“The normal person sleeps for about eight hours a night” - A whole bunch of scientists
THE normal person, as you all know, was invented on a rainy Tuesday afternoon while the scientists were waiting to see what happens when you empty a packet of quarks into a bowl of fission.
I can’t sleep with the window closed. V. can’t sleep with a draught. I cough and blow my nose and ingurgitate medicines and nasal spray for three to four hours before actually lying down. V. categorically does not snore. She does however, produce a noise through her nose that sounds like a very powerful lawn mower chasing a brace of wild geese through a tin vaulted hall with popcorn carpeting.
In her defence, I will say that I steal the duvet as though my life depended upon it being a crushed ball that I can clasp to my chest, and I jigger and jolt as though as being simultaneously attacked by bats and electrocuted. She tends to favour dramatic sleep positions, such as the diagonal crucifix or centre stage starfish.
You might think all of this could create problems but we are mature human beings, capable of compromise. Now neither of us get any sleep.
ME: “I can’t sleep”. V: “Zzzzzzzz”. ME: “I can’t sleep because my mind is too busy.
You know, I mean I worry I will forget how to breath. What if my body just forgets? Or the roof caves in? That’s possible. Or spontaneous combustion? I read about this family in Argentina. They were all sitting on the porch eating ice cream and whompff… six pairs of sandals in a circle around six choc ices. Are there any nylon fibres in this duvet? You could be dangerous you know. You give off a lot of static. When you get angry I can see little torgues of fire flit round your knees.
And if you can’t sleep, you don’t want anyone else around you to sleep. Which is why you wake the person next to you and say things like: "Why don’t we go to Crete and raise glow worms - there is not a lot of money in it but we would have enough to get by.” And at that time of night, these “ideas” make more sense than anything you have thought of before.
V: “Go to sleep.” ME: “O.K. Zzzzzzzzzzz.”
V: “I can’t sleep now. You know how you get cherry tomatoes and plum tomatoes and beef tomatoes - what is it with tomatoes - why doesn’t it work with, say, carrots and if tomatoes are fruit how come you never get tomato yoghurt? Did you know that the stomach can hold 21 pints of material? I’m only thinking about this kind of crap because you woke me up. Sometimes when I am sleeping I think I am a bird. Or a flower. Or a flower that flies. Wake up. Am I a flower?”
ME: “Mnah-Mnah … Yes.” V: “That flies?” ME: “Yes, of course that flies! What else would be the point?! And I’m a pint of moonlight and a burlap sack.”
DREAMS can wake you as well. The thing about dreams, as the psychoanalysts have been telling us for years, is that anything that we repress rises to the surface in our nocturnal imaginings. There is a rigid system of symbolism which never lies. Hence if you have a recurring dream about spanners, it means you are sexually attracted to spanners. And if you have a recurring dream about sex this also means you are sexually attracted to spanners.
The mood created by dreams naturally filters into the wakened consciousness. You may arise one morning feeling confident, full of joy and convinced that you are a truly worthwhile human being. This, you tell yourself, is a result of the resolution of a personal crisis. But really, it is due to the thousands of little men made out of bent cutlery and olives who have been hard at work all night blowing raspberries into a wardrobe full of your boss’s neckties.
Anything can trigger off insomnia. Your brain gets exhausted but the mind is full of goodies. I once woke up a friend of mine who was happily ensconced on the couch by roaring “We can’t use the typewriter because Sherlock Holmes has it inside the whale!” And while this may have been a salient point, Thomas explained to me that he would have preferred to discuss it later.
On a number of occasions I have gone so far as to get out of bed to jot down the essence of a wonderful joke/novel/light opera only to find next morning in bold letters a single word scrawled across the paper, usually something less than earth-shattering such as “yoghurt” or “beekeeper”.
This kind of promissory note; does not always convince producers and the like of a surefire hit.
If you wake up tired, you can, lose a lot of time at work, although this suits some people very well. Stockbrokers, for instance, do" their best business on sleep deprivation.
BROKER/1: We might net fidicicory margin on the incoming maturity if we sell now … then do we sell? BROKER/2: No, let’s gild the shark and wait for the tartlets to crumble. BROKER/3: … Assuming the corsage underwriting steeples a whuoflink. BROKER/1: Right.
That’s why nobody really understands business, you have to be the kind of person who is kept awake by fluctations in the yen to speak this level of gibberish.
The rest of us just get ratty with tiredness. A lot of our morning conversations have sounded like this.
ME: “Where is the xxxxing thing?!” V: “How the xxxxing Hell should I know. Do you think I am a xxxxing calculator?!” ME: “xxx? Alright. I just xxxing asked. I’ll xxxing get it.” V: “xxx! xxx; xx xxxxx?” ME: “xxx!! xxxx!! xxxing over Mexico.”
If you are having trouble yourself drifting off, I want you to close your eyes and imagine a beautiful garden, all round you rambling tufts of grass and lavender bushes undulating in the breeze. A bird flaps its languorous flight to nowhere in particular, the air is heavy with the scent of evening flora. Then, in the roseate distance, shimmering between the poplars, you can just discern several thousand tractors heading your way.