Thursday 4 September 2014

The Joy of Sleep

I slept here in AD 2014.
Yesterday I was feeling under the weather, so I didn't go any farther that the Aldi at the far end of the Historical Wall.  I didn't go to the Missa Cantata to celebrate the Feast of Saint Pius X, who remains a beloved saint among FSSP types for obvious reasons. And I didn't go to a dinner party held afterwards in an end terrace*** near the Zoo. I wasn't feeling up to the hour long trip to Mass, so you can bet I wasn't up to a dinner party, especially one which all the other guests would be male, mostly ex-Pixies and very reluctant to go home after eating.

My afternoon was wretched, but I felt better by the evening and could do all sorts of thing I could not have done if B.A. were at home. For example, I could skip a proper dinner and just nibble some cheese and biscuits. And instead of watching television right away, I could have another session of memorizing Polish vocabulary. I could decide not to watch The Great British Bake-off and watch my beloved Lewis instead. I could memorize Polish vocabulary during Lewis, which, had he been there, would have driven B.A. nuts.

But even better than these solitary privileges was being able to go to bed at 11, which I would not have have been able to do had I gone to the dinner party.

I don't want to give the impression that the dinner party would have been a drag. For one thing, the host is an excellent cook and had I been feeling more foodish, I would have avidly looked forward  all day to sampling his latest menu. Alban says it included French onion soup, boeuf bourguignon and tiramisú, with homemade parmesan crackers to go with the soup and a very good brie before the tiramisú. Nom nom nom.

But there is one thing I love even more than delicious, well-cooked food, and it is sleep. You young things out there (she shakes her finger) probably take sleep for granted and possibly even intentionally go without it, for reasons of work, play or study. You may even go to bed at 2 AM and wake up at 10 AM on Saturday morning feeling as fresh as a daisy on an April day.Every night you climb into bed trustingly, believing that sleep will come when you call. Well, ha, I say. Ha!

First of all, men snore. I read somewhere that men snore less when they are young, so you could marry a non-snorer, only for him to become a champion snorer later. I am told that women snore, too, but my pyjama party friends never did. My cat--male--did, but not as loudly as B.A.  But that is one of those things we simply cannot blame men for, for they really can't help it.

Second, all kinds of weird things start happening to you in your mid-to-late thirties, and sleep deprivation is one of them. (Naturally, sleep deprivation is also a problem for parents of babies, too.)

Third, late meals and alcohol can lead to insomnia.

Fourth, sleep is problematic for people with seratonin issues, like me. Usually I have to wake up by 7 AM, or I drag myself around like an Ikea bag of bricks in mourning.

The alien spaceship was, however, alarming.
When I was last in Poland, one of my greatest experiences there was falling asleep and waking up in a very comfortable bed in a very pretty room in a 19th century palace. The bathroom had a very scary bath-shower arrangement that looked like an alien spaceship (with an alien instruction manual to go with it), but that bed was heaven. I woke up as if I were twelve years old and all my dreams had come true. I had slept more deeply than I had slept in years. If I am ever there again, I will hunt for the mattress label, so as to order the same one for home.

There are all kinds of tips to make it easier to get a refreshing sleep. Here are my favourites:

1. Have fresh bedding as often as you can; change the sheets and pillowcases at least once a week.
2. The bedroom should be dusted, vacuumed and tidy, too. Air it for at least an hour a day.
3. Don't use the bedroom for anything except bed. Reading before bed is okay as long as your reading material isn't too exciting.
4. Eat an early dinner and don't drink alcohol after 8 PM.
5. Never take naps.
6. Don't let light sneak into your bedroom.
7. Don't drink caffeine after 5 PM unless (A) you have a night school class or (B) you are at a dinner party, and if you don't get some coffee, you will fall asleep with your head on the table.

I frequently fall asleep with my head on the table although only at trad Catholic dinner parties.*So far I have not seen photographs of my unfortunate tendency, but I am sure they must exist. There is one home in which I almost always fall asleep on the table, which is embarrassing. It may be the host's generous use of cream. On the other hand, it may be the candlelit gloom. It is certainly not the softness of the chair. At any rate, sometime around nine-thirty or ten--clunk!

You would think that at this stage of the evening someone would call me a cab but no. For Benedict Ambrose is a night owl. The entire Men's Schola is composed of night owls. I would not be surprised if every man in Edinburgh is a night owl, for--lo!--they drink, eat, drink, play the piano, drink, drink and sing late into the night. Last night B.A. and Alban got home around three. Three.

"I was glad to find you here," said B.A this morning, which was very sweet although I think he would have been rather surprised if he hadn't. The only affordable direct flight to Toronto is on Thursday morning; running away on a Wednesday night is not an option.

He got up at nine-thirty, whereas I was up at six-thirty, checking my email and making coffee and settling in for an hour of Polish study. The poor man will be a rag by ten--but, on the other hand, so will I be. All the better excuse to go to bed early.

*At other Edinburgh dinner parties, I keep a stiff upper lip and a stiffer back and manage not to nod off until I am on a proper sofa, at which point all the women around wail sympathetically and tell B.A. to take me home.

Italian Qualification: Naturally these are tips for Scotland. In Italy the best thing to do, if you can, is to get up early, drink espresso, do morning things, eat a huge lunch at 1 PM, nap, go for a brisk walk,  do afternoon things, and have a late, but light, supper, going to bed soon afterwards.  Italians drink less than Scots. You wouldn't think so, as Italy produces wine, but it is true. It is too hot in Italy to drink that much alcohol, and there drunkenness is frowned upon, not the state of the nation after 8 PM.

Update: Now the real story comes out: they didn't get home until three-forty.  And the pensioner they were with was furious to discover that his free bus pass didn't entitle him to the Night Bus. (Possibly the state thinks pensioners ought not to be running around free at Night Bus hours.) So he had to shell out three whole pounds.

***Update 2 (Friday): In my barbaric colonial savagery, I misidentified"three storey townhouse"  as an end terrace. Apparently this was a gross social solecism. Apologies to the owner of the three storey townhouse and BOO to Dame Edna Everage who in her Farewell Tour gave me the distinct impression that the expression "an end terrace" was tremendously posh.


  1. How can B.A. stay out till 3.40am and get up for work the next day? I'm impressed. There is NO WAY I could manage that!

  2. Neither could I. If I don't get seven hours of sleep now, I feel like throwing up all morning.

  3. Do you use duvets or blankets Seraphic? I am thinking of throwing out the duvets and going for good sheets and blankets as well as buying new goosefeather pillows and a much needed new bed. Also you mentioned a few posts back your "leftovers" cookbook, can you name it? I'm looking for a good one.

    all the best, Sinéad.

  4. "I drag myself around like an Ikea bag of bricks in mourning"?!!!


  5. I'm not a great sleeper, but I've found that having the bedroom quite cool helps, as does white noise. I often run a fan at night. I too have very fond memories of really, really good nights of sleep. Unfortunately, like your Polish castle, they're not easily replicable; one was a fold-out sofa bed in a cabin in the woods (it was cold and absolutely quiet, and I slept for fourteen hours) and one was on a memory-foam mattress (which I'll never be able to afford), in which I woke up in the exact same position I had fallen asleep ten hours later. Ahhh...

  6. Ahh, duvets are the worst-at least, in the laundry world! I was so happy when we got rid of ours in favor of blankets and sheets.

    And that's so true, Lauren! I can't sleep at all if the bedroom isn't cool enough.

  7. I love sleep. I used to take ages to fall asleep, and when I was first married I hardly slept at all. I just couldn't adjust to having a big old MAN in my bed, albeit one who doesn't snore. He does thrash around, hog the blankets, roll himself in a blanket burrito, and make odd swallowing sounds. After a few months I got used to it.

    But I was just ENRAGED by his inability to sleep past 8 am. As a result I now can't sleep past 8 am either. Most unfortunate. (Though generally I don't have the opportunity anymore. This morning the husband got up with the boys and the baby actually slept till after eight .... but I still couldn't go back to sleep, even though I was tired, and had to get up anyway. Blah.)

    Anyway, except for mornings, I can sleep now whenever I want. I rarely take more than ten minutes to fall asleep, and if you give me a pillow I will sleep almost anywhere. I am not sure if this is due to good practice, or I'm just so fatigued there is nothing that keeps me awake anymore other than willpower.

    The thought of this ability, which keeps me alive, abandoning me after 30 is very sobering.

  8. We use duvets, weep weep, just like I worried in "Seraphic Singles" the book. (I pointed out that a Single gal might marry a European and have to use duvets and THEN where will she be?) Duvets are a pain, especially when you have only a little washing machine because, although it is easy to wash the covers, it is not easy to wash the duvets themselves.

    Of course, duvets mean it takes no time at all to air or make up a bed and they can be as warm as a pile of blankets without being as heavy.

    Sleeping in a cabin in the woods sounds like soundproof heaven. The Historical House is far from the road, so the only noise that ever troubles our sleep is that of barking dogs early in the morning or a poor rabbit being slain by an owl. We can hear the occasional plotting owl from our bedroom, but not when we are asleep. Oh, there is the fire alarm going off accidentally.... That doesn't happen often, thank heavens.

    For me the best thing is to get up at 7 every morning without fail. That and clean cleans and a well-aired room.

    The book is by Clarissa Dickson Wright and it is called "Sunday Roast".


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