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Friday, April 22, 2005



"That ideal reader," writes Joyce in Finnegan's Wake, "suffering from an ideal insomnia."

I'm not sure what makes up an 'ideal' insomnia but JJ's is the only reference in the Oxford Dict of Literary Quotations and I wanted to kick off this insomniac posting with something posh.

4am and I cannot reach even that jerky pre-stage of sleep that comes so easily in meetings.

I slither out of bed and pad to the kitchen where I make tea and lay out biscuits and Mascarpone cheese and prepare to write letters to my distant family. I need to ride my insomnia with a disciplined firmness, like a wrangler with an unruly horse. The more tedious the task, the more readily my sniveling organism agrees to cut a deal and behave itself if just allowed back into bed.

I am silent as a thief but she is there, looking as sleep-deprived as I.

"Couldn't sleep," I mutter for lack of anything sensible to say.

"Not surprised, with all that racket. I'm amazed you get *any* sleep at all."

"What racket?" I hear nothing. I check for the sound of sirens or the thudding bass of the neighbor's hip-hop. Complete silence reigns.

"You're joking - I haven't slept a wink. Listen! They're deafening."

They. Plural. Over my tinnitis I strain to pick up the rustle of scuttling mice 'neath the floorboards. Still all is silent.

"The frogs?" she offers.

In that instant I hear them - a mere 50 yards away in Blue Heron Pond (see also Bainbridge Beat). Biggest bloody racket you ever heard. They must be like that night after night but I've got used to them, of course.Stanley Beach

Same thing happened in Hong Kong when we lived in Stanley, *directly* facing the beach and even closer to the lapping sea than we are to the frogs.

Pals would come out and be unable to sleep for the constant wash of sea on sand. Then they'd head back to Acacia Drive, Blighty, from where'd they complain of the appalling silence.

I once went to see some shrink about going barmy working round the clock for peanuts and, rather like faulty goods that run perfectly when you take them into the shop, was at my sanest most urbane during the debriefing interview. The good doctor handed me a cassette.

"Try this. A lot of people find it very beneficial. I think you'll notice the difference. An hour or so a day and at bedtime if you have a machine that turns itself off."

It was a tape of waves breaking soothingly on the shore. I had to laugh.

"Doc - I practically *live* in the sea. I get this round the clock courtesy of Neptune in person. If a couple of hours is meant to be so good, Stanley should be the sanest conclave in town. As it is, we're a bunch of raving nutters."

He smiled wanly: "Try it anyway. In the car? Those Queen's Road traffic jams?"

Just recounting this has brought somnolence. Mission accomplished.

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