A few nights ago, I had the devil’s own job getting asleep. It happens now and again, usually in the small hours of the morning between two and four, so perhaps I should qualify that by saying ‘getting back to sleep’. No problem getting there. Returning is the problem. And I’m desperate to return, if only for the dreams.
Last night I dreamt of the Tennessee Cheese Wars. My wife, usually less trusting, asked me whether there ever was such a thing. No, I said. I’m fairly sure that there hasn’t. Then again, who knows in the future? Was it prophecy? This world is getting crazier by the minute, and I might well head a flotilla of Tennesseans, furiously paddling canoes burdened with Edam and Camembert pursued by lactose starved, tomahawk waving Indians.
But those nights I can’t return to my dreams . . . I just lie there an hour or more, switching from one side to another, checking the clock, and uttering that age-old prayer: ‘Why me Lord?’
I want to go asleep, and the process is akin to a slow moving football match. . . the goal is in sight but I’m shadowed by a tenacious defender. However I weave and twist and turn, it’s always there, soft and black and blocking my route.
The worst bit of all is being on the verge, and in my experience there are two kinds of verge: the ‘cliff edge’ verge when you feel you’re so near the edge… you just have to roll off…and then some invisible but bloody-minded membrane bounces you back, and you open your eyes—shut them again quickly to find the cliff edge has vanished.
The other verge is what I term the ‘hammock.’ As the name suggests, you’re lying there comfortably warm when the bottom slips away taking you with it. That’s my favourite, the one I normally go to sleep by—but rarely at 2.39 in the morning.
On this particular night, seeking verge after verge, I finally got up 4.49 in the morning. It was fairly pleasant at first—a warm fire, hot tea and a third rate Stephen King book ‘Bag of Bones’. By ten in the morning I was a wreck and went for a bath.
That was weird in itself. I never have baths—well at least rarely—but there I was, lying in hot water and wondering what I was doing there. On the floor, I noticed a supermarket magazine – the Waitrose Weekend. Well, it had to be better than sitting in hot water staring at tiles. On balance, it was. I read Mariella Frostrup’s take on the menopause, Fi Glover’s opinion – I’ve forgotten on what, and learn’t many interesting recipes: sausage rings soaked in cider, stuffed with chopped apple and pine nuts, the best way to cook salsify, a recipe for Larb noodles with passion fruit chilli dressing, another for Hoisin Tofu and rice burritos. I was on the verge – the cliff edge one—but the water was cold and I got up.
I’ve kept the magazine for the next time I’m awake at 3.25.