the side lighting the track people drive on.’
‘I’m not sure either,’ he said.
Maybe it will be a shield that only covers a half of a half of the lamp. Maybe it will be a shield made from seaweed and hemp.