It isn’t good to fall asleep after one in the morning and wake up shortly after four. It gets worse when you take your second herbal sedative and it has no effect, dawn comes as dawn always does and it’s too late for the last-resort 2mg valium. I think Fleur Adcock does a good job of nailing the condition in her poem Things:
There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse
In my particular case, though, it isn’t just the worse things that come stalking in but the stupid trivial things and the whole catalogue of mundane tasks that need to be addressed at some point. True, the vegetable rack in the kitchen has been falling apart for a long time and we should get a new one – but fretting about this and similar at five a.m.? I should talk about this with Shrink, obviously, but he is one of the Things I fret about. Our relationship is going through a testing time, a bit like that of a newly married couple when the honeymoon is over and the bickering begins. Well never mind, I’m sure this is all very auspicious and we’ll carry on slugging it out until the day I shake hands with him Woody Allen-style and agree to call it a draw.
Meanwhile, it may or may not be the end of the world, but everyone keep calm. Something is happening underground – a collision of protons that will “usher in a new era of physics”. People are worried that the planet is going to be destroyed in the process, but no-one has actually gone around waving banners or chaining themselves to railings and the end is very probably not nigh. We carry on, folks – thinking about property prices, the effects of climate change, remembering to bring used polythene bags with us to the supermarket, putting plastic milk bottles in the special tray at the top of the wheelie bin and taking the daily vitamin pill at breakfast. We carry on having birthdays and saving the gift-wrapping paper for future use.
If there is no Big Bang, that doesn't necessarily mean there is nothing to worry about - the end might come like a slow fertilisation and a period of waiting while the thing that is to happen forms itself before hatching out. But as far as I’m concerned it’s not over till the fat lady sings and Signs and Wonders appear in the sky, and I do not count the fact of relentless rain and miserable skies as either a Sign or a Wonder. It is either global warming or just one of those things; it scuppered the holiday plans of anyone hoping for a sunny break in Cornwall and it ruined a number of homes but we go on. I think, all things considered, I am glad about this.
When it does come, the last breath, the bang, the end of all the cycles of birth and rebirth and the beginning of nothing or a fall into destruction, I would like to have the opportunity to say goodbye – not just to the sky, forest, lakes and all the people that watch, run, swim and breathe, but to the particulars: polythene bags; a metal key ring shaped like a dolphin; a withered carrot in the blue vegetable rack that has been coming apart so the trays keep falling on each other; the bird that flew against my friend’s window one day and left on the pane of glass a shadow: the impression of its face.