Emer McLysaght: Will you turn off the Big Light there?

It’s a necessary foe and autumn means it’s the big fella on the ceiling’s time to shine

There are people who favour or at least tolerate a Big Light, I’m sure there are. Photograph: iStock

There are people who favour or at least tolerate a Big Light, I’m sure there are. Photograph: iStock

 

Autumn is truly here. The monkey nuts and selection boxes are in the shops, the kids are outdoing themselves on the number of times per day they can change their minds about what intricate Halloween costumes they want and, most crucially, we have entered peak Big Light season. 

Nobody likes the Big Light. It’s such an integral fixture in many homes and yet when I asked friends for their feelings on it the answers were emotive and immediate: “A war crime”, “horrific”, “like a punishment”, “aggressive”.

The Big Light is the centrepiece of many a living room, lounge, sitting room or front room or indeed any place where people may gather to relax, watch television, scroll for four hours on their phone or all of the above simultaneously.

We’ve been brought up on a mantra of “turn off the Big Light there” as soon as everyone is settled into their spot and has done all the jobs that require such barefaced 60w overhead illumination – finding the remote, adjusting the pouffe, balancing the beverage. Nobody wants to bask in it for any longer than necessary and if they do it’s almost certainly a fetish.

The trouble with the changing of the seasons is that it heralds the time of year when the Big Light comes on earlier and stays on longer. Sure, we’re all about pumpkin spice lattes and cosy winter coats but when it gets so dark outside that the Big Light has to go on before the dinner is there really anything to celebrate? Is it really worth an autumnal door wreath if you’re reaching for the dreaded switch at 4pm, plunging you into a state replicated only by being hunted by the searchlight on the Garda helicopter?

There are times when sustained used of the Big Light is acceptable, necessary even. Ironing, sewing, populating a clothes horse, hoovering, bleeding a radiator, searching for a dropped earring or cufflink, interrogating a witness – all standard Big Light operations. For anything else, it’s literally the lamps’ time to shine.

For a long time, the option for many was a choice between the big man on the ceiling or the one standard lamp with the fringed shade that cast ominous shadows across the three-seater couch. Now though you can light a whole room with just lamps, creating ambience and comfort and zoning areas for reading and scrolling and binge watching the latest Woman Gets Brutally Murdered Or At Least Gaslit And Emotionally Abused show on Netflix.

The dimmer switch actually did wonders for the Big Light’s PR at the height of the device’s popularity. However, even in its dimmed state the Big Light’s menace is always there

In fact, the Big Light’s only purpose in these rooms is to illuminate the way to the switches for the favourite children, aka the lamps. There are even fancy homes with lighting designs that have eliminated the need for the big fella completely. Why blind yourself with wattage when you can invest in some tastefully dispersed recessed dimmers or a system of lamps linked to one main switch? You work hard for your money after all.

The dimmer switch actually did wonders for the Big Light’s PR at the height of the device’s popularity. Here was a little wheel that could go from ironing to dozing with the flick of a finger. Problem solved! However, I always feel like even in its dimmed state the Big Light’s menace is always there hovering (and maybe even humming slightly depending on the aggressiveness of the bulb and the quality of the dimmer switch installation). 

In all this hate chat about the Big Light there is one space where an argument could be made for keeping or reintroducing the centre ceiling focal point: modern hotel bedrooms are largely a hellscape of dimmed mood lighting and baffling switches and are places where exploration of the unknown could really benefit from proper illumination. How else are you expected to unpack, get ready and most importantly investigate every single drawer and press for secret goodies or a mini bar they failed to mention at check in?

Even when there is a Big Light in a hotel room the switch for it will be impossible to find unless it’s 4am and you’re trying to take a subtle trip to the bathroom. The first thing your fingers will touch will cause the room to be lit up like a nightclub at closing time. Are you right there now folks please? 

There are people who favour or at least tolerate a Big Light, I’m sure there are. Apart from the aforementioned fetishists there are those whose eyesight demands peak brightness and of course there are those doomed to the lighting solutions in rented accommodation. Beloved Gogglebox cast members seem contractually obliged to have every light in the place on, presumably for practical production reasons. It’s hard to see the poor lambs trying to watch their tellies in peace while their retinas burn.

We can all sympathise as we wander the house during our 4pm dusk, switching on Big Lights in every room and longing for the post-dinner permission to revert to the lamps and civilised life.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.