Sore labour’s bath

No, don’t switch off!  This has nothing to do with the on-going attempts by Her Majesty’s opposition to devour itself (very much down to the lights by now): the title is taken from Macbeth and is one of a whole serious of poetic allusions to sleep made by our hero in Act II Scene II.  It just goes to show that mental collapse following regicide is no excuse for turning out second-rate verse.

If this blog has a theme, other than the author’s dual obsession with himself and cake, it is with sleep and my continuing inability to capture enough of it.  I’ve read more books and articles on the subject of sleep than many people have had hot dinners (though admittedly, most of the people to whom I refer will be babies), but despite having some of the strictest sleep-hygiene this side of an S&M club (where I presume Michael Saint is the presiding deity or demiurge) the balm of hurt minds continues to elude me on a regular basis.

I have even started eschewing any sort of screen time for a good hour before heading up the wooden hill (ok, across the carpeted hall) to the shire which hosts Luton Airport (a place historically oft confused with Paradise – though not, to my knowledge by Milton): but my abstinence availed me not.

However, this week I would appear to have found a solution to my night-time woes.  I have a Canadian cognitive scientist, Luc Beaudoin (as reported by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian), to thank for my currently well-rested state.  I will admit that I have slightly augmented his mental trick to take in elements of the ISIHAC game Word for Word and some elements of the old Ffoulkes’ family game of Bonio Boards.  Given that I am already in the dog house for failing to explain an allusion, I had better cover off that last sentence for those not lucky enough to both by fans of ISIHAC and cosanguine with the author.   In Word for Word, panellists attempt to come up with a serious of entirely unconnected words while Barry Cryer attempts to convince us that a word-pair was a popular beat combo in the 60s: I, of course, would suggest that they are playing tonight at the Dublin Castle (£6, £5 concessions).  Bonio Boards used the cardboard inserts found in packs of the popular 70s dog biscuits (well, they were popular with dogs and pokers: Poker, I should perhaps add, was a villain who would snaffle any chunks or crumbs of Bonio left unguarded by a foolish canine.  He did not wear a mask – which I now feel was missing a trick) to list a series of noun categories, e.g. countries, cheeses, famous dogs etc.  The players would then have to generate entries in each category beginning with a randomly chosen letter.  I presume this was against the clock and I cannot recall how the boards were marked – but it was what passed for entertainment when I was young and Pokemon had yet to be invented or released into the virtual wild.  So, younger readers, you may have no future and be unable to retire from your call centre-serfdom until you are 130, but just look at the improvement in entertainment options you enjoy!

I now lie in bed and start by choosing a letter: generally one which is worth more than 1 point in Scrabble.  I then attempt to come up with as many words (trying to stick to nouns) beginning with that letter as possible, while ensuring that no two adjacent words have any link.  If this proves too easy, I’ll add complication by also using Bonio Board-style categories or fixing the first two letters of the nouns or fixing the first letter and running through the second letter alphabetically or only allowing (or disallowing, as per Many a Slip) n-letter words (for suitable n).  This is suprisingly hard to do when tired and keeps any other unwanted mental activity at bay.  As a result I fall asleep quickly and, should I wake during the night, quickly return to the chief nourisher in life’s feast (well, if we exclude cake: but I expect cake was less readily available in Glamis in the distant past).  It even seems to work in the recent heat and when sunlight is streaming through my curtains.

I’ll admit that the trial is currently short, and that I lack a control-me who has been relying on older method to partake of great nature’s second course, but so far the results have been very promising.  In fact, it is almost too successful and it is becoming much more critical that I correctly set my alarm clock.  I wouldn’t like to say that I’m cured, but for the time being if I appear to be dozing off during a conversation it IS because you are boring and not down to a lack of sleep on my part.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not being sponsored on the number of quotations from Macbeth I can slip into a post.

Poker Face

Having thought up this title, I found myself musing on recognition for my services to blogging in the New Year’s Honours.  If I were elevated to a baronetcy, I could (perhaps) chose to become Baron Gaga of Madingley (or similar).  Were I then to produce via some method (or adopt?) a heavily X-chromosomed offspring, she could legitimately call herself Lada Gaga.  Whilst several forms of infinite universe make these events basically certain, it seems like a lot of effort when the option of a Statutory Declaration is available.

I suspect I would make a very poor poker player: I am far too risk-averse and (as we will soon discover) may face is far from a vizard to my heart (to paraphrase Lady Macbeth).  However, I have twice in the last 24 hours seen doors with an unparalleled ability to conceal their heightened emotional state without obvious effort.  In each case the door bore the legend “This door is alarmed”, but in not the slightest way did either betray its agitation.  They were the very models of Stoic wooden virtue.

Earlier yesterday, I had been at the Finborough Theatre to enjoy The Sweethearts by Sarah Page.  A play both funny and shocking and graced by excellent performances and clever staging.  Afterwards, I was enjoying a pint of session ale in the Finborough Arms and composing the post which preceded this one into the world, when the cast started filtering down the stairs dressed in their workaday mufti.  I recognised most of them, though not always immediately (my ageing brain is easily foxed by a costume change), but one of them recognised me rather quickly.  It would seem that my face and body language had done little to conceal my deep involvement in the play.  Apparently, according to Jack Derges, I make for good audience and they need more of me (in this latter assertion he was, of course, wrong: one of me is more than enough for any universe).  I am unrepentant: I refuse to sit stony-faced when up close and personal with the Arts – despite the (apparently) prevailing opinion that this is inappropriate for a man of my age and station.

Being recognised by the talent is becoming a rather too regular occurrence.  Only the previous night, while buying a CD, the band had recognised me from the last time I had seen them play (several months before).  The previous weekend, the talent actually briefly confused me for a musician before successfully placing me in an earlier audience.

I don’t think I’m that odd looking (or acting, at least while seated and delivering my rapt attention stage-wards), so why do I seem to be so memorable?  I’m not sure whether this is a boon or a curse, but I can see that I can no longer rely on anonymity to shield me when in the public realm.  Is it time to wear a mask to protect my secret identity?  (Or should that be to create one?)