84. After Pride, Comes The Fall

I summer well. I know Welsh beaches and being a tourist in cities when all the locals have left. Stuck behind hedge-trimming tractors, I spy next month’s festivals evolving. From peas until apples, my life will adapt to farming time; I’ll become European.

My place in my family changes each year. Maybe one day I will be the matriarch.

I don’t want to interrupt the early-afternoon lull, but no-one heard the car door, or my suitcase skateboard wheels grinding. A dozen pairs of wellington boots of all sizes lined up to welcome me home. I step into the cool of the kitchen and gently pile up almost everything I own into the corner of the room. Even the water tastes different here. I wander, glass in hand, barefoot on stone, then oak, avoiding the squeaky board. I’m grounded now. The orange cat rubs its body against my bare calf and saunters out into the day. Such is a life of simple privilege.

Silence is a luxury and I drink it in. Clocks tick slower in the countryside. I lean over to kiss my aunt on her cheek and she stirs.

A different time, but at the same moment, traffic dribbled to nothing. A shimmering beast snaked closer, louder. Flanked by mounted police, the bare-chested Millwall crowd chanted with one voice, allowing itself to be gently guided towards the stadium gates. They belonged together. Accepted into the pride. A bit like me last month in London in the parade. I looked out for you. Then and now.

I hear dogs or children clomping down the stairs, and am smothered with their love saved up all year. After the “which one are you again?” and “haven’t you grown!”, my niece, Rosie, slips her hand in mine to show me her bedroom. Our bedroom. I’m on the bottom bunk for the next six weeks. She’s emptied a drawer for me and made some room on her dressing table. There’s a calendar on the back of the door with the days crossed off until today, which has a glittery pink star around the date.

My mother’s suitcase is at the foot of the bed. I won’t open it for over a week, until we go swimming. Everything I ever need is in this house. I take out my copy of ‘The Little Stranger’ and decide to read it again before the film release. A train ticket, that cost almost as much as a weekend in Denmark, falls out, losing its place. I remember that train journey. You saying you needed me. Now. I lived a whole life in those three hours. No signal. Voicemail full. I lost my place too that weekend.

I slip on a bangle I thought I’d forgotten, spray my wrists with a half-bottle of perfume, and push the suitcase back under the bed.

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69. Rest Assurred

You always want what you can’t have, so they say.

Why does sleep elude me when I crave it so? It’s such a natural, simple thing. I can fall off to sleep effortlessly, but after four or five hours, I am wide awake again. I’m well past the point of saying to myself that “if I fell asleep now I could get another two hours.” Physical rest is the best I can expect. Mental rest will have to wait.

I hear people talk of how their mood is affected when they don’t get their full eight hours, or new parents unprepared for how much their nights would be disrupted. I want to scream “That is my life!” but I don’t have the energy, and it would do no good to do the whole “I bet I’m more tired than you are.”

I’m perpetually in a fog. On auto-pilot. A zombie. Groggy. Jet-lagged. I’ve tried mindfulness, lavender, herbal tea, cutting back on stress and caffeine, a ‘clean sleep’ routine, new mattress, cold bedroom, going to bed later, blackout curtains, a set bedtime, exercise, no electronics in the bedroom, vitamins, counting backwards in sevens, and sticking my feet outside of the covers.

Maybe my being overweight has something to do with my poor quality sleep? Maybe my being overweight is because I don’t sleep properly?

It took me months to realise I was anaemic as one of the symptoms is exhaustion, and my default is general fatigue, so…

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There’s a notebook by the bed with a pencil that writes smoothly, so as not to disturb him. I lay there, watching him breathe, trying to think of how I would spend lottery money or plan our next holiday. Sometimes I ruminate on throwaway comments said by someone I barely know anymore, who probably can’t even remember saying them, and only said them because they were hangry.

I sometimes think of people I have known, who did not take as prominent a place in my life as they could have done.

Tiny, motion-sensitive dim lights lead the way to the bathroom.

Occasionally, I do get up, watch a bit of telly or write down some ramblings. There are lots of people I don’t normally interact with on Twitter at 3am GMT.

On days at home from work, I live in holey cashmere jumpers and baggy pyjama bottoms with soft-soled slippers, so there’s no need to change if I decide to nap. Just forty minutes before 2pm can change my whole evening. My battery is recharged and I can stay awake until a proper adult bedtime.

My family says I’m on ‘old people’s time’ because my sleep pattern forces my whole day to shift to an earlier time. I’m ready for bed when most people are going out for dinner at 8pm. That’s like midnight for me.  I’m the first at any restaurant for lunch when the clock has barely struck noon. At work before most people’s alarms have gone off. Ready to leave work at 3.30 pm. Thank goodness I can choose my own hours. Theatre matinees, morning cinema trips, lunch, not dinner dates.

I never skimp on rest to do other things, I always try to aim for a full-night’s allowance of sleep. It’s just my sleep pattern would ideally be 8pm-4am then possibly another forty minutes around 11.30am. That’s breakfast tv presenter or baker territory. Maybe I’m just in the wrong job.

64. Soundtrack to No-one’s Life

The ‘Baby Driver’ Spotify playlist lasts for one hour and thirty eight minutes. A happy coincidence (which I did not realise until afterwards) as this was the exact length of time it took me to walk to work. (I was getting in some walking practice for an upcoming city break to New York).

The combination of such a beautiful day and brilliant music made such an impression on me that I listened to the playlist in its entirety again the following day. Incredibly, it took me door to door a second time, but for a completely different journey. I took a bus, walked, then caught a train to a branch office in the next city to my hometown.

Serendipity indeed.