August 4: a history of sleep

I note that I find it harder and harder to sleep in a foreign bed. This is the latest development in my history of sleep. We all have our own personal history of sleep (often chequered) that plots our life history. Today I am sleeping on a settee in Bordeaux. My nieces Vassia and Natasha are on a matress on the floor on the other side of the coffee table. I prepare for sleep meticulously. The height of the pillows for my long-suffering neck; the sheet under and over. I go to the bathroom as though it really were the last visit before I go to sleep. Who am I kidding? I will visit the bathroom four or five times before setting foot in the land of Nod: for a cold shower; for another pee; just to have somewhere to go. I will also visit the fridge for a glass of cold water. I adjust the window to let the right amount of air in. It is all as if these preparations were leading up to an event. They are not. I will not sleep before four in the morning. First I lie on my back. I know I won’t sleep lying on my back but I have to do it first as the foundation to the edifice of my night’s sleep. Sometimes after 45 minutes I realise I’m still on my back and scold myself for spending too much time on the foundations. Then I’ll turn onto my side. My method is to have the lower leg in front of the upper leg. This also stretches my back to click it neatly into what I imagine is a better position. When the first side doesn’t work I heave myself onto the other side, face against the back of the settee. This won’t work either. If the two side positions have not worked, I’ll have to go back to lying on my back because the sleep foundations will need to be laid all over again. In all the to-ing and fro-ing they will have crumbled. Time for a cold shower. That feels better. Now back for a quick foundation before attempting some side work again. In the end I’m so exhausted that when I fall asleep I don’r realise which side it’s on. I may even have fallen asleep on the foundations.

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