Comedians by and large used to be terribly happy people. Tony Hancock excepted, they usually presented as cheery, cheeky chappies whose life was one long laugh. Ken Dodd even went so far as to sing about it; Happiness was one of his favourites. Of course underneath the smile there was often a life of depression, as Robin Williams sadly demonstrated. Nowadays comedians are generally more real, more cynical, even dystopian – and now I can’t remember where I was going with this, except to mention how exceptionally crabby I was yesterday. There’s only so much sleep deprivation a body can take and like Popeye I went around muttering that’s all I can stands, I cain’t stands no more! Sadly spinach did not do the trick so if anyone came near I’d growl at them – and were they rash enough to attempt conversation I’d snap: ‘Back off! I’m feeling really crabby!’ Thankfully crabbiness doesn’t last all day and by the afternoon with a sizable nap under my belt I was merely feeling exhausted. I’m happy to report that last night was better.
While we’re talking about happy songs, though I can’t stand the Ken Dodd one I do like this:
I didn’t get much work done yesterday as the brain simply refused to function so in the afternoon I turned instead to knitting. My latest project is a jumper in twiddly wool, by which I mean it has lots of colours woven into the thread and comes out a sort of variegated autumnal mix. I’m liking it very much, though you have to pay attention when you’re knitting otherwise the fibres tend to separate. I’ll post some pics when it’s done.
It has often occurred to me that wool and knitting are potent metaphors, both to use in poetry and as metaphors for the poetic process itself. I’ve written poems about the yarn-bombing (though we didn’t call it that then) at Greenham Common, and using knitting as a metaphor for life – and it’s like poetry in that you’re creating a pattern: poetry has lines, knitting has rows; they both have different stitches, they both add up.Besides, there’s something meditative about the process: in-round-through-and-off, in-round-through-and-off, knit one, purl one, drop one… and you can do it while watching TV.
Speaking of which, we tuned in for the first episode of the much-trailed Doctor Foster spin-off, Life, starring Alison Steadman. So far it looks highly intriguing.
It’s a weird thing, sleep. Without it we lose concentration, feel shaky and ill, struggle to regulate temperature and metabolism and eventually lose our wits. Yet we’re no nearer to knowing why we sleep and what it actually achieves than we were thousands of years ago.
But we do know, instinctively, that sleep is not a homogeneous essence. Not all nights are created equal; it is possible to sleep less but feel more refreshed than if you’d slept twice as long. Quality of sleep is the key thing here, but what does that involve?
A yoga teacher of mine was fond of saying ‘the body needs rest but the mind needs sleep.’ This is why babies sleep so much; because everything is new to them and they have to process information. One day we were eating Indian snacks and our ten-month-old daughter picked up a very hot samosa and bit into it before we could stop her. We were horrified and reached for the honey (sweet things are the best antidote to spices, much better than water) but she screamed once and then fell instantly asleep. Her mind needed to process the information, and when she awoke she was perfectly fine.
We too need to process the experiences of the day. OH has a theory that the dreams you have earlier in the night relate to problems whereas those in the early hours are about solutions. So what’s happening when we dream is that like some giant search engine the mind is looking for solutions, and somehow our dreams are the representation of that process.
OH also says that the best person to interpret a dream is the dreamer themselves. I think that’s right; nowadays we don’t believe in universal symbols or external explanations but look to our own experiences and our own psyche. Unfortunately I often don’t remember my dreams, but when I do I usually have some sort of explanation as to what they mean.
It is said by yogis that the more time one spends in deep meditation the less sleep is needed. Unfortunately at the yoga centre where I lived in Madrid it was assumed that we’d already got to that stage, so we were woken at a quarter to six for a six a m meditation. Even this was a concession to the Western lifestyle as Swami Sivananda had originally said we should be waking at four. I was usually shattered by the afternoon.
Sleep deprivation is one of the easiest forms of torture to practise – and right now the sun is doing a pretty good job of keeping me up at night and waking me in the wee small hours.I don’t want to be grumpy about midsummer but right now we haven’t even got any sun; it’s just cold and rainy…
Our gatepost has gone AWOL. For years it sat there inoffensively, helping to close the gate, not doing any harm to anyone; and suddenly it’s gone. I know what’s happened: next door are having an extension built and as well as taking down the fence the builders have removed my gatepost. I told the neighbour about it and she was very apologetic. She says she will talk to the builders about it: unfortunately the builders themselves have gone AWOL this week. Dontcha just hate it when that happens?
Right now I am waiting for a possible call from Woman’s Hour. The trailer this morning said they were talking about relationship difficulties and how they can be resolved. ‘Aha!’ I thought. ‘Sounds relevant to me.’ So I phoned the number and a voice said ‘Hello?’ in a bewildered sort of way. I must have the wrong number, I thought. ‘Is that Woman’s Hour?’ I asked. She said it was, and we had a really pleasant chat about my situation. She sounded very interested in my story, but I guess her producer didn’t agree, because the phone has remained silent.
Chiz chiz chiz.
Aaaaaanyway, onwards and upwards… today I shall be staying in, which means a radical reorganising of plans: the reason being that earlier on a couple of unnervingly loud thumps from upstairs turned out to be son falling out of bed and son nearly falling into the bath. He is seriously sleep-deprived, due to his habit of trying to stay awake for as long as he can: he also hasn’t eaten enough. Since Mark has to go to Loughborough today, I will not be able to make it to Sound Cafe or do most of the other things I had planned. No biggie. I shall do the weeding instead.
First things first: happy Mayday to all. Today is a good day to be Pink: a good day to think about the Left and especially to find out more about Left Unity. If you are at all dissatisfied with the status quo; if you feel Labour is no longer an opposition but more like an echo: if you think we really need new responses to the problem of social and economic inequality, then this group is for you. Check it out:
You can sign up or register your interest on Facebook with no obligation. Wait, that sounds like some kind of double-glazing sales brochure. But you know what I mean. Our first national meeting will be on May 11th and so far I have been very encouraged by the ideas that are coming from interested people.
Another kind of Pinggkness – the kind with a pair of ‘g’s – was out in force last night*: there was a record attendance at a packed Duffy’s bar and a night of hugely varied performances. This is what I love about Pinggk – that everyone is given space and time to express themselves, whereas other groups have very limited time and only a certain number of slots. One of the high points was by a woman with Parkinson’s who donned leotard and ballet shoes to do a dance routine with video backing. Inspiring! The theme for the evening was ‘in translation’, something I ignored completely and did instead some poems about ageing while wearing my daughter’s age-inappropriate Goth hoodie. Good stuff and I was only sorry I couldn’t stay till the end but my fatigue had reached such proportions that a Good Night’s Sleep was becoming almost the only imperative in my life. I’d be terrible under torture – just deprive me of sleep for a couple of nights and I’d say anything they wanted. When I lived in Madrid I was better at staying out late, but then I didn’t have to get up early, and nowadays Mark wakes me up with tea at seven whether I want it or not.