Sometimes I wake up and I rue the ragged day that I came into this world unable to sleep. My mother always tells me I was a long, thin baby; perhaps it’s something to do with that, although I’m certainly not long and thin now. The fact remains that I can be dog-tired and still wake up at some ungodly hour, snagged in the path of sleep by some overhead thorn of a thought which hook-and-lines me into consciousness, dragging my mind from the inky depths of a dream to resurface, blinking horribly, in the cold, confusing light of the wee hours. This is a great inconvenience. Darkness has knitted itself more tightly than ever, it seems, around the winter days this year, barely allowing for four hours of daylight (if you can even attribute this term to the writhing grey mass of sky) once I have hauled myself out of bed after yet another restless night. These seemingly shorter days parallel with the unfortunate illusion of a shortening life, one in which I must race the sun back from the Strand and try to get some vit D, must rush to get a photo of my favourite view from Waterloo Bridge (er, Gherkin-facing of course) where you can see the Shard, a reverse lightning bolt, thrusting into the heavens swirling like vultures around the great Tower of Babel before it’s claimed by the swell of darkness and the flash isn’t good enough and I must try to do at least one productive thing per day because otherwise it all becomes an endless dark stream of nuit (more languid than its English equivalent) and I must I must I must, I realise that I am fast turning into an owl, or else just a crazy person. Darkness has an insatiable hunger and this translates to my stomach – thus, I eat as though preparing for hibernation; pathetic fallacy at its best. But I am not here to complain about the weather, lest I fall into the British stereotype. There are far more interesting things to talk about.
For despite the horrors it causes to my body clock, I am convinced of the value of this owlish existence. Never did I realise the disturbing ease with which a pair of foxes could gambol and prowl through Bloomsbury Square Gardens, slinking across the grass where toddlers play on Sunday mornings. I shudder to think they tread the same ground. It has happened on too many occasions that we have been smoking some black mamba, talking about life and laughter, when I open the window to keep the alarm from going off only to be confronted with the slinking slinky sneaky saunter of Russell Square’s favourite pets. I now shriek whenever I see them and have developed some kind of mortal fear of the wily creatures (possibly substance-related). I just can’t stand to think of what they do all day. Where do they hide? If they are here, clear as day, in the middle of the night, then they must have some creepy hole in which to lie in wait for the Garden gates to be locked come 9pm. I don’t like the idea that when I am casually strolling through on my shortcut to Waitrose, there is a little gang of foxes curled two feet beneath me. It’s like that 6-foot-rat rule, but with something much bigger and scarier. But despite my aversion, we do have something in common, the foxes and I. Probably they sleep most of the day too. We are both creatures of the night, beasts of the Cimmerian shade, and I reckon it can’t do any harm to stop suffering for it and start conquering. I will now embrace the restlessness of my mind, and take it as a good sign.
I find that my brain works very well when I wake up in the middle of the night. It’s like some kind of spark is ignited and it lights up this network of neurons which link up and lead on to more sparks, a little microcosmic constellation of ideas in my mind’s eye. Inspiration strikes without forethought. But I guess eventually the natural order of things kicks in, my body suddenly realises that it’s 5am, and then my brain conks out.
It’s okay, though. After all, writing tires me out.