Category Archives: sleep

Boo …

Rocco’s mother goes walking outside  in the night. Not with a swirly black cloak and fangs – though this wouldn’t surprise anybody – but she makes sure she turns her iPod up loud enough that she can’t hear the footsteps coming up behind. Footsteps of whom, you may well ask? Who knows. There are things out there. You just have to make sure they don’t know you’re there.

The first time Rocco’s mother remembers having seen something for sure was a few weeks after she’d married the Hunter Gatherer and they’d moved into a little old rented fibro house with two bedrooms and no mod cons at all. There were so few mod cons that washing was done in a tub – and there wasn’t any television. There wasn’t a bed, either – so Rocco’s mother and the HG had a mattress on the floor in a bedroom which led from the little living room. The bedroom had a rickety old wardrobe and an ancient dressing table with a large mirror. If you were sitting on mattress  in bed, you could look in the mirror and see the reflection of the creepy little corner fireplace in the living room. This was what Rocco’s mother was doing one evening – while the HG was out at a football presentation – when she looked up from her book and saw Sailor Lad.

Sailor Lad was standing in front of the fireplace. He was looking through the bedroom door and straight into the mirror. He saw Rocco’s mother – and Rocco’s mother saw him. It is hard to determine which of them was more aghast. Rocco’s mother remembers making some kind of noise. Her heart was hammering in her chest. She got an impression of Sailor Lad’s white trousers and loose, white tunic. She wondered how he had broken into her home. It took only seconds for her to leap (as she was fitter in those days), from mattress to floor and into the living room – which was inexplicably empty. The front door was locked. The back door was also locked. There was nobody in the house, and not a sound except the tock-tock-tock of Rocco’s mother’s Black Forest cuckoo clock, which had been a birthday present from her parents and which, apart from a few tons of books and a bright blue potato peeler, was practically the only thing she had brought to the marriage. It hit Rocco’s mother that perhaps she and Sailor Lad were not existing in the same time frame. Much later, she wondered whether Sailor Lad had told his nearest and dearest he’d seen a wild-haired, 70s housewife crap herself in horror at the sight of him.

The Hunter Gatherer was/is not the type of person to indulge in flights of fancy, so Rocco’s mother wondered at his likely reaction when she told him what had occurred. If he’d laughed, that would have been fine. Had he mocked and jeered, there would have been a sense of relief, and the incident might have been tucked behind the mirror, so to speak, and discounted as some kind of weird, non-alcoholic hallucination.  To Rocco’s mother’s dismay, the HG frowned and told her he’d had the feeling they ‘weren’t alone in the house’. Naturellement, this was exactly what Rocco’s mother wanted to hear. Not. It’s bad enough having a new husband seeing what you look like first thing in the morning – far worse to be scrutinised by someone who may or may not exist. And Rocco’s mother lived in fear of bumping into Sailor Lad in the middle of the night whilst making a lavatorial visit – which meant trekking through two rooms in the dark, around three, all-concealing corners.

The house Rocco’s mother and the HG moved into a few months later – and indeed, in which they still live – was new at the time, and thankfully, Sailor Lad didn’t follow Rocco’s mother there. Indeed, he didn’t make another appearance at the other house, either. There have been different phenomena over the years – a strange indent which appears in the middle of the bed, often several times a day – even though Rocco’s mother smooths the covers each time she walks past. Some days, it doesn’t happen at all. Some days, the sound of footsteps coming down the hall can be heard when Rocco’s mother is in the back garden – but when she goes up the back stairs to see who’s come home, there’s nobody there. And the most frightening thing happened one night when she was coming out of the ensuite bathroom in the early hours. Rocco’s mother walked slap-bang into a dense, black mass in the doorway – which she assumed was the HG coming in. Then, with mounting horror,  she saw him – still fast asleep and oblivious – lying in bed two metres away.

It’s impossible to believe there’s nothing out there. Naturally, Rocco’s mother still likes to have the sheet over her face in the darkness. Maybe then, nothing will know that she’s there …

.oOo.

I sing the body demented …

Quite a few years ago I started going on a morning walk. It was before my eldest daughter’s wedding, and I’d noticed I was a bit (nay, a lot) boombah. There really wasn’t very much time to do anything about it, seeing as the wedding was only a couple of weeks away – but I decided I would force myself to walk for half an hour each day in the interests of health, happiness and the Australian way.

There’s nothing interesting or unusual about someone going on a daily walk, but it’s had its moments. Some of which are worthy of mention. After all, if you’ve read this far, surely you can humour me and manage another 600 words or so. (Thanks in anticipation, for that.)

At one stage, because I really did hate the thought of having to do that damn walk each day – I got it into my head to do it really early and get it out of the way. I’m a very light sleeper, so really early meant 4.30-ish. I’d wake up around that time and lie there thinking about how horrible it was that I was going to have to do that walk and how I wasn’t looking forward to it … but if I got up and did it NOW, I’d have the rest of the day to read the papers and sit in the sun eating chocolate, cake and potato crisps mung bean sarnies and soy crackers.

So verily it came to pass that one morning I hauled myself from my deliciously warm and marvellous bed and out into the darkling night. It was actually fantastic out there, as it happened to be a beautiful moonlit night – cool and still and enchanting. The start of my walk entails a diagonal stumble across a sports oval. It’s quite elevated, and I noticed with delight that even though all around me was pitch black, off to the left I could see the lights of the whole town glittering in the distance far below like a magical little firmament purely for my edification. It was quite fabulous altogether, so I stood there and had a good long look at that, and thought about how I was the only person awake in the whole wide world. Woo.

After a little while experiencing this unlikely epiphany, I trotted off again, and nearly shat myself in horror when all of a sudden something loomed ahead in the darkness and I found I wasn’t the only one awake in the whole wide world after all. Some druid in a cowl and blanket had laid out his gran’s spare chenille bedspread on the grass in the middle of the oval and was assuming a yoga position and doing druidy things under the cloak of darkness. I think a noise of surprise and/or horror might have emanated from me – but not a word from the druid, who was obviously on a much higher plane and swathed in a mist of sandalwood and myrrh from the incense sticks he’d poked in the grass around him. I did a sort of crablike movement in order to avoid trampling his patchouli cones, and trundled up to the highway with my poor old heart hammering away with the sheer shock of it all. I’ll never know what the druid thought. And neither, probably, will he.

Once I got to the highway, there were streetlights. Those really big overhead bright ones, which could have lit up an Olympic stadium. There were also trucks trundling past in fairly regular succession, and I was thinking how nice it would have been if the Mickey D’s on the corner was a 24 hour one and I’d thought to bring some money and could have lobbed in there for a warming thick chocolate drink with double cream skim latte and sat watching the trucks going past and the sun coming up, etc., etc., etc. And while I was contemplating this, I put my hand in my pocket to check whether maybe I did have coinage – and realised with horror that I was standing on a main highway in my nightie, dressing gown and a pair of crappy slippers.

At this particular point in the walk, I’m either halfway there or halfway back – so there wasn’t anything much to do except go forward into the fray. I didn’t particularly want to encounter the druid again, because if he’d come out of his trance long enough to realise the madwoman in the bed gear was returning to accost him from yet another angle in a surprise attack, there might have been a nasty encounter of the zen kind.  So there was nothing for it really than to shuffle on home.

And so, eventually, to bed …

.oOo.

Mopknocker plays to incontinent audience …

When we were kids, which was a very long time ago, my brother and I were taken to Nightcliff Drive-In on Friday nights in the back of the Holden stationwagon. The back seats were folded down and we had blankets and pillows in case we wanted to sleep – and we’d be treated, over our parents’ shoulders, to such classics as The Magnificent Seven, A Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Idiot who forgot to put the speaker back on the pole and drove off with it still attached to the car window. We would have liked horror flicks if they’d had any then – but it seemed to be either westerns or James Bond. Nevertheless, it was great fun altogether and I wish the Hunter Gatherer and I could have taken our own children to a drive-in when they were little. Unlike Dad and the Warrior Queen, we have four children, so the thrills of being hit in the back of the head by soggy chips and errant Maltesers would have been excitingly doubled.

To make up for the fact we didn’t have Freddy Krueger in those days, Dad happily obliged when we got home, staging his very own version of Creepshow for our entertainment and edification.

There were three favourites you might reasonably expect to encounter. Mopknocker, Underbed Fred, or the silent and deadly Curtain Zombie. There was no clue as to what you’d be getting, so complacency was not an option. Lying in bed minding your own business, you’d have just about forgotten there was any imminent danger. Then you’d hear it. A faint tap, tap, tap on the window and there, etched on the other side of the flyscreen, would be a gruesome and frightful visage, leering from beneath its tattered grey, crypt-cobwebbed hair.  Okay, I’m well aware mopheads can’t leer. But you would have had to have been there.

After you’d practically crapped yourself with fear and the Warrior Queen had confiscated the mop from our hilarious and evil pater and told him he was going to bed without any gruel, you could finally go to sleep in the happy knowledge the postman never knocked twice.

Naturally, we’d always be on the alert to Dad’s whereabouts when we returned home from the drive-in – but he got the better of us every time. And just as you were dozing, thinking maybe this time he’d forgotten, there’d be the hideous creak of bedsprings and you’d feel something horrible pushing the mattress up underneath you. Underbed Fred. Or the heavy curtains covering the built-in wardrobe would start to ripple and bulge. The Curtain Zombie was behind them … and ready to emerge and hurl you into the depths of the River Styx.

Years later, the Hunter Gatherer and I were visiting Dad and the WQ. The WQ and I were chatting happily in the kitchen, stuffing ourselves indiscriminately with one sort of foodstuff or another, when we suddenly became aware of faint music. Dad had a large organ (of the Wurlitzer variety), but he and the HG were safely in the living room and there was nobody else in the house but us chickens. An organ was definitely being played, so the WQ and I crept down the darkened hallway to the accompanying strains of a Bach fugue. From the organ’s lair, a pale, ghostly light leaked under the door over the hall carpet.

It was the WQ who pushed open the door. And there it was. Its grey, tattered, crypt-cobwebbed hair fell over its leering face, the arms of its putrid shroud were draped artistically on the keyboard. Undoubtedly, it was readying itself to turn its head and stultify us with its evil, shiteating grin. Mopknocker, in all his glory, was playing Bach.

The WQ says she didn’t pee herself, and I’m not admitting anything myself at this stage. The reason Dad thought it would be funny to drape the mop in his dressing gown and set the Wurlitzer to autoplay was never explained. There was actually not much chance of him giving an explanation, because some of us are still not speaking to him. But the incident has left its legacy. To this day, I can’t walk past the mop section of Food-o-rama without hearing a Bach fugue faintly in the back of my mind and overriding the Barry Manilow musak track. And we don’t have mops in our house. They were banned long ago.

Any relative of Mopknocker is not a friend of mine …

.oOo.

Let sleeping dogs have really nice sheets …

I bought some new sheets yesterday, and they are very delicious indeed. Egyptian cotton with 400 thread count in a dark coffee colour.  Lying in them, I feel like Lady Muck. The Hunter Gatherer feels like Lord Muck. This is the point at which violins should play and we should run amok – but two Mucks don’t a mickle make. Or something of that ilk. The point is, there are not many things nicer than getting into deliciously fresh sheets.

The first deliciously fresh sheets we ever owned  ($10 from Big W with a matching quilt cover and two pillowcases … bargain!) – were installed on a mattress on the floor of a little rented cottage. In those days, that was what you did. None of this credit card stuff, where you furnish your first home with all the latest crap and scorn offers of cast-off furniture from eager friends and relatives who want to offload some junk. If you were lucky enough to own more than one set of sheets, the other ones were hung in the windows while you saved up for curtains. Nobody has sheets hanging in their windows anymore because it’s trendy to be in debt to Curtains-R-Us, Tellies-R-Huge and Chairs-R-4-Sitting-On.  Where’s the fun in that?

After a few weeks of hauling ourselves from the floor in the mornings, someone offered us a bed. It was marvellously ancient and past it, and the spring base had sprung, so our trusty mattress was sucked into trenchy goodness in the middle. This was very cosy for the most part and in the depths of winter, but not so ha-ha when you happened to be pissed off with the other party. You cannot lower your guard and fall asleep because you are hanging on to the edge of the mattress like grim death in order to not roll backwards and actually bump into the offending somebody and inadvertently give the impression you are, in fact, pleased with them. In the morning, your fingers are frozen into claws and you have to explain to puzzled colleagues why you have turned up for work resembling an exhausted, and not very benevolent, bird of prey.

There followed the waterbed age of the 80s, where nobody told you it was a bad idea unless both parties had identical metabolisms. Being a cold blooded reptilian person, I’d turn my side up to Hello Sailor, while the HG preferred Mr Whippy. When I had my way, you could just about smell the barbequing flesh as we dropped into a casserolesque coma there was possibly no coming out of – and on nights when the HG triumphed, I’d wake feeling as if I’d spent a night naked on the concrete car park of Food-o-rama. Except at least they have trees and not polar bears.

Beds have come and gone through the revolving door of our boudoir since then, and dozens of sheets have ended up in the garage rag pile. We’ve gone through florals, stripes, patterned and flannelette (much hated by the HG and banned forever) – and are now in the non-frivolous and predictable Age of Plain. Hopefully there won’t be too many more beds – but if the current model should fail, there are now more choices on offer than the wonders of the breakfast menu at Mickey D’s.

Yep, they’ve thought of everything these days and you can now purchase an ensemble which should just about suit everybody. The ideal bed zippers up the middle, which means you and your partner can choose the side that suits you – hard/soft/with-or-without gangnails – and the two sides are zippered together like so – resulting in two incredibly contented people who know exactly which side their bed is buttered on. Or zippered to, as the case may be.

Clinging desperately to the side with your ageing talons is now a thing of the past. When wishing to remain incommunicado, you merely unzip the beds, haul your half to another room/house/ suburb/continent – and the other half of the equation will immediately realise there is a possibility he has done something to trouble you and he had better be very, very sorry or else. All this, without you even having to raise your voice.

Bear in mind, however, this works both ways. You might just come home one night to find he’s zippered his half to someone else’s entirely. You can only hope she has talons much, much more spiteful than yours …

.oOo.

Sleepless incognito …

            Well, I can just lie here all night with my eyes closed or I can check out the ceiling and note that the crack which looked like a teensy little dinosaur last week now looks like the Gates of Mordor and is probably going to open up and swallow me whole. Note also that the dinky little spiderwebs which were softly fluttering in the breeze this morning have now taken on a more menacing appearance altogether and might just fall on my face and suffocate me. I can check out the night sky for the millionth thrilling time. Full moon, no moon, Swiss cheese, green cheese … la de da de dum.

            Wriggle the toes, the knees, the elbows. Think about maybe one day cooking something from scratch. Or climbing Everest and bungeeing off it. In the nude. Because let’s face it – some nights are just plain boring.

            I never had insomnia when I used to read in bed. What is it about men that they can’t stand one weeny little bedside lamp with a five watt bulb? People have been reading in bed for centuries and no-one ever died. Not that the HG ever actually SAYS anything. He just shifts position and grunts a lot. Every time he grunts there’s a little aura of ‘quelle inconvenient’ wafting around the room. Sometimes it’s ignorable. Sometimes I just turn the light off and hope he has nightmares of being squashed under a falling library.

            One night, salvation came – with the extraordinary discovery there’s a whole world out there in the airwaves. While you are sleeping, life is going on. And going off. There are thousands of other insomniacs out there; calling chat shows, quiz shows, talk shows  – and they’re all barking mad!

            Yessiree folks – plug in those earphones and mentally head for the hills! With all the other nightcritters whose husbands and wives get pissed off about a little old lamp glowing on the outsides of their closed eyelids while they’re trying to snore.  Because that’s the great thing – the other nightcritters are mostly certified nutters – and the later the hour, the stranger they get. They hang around on the other end of a phone line for hours and hours, just to tell a perfectly strange radio jock stuff you wouldn’t tell your gynaecologist if he was blind, deaf and you were in a darkened confessional box. They say bizarre things in a conspirational voice like; ‘I’m in the NUDE, you know …’ As if we all care. Most of us are probably in the nude – given we’re in bed.

            Being a genuinely interested person (a sticky beak) – I find all this totally fascinating. With a really small radio, two AAA batteries will last you at least a fortnight. Going all night. This is good value, considering all the stuff you are soaking up whilst you’re out of it. Yep – it’s the subliminal learning thing. Remember those tapes which promised you’d wake up being able to speak fluent Yiddish if you listened to them during your sleep? It’s quite amazing. I was astounded at myself when I found I could do that!

            ‘What does she want?’ asked one of the Right Hons at the breakfast table, puzzled at the rubbish spouting forth. ‘Kosher cornflakes, I think,’ I told them proudly. ‘In a bagel.’

            Because the scary thing is, the brain is taking in all this crap whilst you’re asleep. You don’t even know that you know what you know. You hear yourself butting into people’s conversations with snippets of useless trivia, and you think , ‘Woo – how ‘bout that? How very good am I?’ Some mornings after a night absorbing medical advice, I’m convinced I could pick up a scalpel and have a go at Uncle Mort’s gall bladder. And maybe it’s not beyond the realms of possibility I might be able to actually boil an egg one day!

            It’s like having a Pandora’s box in your head, full of stuff you don’t know is there. If you could run a printout, you’d be absolutely stunned to find you could speak five languages, understand quantum physics and know exactly what to do with that random collection of 70s Tupperware which is breeding in the back of the kitchen cupboards. (Or maybe that last part’s a little fanciful.)

            There is, as ever, a downside. As you doze in and out of consciousness, you catch discombobulated bits of conversations which have no meaning. And the beginning of book readings and bits of terrific poetry you’d love to know the author of – except you snoozed off in the middle of the third verse. And one night, I woke to hear the shock jock say in a trembling voice, ‘… and THAT’S the most frightening thing I’ve ever heard in my life …’ WHAT WAS? Can you run that by us again, dammit?! It’s a bit disconcerting to realise there’s something really horrible inside my head. Something scary and awful festering away in there, just waiting for an opportunity to go BOO.

            It got quite bad the other morning, and I actually woke in a state of total panic and thought I had died. Well, there’s nothing quite like getting your earphones tangled around your neck …

.oOo.

Midnight train to an underwear emporium …

I had this nightmare the other night, and I’ve had to make a very strong cup of coffee indeed.

            It basically boiled down to being on a crowded train (pretty ordinary at the best of times), wearing a nightie. This could have been an acceptable scenario, given today’s dress code, had the nightie been of the satin variety, or even the starched and spotless genre – but naturally it was not. It was the one I’d gone to bed in, which happened to have birdpoo on it, as well as cruddy dried blobs of Patented Babybird Handfeeding Porridge. In addition, I had no shoes, knickers, handbag – and worst of all, my hair was not brushed.

            The cruelty of nightmares is mindboggling. The only thing I did have (apart from the parrot-crap encrusted nightie which was supposed to be hidden under the privacy of my own bedsheets), was a peculiar red woolly scarf thing around my neck. I’d never seen it before in my life and hadn’t the faintest clue what it had to do with anything. I spent a few kilometres wondering whether I could fashion it into a sort of loincloth, but it seemed a bit of an exhibitionist thing to stand up and do.

            Anyway, it was the messy hair bit which was really upsetting. You don’t feel right if you’re not well groomed. With nice hair, you can sit there confidently in your nightie on any old train, even the city commuter – and snub your nose at the world, basically. People will look at you and think you have nice hair. If you haven’t, you leave yourself wide open for them to notice all the other anomalies, which in this case were legion.

            After a couple of hours sitting on the train, with various subplots (too complicated to be bothered going into) unfolding around me, I eventually realised (because in nightmares these things take a bit longer), I had better get off at the next station and attempt to return to whence I’d started – which was not going to be a doddle without money, or identification even.

            The last thing I remember was standing in front of the ticket office trying to explain I needed to go back the way I’d come. The ticket man in the nightmare was just like ticket men everywhere, which was reassuring. He stared at me blankly because he evidently had no command of English and kept saying ‘Bosnia’. At that point, I woke up.

            I’ve never been more ecstatic to be in my own bed, I can tell you. I groped around for the red woolly scarf thingie, but it hadn’t crossed the barrier between the phantom train station and the doona.

            I woke the Hunter-Gatherer. I said, ‘How could you abandon me on a train without any knickers?’ He was understandably baffled, and pretty annoyed I’d shamed the family by being seen at a railway station in the birdpoo nightie.

            The thing is, what does it all mean? There is a fair chance it indicates I was running away from something without being properly prepared. The train meant I didn’t have the ability to drive that far, and the incoherent ticket man meant it’s hard to get good help these days.

            What’s scary is, I don’t particularly want to go to sleep tonight in case there’s more to come. I keep wondering if I wear trousers and a jumper to bed, will I be better covered – and will a wallet and hairbrush tucked under the pillow make any difference? How can your subconscious betray you, when you’ve purposely decided not to be a drug addict or alcoholic so you can keep control of all your faculties? What good are your faculties anyway, when you’re not even awake enough to use them?

            Anyway, I’m going to sit up all night, fully dressed. I don’t much like the thought of Episode 2 – Barefoot Escape to Bosnia. It has the potential to be worse than Episode 1 – Knickerless in a Non-Smoking Compartment.

            If I do drop off though, this time I’m hanging on to that red scarf thing. It was cheerful and soft – and rather appealed.

 

.oOo.