Musings from a sleepless night
Posted on 7 May 2009 | 7:05am
If you read The Blair Years, you will know that I get the occasional night of insomnia. This is the end of one.
Fiona always says, when I nudge her awake to say I haven’t slept, ‘you’ve slept more than you think.’ To which I always say ‘how do you know, you’ve been asleep?’
She may be right. I have a friend who is genuinely, seriously insomniac, which sounds like hell.
But I was definitely awake at 2, 3 and 4 o’clock, because I was checking the time. There is no obvious set of circumstances for a sleepless night, but mine usually come before a busy, logistically challenging day which require me to get up early to the sound of the alarm. Indeed, amid the thoughts that crept into my mind somewhere between 2 and 3 – I wonder what the impact of the mobile phone has been on the alarm clock industry? Not good, I would think. Does anyone actually have an alarm clock any more, other than for ornamental or sentimental reasons, when a mobile will do?
That got me thinking about a speech I am doing tomorrow about crisis management and I’m suddenly wondering whether to weave in the demise of the alarm clock. Oh dear.
I must have dozed off between 3 and 4 for a while because I had a dream, one I am familiar with, in which I am trapped in a room with four other people, and none of us can speak each other’s language. But it didn’t last as long as it usually does, and then it was back to non sleeping.
The worst bit – I think I said this in the diaries – is when you’re at that point where you think less about how tired you are than how tired you are going to be, and how things are bound to go wrong. But then a kind of deja vu kicks in, which says ok, you’re not sleeping, and you’d rather you were and you know you’re going to drink too much coffee in the morning, and get a bit wired at points, but actually the day will go fine and tomorrow you’ll sleep ok.
As for the various things that came into my mind, they were a mix of personal/family, political, professional. I remember Gail Rebuck once asking her husband Philip Gould and me whether we had ever had a conversation which did not mention TB and GB and their relationship? The answer was almost certainly no, and the same goes for mind conversations on sleepless nights.
But amid thoughts about eonomic crisis, war, terrorism, environmental catastrophe – I think I managed to keep swine flu at bay – come others, often logistical, much more banal. Did I take too many shirts on holiday last summer? How many did I take? If we go to the Tour de France this year, shall we just go to Mont Ventoux or maybe do one of the other stages? How am I going to get to Burnley on Saturday – I think it is the first 5.20 kick off we have ever had? Historic day indeed. Then I wonder how Darren Fletcher and Abidal are feeling – the Barcelona man having also been injustly red carded last night? How are the Chelsea players feeling? Is the ref sleeping badly? Do the players really think he was under pressure from UEFA to avoid an all-English final? That is quite a thing to say.
Then I knew I was in real trouble when my next novel crept in. I have done a third draft but had been planning to park it for a while, come back to what I hope will be a final draft in a few weeks time. But it was hopeless. There is a key scene towards the end which has been bugging me for a while, and I started to rewrite it in my head. Then I actually started to get a couple of decent thoughts which I thought were worth noting down. I couldn’t turn the light on for fear of waking Fiona so I switched my alarm clock/mobile to mute, then sent myself a couple of messages. But then I knew I needed to flesh the ideas out so I got up, went to my computer and wrote for a while. Not great, but better than what went before.
Now I am at Heathrow Airport. It must have been the early flight that triggered the whole thing. It often is. I’m off to Portugal, speech tomorrow, and today a stack of interviews to promote Os Anos Blair. It sounds like a vaguely obscene medical condition, but is in fact the title of my diaries, recently published in Portugese. That was one of the other random thoughts last night – famous Portugese people. I never do the Belgian thing, because Jacques Brel is such a legend.
I wonder what proportion of Brits would name Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of all others. It’d be high. And to think none of us had ever heard of him in the era when we all had alarm clocks. Perhaps I’ll sleep on the plane.