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.