Sometimes I don’t sleep very well. In fact, quite often I don’t. It may be age or hormones or stress. Who knows? Certainly not the medical profession.
I lie awake trying not to disturb Sigoth very much. Often I fail because one of the ways I can get back to sleep is snuggling up and listening to his breathing and heartbeat. Naturally this disturbs him and then we both lie awake for a while until he falls asleep again.
Sometimes I try and do some relaxation exercises. I breathe in. I breathe out. I bring my mind back to the breathing. It doesn’t often work.
Sometimes I go through the alphabet thinking of girls’ first names or boys’ first names, or fruit and vegetables, of films or TV programmes or books or authors. I am surprised at how successful that can be, even when I go through the same old list for the third time that week. I rarely have to do more than two or three alphabets in any one night, but if I get through the third I know a fourth will not help me.
After all that I listen to the night noises, straining to hear what is happening around me. The mouse clog-dancing in the loft; the dog in the village barking at some disturbance or dream; the sleepy grumble of a bird in the lilac tree annoyed by the barking; an owl hooting; perhaps a fox barking in the distance, disturbing the dog. A car or lorry might rattle past, on a mysterious errand at three in the morning. The wind whistles a bit around the chimney and argues with the trees, which shush at it like an elderly librarian. The house itself grunts and creaks as it fidgets and tries to reach an annoying itch. The clocks downstairs chime every half hour. Some nights I can hear the earth herself spin.
When even the everynight sounds do not lull me back to the land of Nod I have to get up and move about a bit to persuade my body that I really am tired and need to go to sleep. I might get a glass of water from downstairs. I might take painkillers if my shoulders are aching.
Sometimes I walk about the house, embarrassed at the constellations it contains. In almost every room there are small, glowing lights from electrical items left plugged in. I mean, I care about the earth and climate change and all, but it is so much easier to leave the television on stand-by. What can I say? I am Evil Personified. There are routers and hubs and the television and the hifi and laptops and mobile phones and radios and DVD players and games consoles, all sucking up the coal-by-wire or whatever it is nowadays, as if it was going out of fashion. In fact it probably is, and if you are reading this by clockwork computer and candlelight, I’m sorry I wasted your power. Then there are the street lights outside making the garden, front and back, blaze like Wembley Stadium.
A few years ago I would often walk out into the garden at night to look at the genuine constellations above. It made me feel better to see the Plough and the Pleiades, or Orion’s Belt, or whatever I could identify. If I am stardust, then those are my distant cousins.
But then some more houses were built behind our house and although we were promised low lighting levels, it turns out the council actually meant we didn’t need to use our own lights because they would provide a full service for us. When we get up at night we don’t have to put lights on. The streetlights outside provide sufficient for all our nocturnal needs. Do I sound a little curmudgeonly here? Yes? Good, I meant to.
This Blazing Glory notwithstanding, I went out into the garden a few nights ago. It was unseasonably mild for a March night, and I thought some fresh air would do me good. I stood on the grass and closed my eyes to listen, feeling like Mr Bear in “Peace at Last”. It was a quiet night, no real breeze and no real rustling. I am sure the small, anxious inhabitants of the night time garden were frozen to the spot as I lumbered about. The clouds meant the temperature was warm but the starview was non-existent. Certainly there were no hedgehogs rustling or cats wailing or birds cheeping or sun shining. Even the owls were on a break.
I sighed and went back inside, At least Sigoth wasn’t snoring.
What do you do on sleepless nights? Help me out – I need some suggestions!