I was at primary school when I read John Christopher’s brilliant sci-fi novel The White Mountains and it terrified me. This was around the time I’d first heard Orson Welles’s The War Of The Worlds broadcast, and a good few years after I’d had my first nightmare about a Dalek invasion of my village, so reading about the alien Tripods’ takeover of earth had quite an effect on me.
Being a youngster of fertile imagination, and desperate to believe in anything supernatural or extraterrestrial, I was awe-struck by the Tripods’ scale and power. When you’re the sort of child who grows up seeing a Dalek every time you happen across a council-issued dustbin, a lot of stuff nestles in your subconscious, only to leap out at you in your dreams later. The Tripods never quite left me but it was only recently that I realised this.
On a trip home to my family seat on the Ayrshire coast, after an absence of a couple of years, I caught my first glimpse of our new Monopod masters. Huge windmills were peeking over the tops of the hills and I was awe-struck all over again.
Futuristic giants now dominated the rolling, green landscape; anachronistic technology now rooted in ancient hills, their sails moving in eerie unison with a common, almost silent purpose. It was like a benign invasion, humans and alien monsters co-existing in an uneasy pact, keeping out of each other’s way, for now – but we’ll always have a wary eye on their movements. Did they actually move? They may look like they’re standing but how can we be sure they haven’t inched forward, however minutely?
Wind farms do frighten people, in a more tangible way, there’s little doubt about that. Here in Ireland, concerns about new locations range from unspecified health fears, via turbine noise and property prices, to worries about literally living in the shadow of these cyclopean beings. They are the great unknown, an aspect of modern reality that doesn’t sit comfortably in conservative, peat-burning rural areas. Without realising it, many would appear naively happier to have their electricity imported from out-of-sight British nuclear power stations that to generate their own via these monstrous windmills.
But having seen the hilltops I used to look out on as a child now galvanized by their immense wingspan, I remain utterly, devotedly dazzled by them. And all the more because my inner child is still cowering under the bedsheets, in case the Monopods tire of their stationary vigil and uniformly hop into a nocturnal attack.