‘For some the night is always darker –
for them the skies of dawn are bluer too.’
I came across this quotation, scribbled
on the back of a business card, when sorting through some paperwork at the
weekend. I first read it many moons ago
whilst researching for my PhD. It is
from a short story called ‘Whistle in the Dark’ by Gabriel Dundas, which appeared
in Woman magazine on 26th
January 1963. I have only a vague
recollection of the plot. According to
my notes, it is set on a farm. Kay is
the younger sister and is back from college for the summer. All her friends are doing a drama course, live
in a warehouse and talk about the fringe festival at Edinburgh. Kay wears make-up and high heels when
visiting the farm assistant, a young man who has been to college and is looking
for his own farm. She realizes that she
Pretty standard women’s magazine
fiction. I didn’t end up writing about
this story in particular, but could have done a nice little summary of what its
themes and motifs meant in the context of the time. However historical analysis wouldn’t have
communicated what struck me about this story when I stumbled upon it in the archive.
What made the story stand out – what made
me write the opening line on a business card and tuck it away in my personal
possessions – is what Kay’s father tells her later on in proceedings. He says, ‘The sky is bluer for you, and the
dark blacker. You live harder and you love harder…. But you’ve got to learn,
Kay, to whistle in the dark.’
‘The sky is bluer for you, and the dark
blacker. You live harder and you love harder…. But you’ve got to learn, Kay, to
whistle in the dark.’
At the time of the story’s publication,
Woman was the best-selling magazine
in the UK, with a circulation of over three million copies per week (that doesn’t
begin to cover the secondary audience – all the daughters, sisters, husbands,
friends etc. that would look at a single copy).
How many of those millions of readers also read those words from Kay’s
father? Did they touch any of them in
the way that they did me? Do they speak
to you at all?
The words may be as clichéd and
formulaic as the rest of the story, but something about them resonated deeply with
me during what was a difficult time in my life.
I’d long felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with me: that
I felt things (good and bad) more strongly than other people; I struggled to
live with highs and lows; everything was too much – I was too much. To suddenly find acknowledgement that other
people (even if fictional) were like that was a balm to my soul. I was not alone! Others too felt the extra intensity, the
bluer and the blacker. What relief!
Years later, I still use Kay’s father’s
words as a framework for understanding how I perceive the world. I’ve learnt to accept that for me (but not
necessarily others in my life) the sky is bluer and the dark blacker. I live harder and love harder, with both the
joys and pains that this brings. And I’m
slowly learning to whistle in the dark.
Tell me, what lines from fiction have
guided you? What’s spoken to your
soul? Have any quotations become
mantra-like in your mind? Alas the comment
function here still isn’t working but posted below are ways to join the
conversation on social media.
I hope the sky is bluer for you today.