It's a quarter to eleven but I'm still wide awake as, in a repeat of what has happened on the previous four hundred and thirteen occasions when it has been my job to get Frankie to sleep, I've fallen for the sucker punch of 'just lying down next to him for half a minute, it'll be all right, I'll not even close my eyes'. Like an alcoholic taking his first sip of the hard stuff, from this point onwards all is lost and it is only a matter of time before oblivion is breached. A very short amount of time, usually. Within a minute, I'm persuading myself that it's been a long day, and 'if I just close one of my eyes for the smallest few seconds it can't do any harm', and this very quickly progresses to 'you know what, just a two-minute dose here and I'll be fine- just five minutes, ten at the outside, who'll know the difference'. Moments later cohesive thought gives way to a series of fragmentary, borderrline nonsensical short films featuring cameo roles for blokes I used to work with at the Gas Board, long-forgotten Newcastle United centre halves and the alumni of Wingrove Junior School, Fenham, circa 1975. There follows a descent into bliss, which lasts for fully two and a half seconds, at which point I regain consciousness and realise in quick succession that:
1.. I am teetering so precariously on the edge of a toddler-size mattress that if I shift any part of my body backwards I'm going to fall to the floor, no doubt landing on one of Frankie's 'sound and picture' books and waking up the slumbering child with a blast of uptempo pirate music.
2... It is ten-past nine and I have missed the full first half of the England- Ukraine game and probably the start of the second
3.. that my impromptu siesta has left me feeling groggy, grouchy and, all things considered, just very sorry-for-myself.
A sorry state of affairs, I'm sure you will agree. And that is just what it is like for fifty weeks of the year. The other two weeks- the ones during which the government takes it upon itself to do something infernal with the clocks- are like that, except worse. I don't really know why but the fact of the clocks going forward an hour, or back an hour, or whatever the hell it was this week, seems to have the effect of disorienting me so completely that I become to all intents and purposes nocturnal. Needless to say the semi-sleepless nights make the working days more or less a write-off, and it doesn't help that some of your timepieces have taken it upon themselves to change automatically, while the rest you have changed yourself but moved exactly half of them in the wrong direction, so during daylight it could feasibly be anything between eleven o'clock and teatime, and there's no point in asking anyone because they're all as confused as you are. Yesterday it reached the point where only the sight of lollipop ladies populating the suburban junctions of the Westside made it apparent to me that I had completely missed lunchtime and it was actually very nearly time to go home.
So there you have it- the fabric of day-to-day life is unravelling at my feet, but not to worry, because it will all be all right again in a week. In the meantime I was grateful for last night's Tai Chi class, which happens absolutely at seven o'clock every Tuesday night and will continue to do so no matter what harebrain schemes the government of Harold Wilson comes up with to appease Scottish hillfarmers from the 1960s. I'm getting better at the Tai Chi now, or at least looking less likely to topple over and land on my nose during the tricky moves. Last night I was hindered in some of these, however, by the gradual realisation that a surprising amount of them (at least when carried out in the rather ungainly fashion which I can manage) seem to be based on the signature moves of British TV stand-up comedians past and present. In quick succession last night we had the Les Dawson 'Blankety Blank cheque book and pen' plant one foot and upraised palm forward , the Harry Enfield Scouser 'calm down calm down' parallel arm movement, and, last but not least, the Vic Reeves 'now who's this pretty young lady to my right?' knee bend and superfast thigh rub. It's only a matter of time, I am sure, before we are invited to partake in the Eric-Morecambe 'I'll have a pint of what he's drinking' Wobbly-Glass-Drinking-Mime. In fact, if it doesn't make its debut next week I might just introduce it myself as a sort of half-time interval to break up the ten-minute meditation at the end- I'm sure we'll all see the funny side and wonder what we ever did without it. We're a right bunch of jokers, us modern-day Qi Jong practitioners.
And with such serene and unworldy thoughts I must leave you, as it is now a minute to midnight (or possibly a minute to eleven, or a minute to one in the morning, or ten past four next Thursday afternoon, who the hell knows?). Next time out, the reaction from Crinklybee Towers on the sensational return of Shearer (which I mention here, clearly, to elevate this post into A Historical Record Of Our Times, and not just Some Meandering Nonsense About Lollipop Ladies And Les Dawson). Until then, then...