Sunday, 2 December 2007

The Hours

Two random things about me: I really feel the cold and I'm not an early riser. As the days get shorter, darker, colder I don more and more woolly layers fretting over the thermostat, and slip into lateness in the same way that weight watcher of the year slips back into obesity.

Because the rest of the western world operates on a day-time only basis, refusing to acknowledge that, actually, there are twenty four hours in the day, every now and then I attempt to take myself in hand and fit in. So I set my alarm and force myself to get up early. Early for me that is, early for other people is something I can rarely manage, and I can't understand how some people declare with shameful pride that they always rise at five or six or before seven as though they are peasant farmers. I set my alarm for eight o'clock and drag myself out of bed, still sleepy, at eight thirty, and hope the haze will lift so I can at least give the impression that I am taking part. I usually manage to operate in this fashion for a month or so.

But the nights call me: I work most easily at night when the rest of the world is asleep and quiet reigns. Even when I force myself to go to bed early - before midnight - I don't fall asleep until two or three or even four in the morning; this is the time when my mind is most active, when inspiration strikes and stories form, when solutions to problems present themselves, when things in general begin to fall into place. So after a little while of early rising I begin to feel not quite right. I become more and more tired, look paler and paler, my eyes puff up until looking at anything for any length of time becomes uncomfortable, painful even. Reading becomes a strain, inspiration dies on the page, but sleep refuses, still, to come. Thus I begin to slip back into my old ways: pressing the snooze button one extra time, two extra times until it seems prudent to set the alarm for a little later, then a little later still. Just like that weight watcher reasons that one bun can't hurt. And all of a sudden life begins to ease again. I find I no longer need the alarm: I'm setting it for so late that I can wake before it. And so I am back to my comfortable ways: I feel brighter, I look brighter, I can read until four in the morning without getting a headache, I can do good work again and get my ideas down on paper the minute they appear. But then the 'real' world (as my husband calls it) intrudes and I have to start the process all over again.
And today that has happened.

Yesterday our heating developed a rather odd tick. The radiators on the second floor were doing their job as usual but on the first floor where I live they had gone cold and refused to warm up again. So we called the plumber, a lovely man called Brian, and he said he could come over this morning at ten thirty. Husband and child are away doing something war-like with paint and so I had to get up to let Brian into the house. I set the alarm for nine, pressed the snooze button too many times and just managed to get out of the shower when he rang the doorbell twenty minutes early. I threw my dressing gown on and let him in. Slipped into the bathroom to get dressed as he made for the boiler room with his bag of tools. Then sat in the kitchen hugging a mug of tea as he occasionally flashed passed checking radiators, pipes, thermostats. And eventually attempted to appear like a fully functioning member of society as he confronted me with the news that he couldn't find anything wrong. The pump is working and so is the motorised valve, there is nothing to indicate why the radiators on this floor remain cold. Then he was gone.

He had to go off for another job but said he'd come back later. So now I am left in the cold with puffy eyes and a vague feeling of helpless resignation. I live in a cold climate with idiosyncratic heating, where people have to work ten hours a day to make ends meet, yet everything shuts at five. I'm seriously thinking of moving to Barcelona.


Carole said...

I have the exact opposite reaction but don't handle it as well as you. I can go to bed at midnight or later, but wake around 3am, sometimes 3:30. But since I don't want to wake up the house, I lay still, thinking all these thoughts, wishing I would get them down on paper, resenting John for being such a light sleeper and letting my best hours slip away from me. By 8 in the evening I am as dull as butter knife. The most productive thing I do is stare at TV and wish I was a night person.

Kim Ayres said...

I used to be a night person, then I was a morning person, and now I'm a for-one-hour- after-a-coffee-twice -a-day person.

Anyway, I have a solution to your problem - you need to move to Florida: warmer climate and 5 hours behind the UK, so would fit in perfectly with your natural sleep rhythms.

Mary Witzl said...

I sympathize. Our central heating isn't 100% either, and I have endless trouble making my schedule fit my family's.

Lately, I've been doing the same thing: staying up until the wee small hours, then sleeping only a little and having to drag myself out of bed way before I want to, to see my kids off to school. All told, I might get 5-6 hours of sleep.

When we were running our business, we had to get up as early as 6:00 and go to bed as late as midnight. The one thing I truly missed was lying in bed and thinking -- something I have always loved doing. Now, I almost over indulge.

Eryl Shields said...

Carole ~ Are you sure you'd wake the whole household if you got up? Give it a go I dare you... You could tiptoe to your writing room and quietly scribble away... I know, these things are easier said than done.

Kim ~ Crikey, you've tried it all!

Mary ~ You actually get up to see the girls off to school? Some mothers are so impressive, I stopped doing that the minute Bob could take himself when he was about 9 or 10. After that I might just manage to get up by the time he was due home... OK I wasn't quite that bad.

I love lying in bed and thinking too, best in the mornings though, I like to linger over waking: dozing, thinking, dozing, thinking, and could probably do it for hours. At night I like best to lie on the couch in my study with a notepad catching my thoughts before they evaporate

ORION said...

OMG how come I never knew about these blogs!! I came from Easy Writer...
I do so know what you mean. I love 4 am and seeing is slowly get light and writing like a fiend.
My only problem now is New York is 5 hours different and UK is 10 for me in Hawaii and when my editor's call it really messes up my routine LOL!
If I had my way I'd sleep from 11pm to 2 am then work from 2am untill noon - eat lunch then sleep until 6 pm...
I promise not to tell you the temperature here - that would be mean.

Eryl Shields said...

Orion ~ Hello, and thanks for coming all the way over from Hawaii, where the sun is evidently shining!

You'd work for ten hours flat out? That would be impressive. I tend to work in four to six hour spurts.

Now I must come over and see you.

ORION said...

My book LOTTERY will be out in the UK (Heineman /Random House) the first week in January 2008- in less than a month! It's on the Waterstones site and The Bookseller did a nifty interview with me-
It would be highly cool if you could snap a photo of my book in a bookstore there!!! And of course extraordinarily cool if you picked it up and read it!
Well re: ten hours flat...um...I procrastinate a lot - does that count?

PI said...

I can''t help wondering if the boiler man thought he'd got lucky when he saw you in your dressing gown. Maybe he lost interest when you were fully clothed?

Eryl Shields said...

Orion ~ I will do both, take a snap of your book on the shelves of the bookstore and buy a copy and read it. And what is more I will boast to everyone I know that I (virtually) know the author!

Pat ~ You have such a fertile mind!