When I was but a callow youth, I found it all to easy to enter, and remain girdled within, the arms of Morpheus. On one occasion, I managed to sleep through a cast-iron bath being broken up just a short hall from my bedroom.
Somewhere in my twenties, I started to find the leader of the Oneiroi rather more elusive – though luckily have never really fallen into the embrace of his brother Icelus. Periodic bouts of insomnia have plagued me ever since – and it is in one of these I now find myself.
As a result, I have read very widely on sleep – often when I should have been sleeping – and like to think myself somewhat of an expert on the theory (if not the practice). Sadly, theoretical knowledge only takes you so far when your sleeve of care is ravelled (to rather mangle the words of the Thane of Cawdor) – then again, I never could get the hang of knitting: I could never maintain the tension and my rows tended to have rather variable numbers of stitches.
One partial cure for my insomnia (surely another great, unused name for a hatchback), I have found, is blood letting – which is rather at variance with the ideas of Galen who would suggest purging myself of black bile (were he still with us). However, whilst the National Blood Service are all too willing to divest me of some blood and offer me lemon squash and bikkies in recompense, I have yet to find any organisation willing to take surplus black bile off my hands (or liver to be more anatomically accurate and which makes me wonder if the process might be rather more invasive and painful. Though, apparently it can also be reduced by the application of hot cups – if only I had a brassière to hand).
After giving of my life blood, I find I’m a very cheap date (or at least, a little alcohol goes a surprisingly long way), I sleep rather well but, and this is the only downside, I find myself afflicted with terrible gas.
I rather enjoy giving blood – it is an excellent, guilt-free excuse for a lie-down in the middle of the day, provides very quick (if modest) weight loss and is really the only time I eat biscuits (today, a couple of mint Clubs – but, usually, bourbons). On one golden occasion in Jesmond, I was the last donor to leave and was given a brown bag with ALL the left-over biscuits from the day! It is also a good opportunity to flirt with the nursing staff – an opportunity I tend to exploit shamelessly.
I have given blood in one form or another a little over 60 times now – which is the contents of enough arms to make up a rugby (union?) match, if Anthony Aloysius Hancock is to be believed (well, as long as the rest of the players turned up attached to the arms – lone arms, even in pairs, would struggle in the modern game I fear). For a while I was able to give platelets, before my count dropped too low for it to be worthwhile. This was a truly regal experience – and especially welcome during a hot summer – as the process takes a good 90 minutes whilst you recline like a king, waited on by the staff of the NBS. They provide food, drink and even a personal DVD player – basically, it was like flying business class without all the nasty airport and aeroplane nonsense. To extract the platelets, they take your blood out, whizz it round in a centrifuge (why, no centripete I wonder?) and then return it to you (less the platelets, which are a rather nasty shade of yellow). To keep it fresh while it is out for a spin, they chill it and so you get your blood back nicely cooled – a sort of internal, sanguine version of aircon.
Sadly, I’m back to whole blood donation which is barely 5 minutes of lie-down these days – when I first started way back in the eighties, I’m sure it was a good half-hour. I suppose it just shows how the pace of life has accelerated, or that my blood is very keen to be shot of me and to strike out for pastures new (or something in that vein): maybe I was better company in the 80s?
So, dear readers, I can thoroughly recommend the donation of blood: pay no heed to Galen, I find it boosts my happiness – which is surely the best of all the humours!