Insomnia cured a little too effectively
I HAVE a problem. "Yes," I hear you cry,
"your face looks like a squashed pie." True,
but ’tis not that misfortune to which I allude.
My problem is this. Every night, for many years, I
have gone to bed.
too, eh? Well, a problem shared and all that.
I enjoy going to bed. I get the lights all cosy and
atmospheric about an hour beforehand, select an appropriate
work of light fiction or perchance a scholarly text
on Tolkien, and arrange my teddies in order of height
and smelliness upon the second or "guest"
of this is problematic. The problematics begin when
I turn off the light. For, to untrouble my aching
mind, I play tapes. Not hypnotic incantations or any
of that rot, but comedies like Fawlty Towers or Dad’s
Army or Blackadder or Victoria Wood or The Men From
The Ministry; or I listen to dramatised stories from
PG Wodehouse or Arthur Conan Doyle; or plays by Alan
all started many years ago when I couldn’t get
to sleep for a ringing in my ears. I forget the word
for this disease. Is it ringworm? Earring? No, hang
on, it’s tinnitus (from the Latin for "a
nit with tin ears").
has pretty much gone now - here’s a wee medical
secret: once you forget an illness, it often disappears
- but I found the practice also cleared any horrid
work or burd-related thoughts from the old noggin,
thereby leaving me free to claim my legitimate share
of blessed hibernation (from the Latin for "to
sleep and dream of Hibs").
doesn’t matter that I know every joke on the
tapes backwards. Indeed, it actually helps: I’m
entering a never-changing world of fun and humour
(well, Sherlock Holmes apart, but he makes me snuggle
up all safe).
look forward to the first punchline, but rarely hear
it because I go out like a light before it arrives.
very well. The problem is I’ve now started dozing
off at the pictures or at readings or any other event
where I’m a passive and comfortable recipient
the worst occasion, I dozed off the very second the
lights went down at the pictures. True, I was a bit
squiffy but, all the same, a pattern was emerging.
only solution is to stop listening to tapes at bedtime.
But this would be awful. I can’t just lie there
alone with my thoughts. The teddies wouldn’t
like it and would sit staring me out until I remedied
the situation. Perhaps if I didn’t take them
to the pictures or to lectures, that would help. I
could just tell them I was going for a walk or something.
bother me with your city experiences. I’ve just
been playing keepie-uppie in the garden, watched by
an appreciative seal in the sea.
started to cut my own hair. Oh yes. And at the second
attempt, I haven’t made too much of a botch
of things. The first time, my head ended up the shape
of a melon whereas, before, it had been a perfectly
remedy the situation, and draw attention away from
my napper, I hacked off bits of my beard to make a
goatee. The result was grotesque. Some neighbours
were distressed, and I think one complained to the
this time, by being moderate, I’ve made a half-decent
job of it, with my head now a somewhat ripe apricot
in both appearance and consistency. The trick is not
to keep hacking away, thinking it will endlessly improve
things. I remember this from my days as a garden-labourer.
If a foreman was foolish enough to say, "Hey,
you there, stop fondling your knees, and trim that
bush over there with these rusty shears", then
things often went agley, in the horticultural sense
of the word.
a fellow would start off lightly, taking an inch or
two off the right, then similarly off the left, though
a bit too much so another clip would be have to be
made on the right and then another on the left to
balance it up and so on until, half an hour later,
a naked and angry-looking twig would be all that remained.
in hairdressing, one must think of one’s head
as shrubbery, only with fewer insects. There’s
a problem, of course, when it comes to the back of
your bonce, but all you need do is keep running your
beard-trimmer over it until all resistance crumbles
and blood is drawn. Result? Better than anything ever
inflicted on my napper by professional hair-economists.
not be discomfited if people stare and snigger. They
probably don’t know the meaning of words such
as "style", "bald patch" and "strange
from The Scotsman 25/09/04
thanks Uncle Bertie.