Monday 27 June 2011

Baghdatis, the race is on!

I'm honoured to be guest blogging over at the wonderfully versatile Thea Atkinson's blog today. I'd love you to take a wander over there to see, 'Baghdatis, The Race is On' and while you're at it, check out Thea's blog which is a great mix of thoughtful, frothy, poignant and amusing posts.  

While I was checking a few spellings today (or rather, being distracted for hours by tales of McEnroe in his angry hey-day and having a nostalgic swoon over Pat Cash) I came across this clip. Ouch! I compared tennis to getting published in my post but I'm not sure it's quite THIS painful. What do you think?

Monday 20 June 2011


I’ve never been big on sleep. Generally it’s an inconvenience to be fitted as unobtrusively as possible around work and play. Don’t misunderstand me, I relish that moment when my head hits the pillow as much as the next person, I just don’t yearn to get to that point.

Mind you, I least I sleep every day. I did know a man who claimed to need so little sleep that he only closed his eyes every other night. Worse, this was pre-24 hour TV, shopping or the internet and he only liked to read biographies, which were distinctly fewer in number in those days. I do remember he had a very extensive record collection, however, and a long-suffering girlfriend who finally swapped him for a man who fell asleep the minute his bottom touched a sofa.
I put my good fortune of being an economical sleeper down to Deep Sleep. No messing about in the REM stage for me, I’m plunged into blackness within seconds and not retrieved from it until that alarm clock chimes five and a half hours later.

I’ve been a night-owl forever. My first memory of the benefits was when I read the entire copy of James and the Giant Peach in one night. I was about nine years old and my understanding parents had given me permission to read on – no torch needed. I got to turn my light off at midnight, I was so grown up. 

I remember starting my homework at 10pm and still putting in three hours before bouncing into school next day. And of course, being an owl is fantastic for parties, unless, of course, you’re the host who's ready for you to leave. 
The downside of needing little sleep is that I always push it too far. 1am is when I should go to bed. 6.30 is when I should rise but no, I can always find another blog to read as I wind down at midnight ready to log off for the day. I can tweet uninterrupted with fellow night-owls or distracted writers on the other side of the world for another half hour, prepare myself a little snack, unload a wash, scrub a pan and make some notes for tomorrow before deciding that really, I’m absolutely wide awake and at last, I have uninterrupted time to read whatever novel I have on the go. And then it’s 3am and I know that come lunch time tomorrow, my writing will be reduced to sludge.

Being a night-owl is also quite anti-social.
I remember staying at my Auntie and Uncle’s as a child and thinking it sad that my Uncle stayed up long after his wife had gone to bed, only to fall asleep, alone, in front of the test card. I remember my Dad tapping away at the typewriter keys in the early hours long after my mother was asleep and telling myself that I would never do that when I was an adult.


So, in order to attempt to better align my sleep patterns with the rest of my family’s, I’ve been conducting an experiment; I’ve been trying to turn an owl into a lark. I call it Larkism. My friend, who retires at 9pm and wakes at 4, ready to run at 4.30 (which is not what I’m proposing) didn’t think it possible. We are genetically disposed to being morning or night time creatures and there’s nothing we can do to change it. I’ve tried, she said. 

Larkism requires two things: I have to go to bed before the date changes and set my alarm for five and a half hours later. My Larkism started a month ago. The first day my alarm went off at 5 and I woke with that queasy, early flight kind of feeling. My husband slept on, I could so easily have done so too. Thank goodness for tea.
Quickly I got into a routine and realised that half way through my first cup, I was feeling surprisingly sparkly. I also noticed how alert I felt when my children got up at 7am and that I knew exactly what they needed for school without having to constantly refer to notes scrawled at 2am. Having already banked a couple of hours of writing, I found I could accept a coffee invitation guilt-free without the gremlin at the back of my mind reminding me every ten minutes that it was OK, as long as I worked late tonight.

The most unlikely result has been in my productivity. Larkism has only given me a maximum of ten extra hours every week. Being an owl, often afforded me double that, or so I thought. Not so. Because in my life, to be an owl, is to be a midnight faffer. Don’t get me wrong, those first two hours preceding the bell tolling were often massively productive. Often I’d write hundreds, if not thousands of words in this time. But then I should have gone to bed.
Larkism has made me focus.

The biggest surprise, however, has been to realise that I actually like feeling tired. I like clocking off at at the end of the school day and realising that my writing day is also done. Full stop. No need to think about how much work I might possibly be able to fit in later because I’ve done enough; I’ve made progress. And I love the fact that having been up since 5am, at 11pm I am tired, like a normal person, and it’s time to go to bed. I suppose, like babies, I’m enjoying the routine.
Nobody is more surprised than me to admit that Larkism is working. I’m told the biggest test will be when those mornings get dark and cold. I’m determined to continue. I’ll keep you posted.

So, are you a lark or an owl? Could you change and would you want  to?