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COLUMNISTS published 12.02am


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.

You too, eh? Well, a problem shared and all that.

But 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" pillow.

None 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 Bennett.

It 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").

It 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").

It 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).

I look forward to the first punchline, but rarely hear it because I go out like a light before it arrives.

All 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 of entertainment.

On 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.

The 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.

DON’T bother me with your city experiences. I’ve just been playing keepie-uppie in the garden, watched by an appreciative seal in the sea.

I’VE 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 normal whortleberry.

To 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 social work.

But 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.

For 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.

So, 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.

Do not be discomfited if people stare and snigger. They probably don’t know the meaning of words such as "style", "bald patch" and "strange tuft".

from The Scotsman 25/09/04

thanks Uncle Bertie.

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