9 May 2011

Five O'clock

When I was little, I hated sleep. Mostly I suppose because I hardly ever slept. There was this awful time of the morning, around five O'clock, that I used to wake up. Sometimes it was six and often it was four. I used to lie in my bed, the sheet not half as cosy as it was when I'd first got in the previous evening, having curled into a ball and wiggled my toes right down to the bottom.
I was always afraid of dark corners; the space under my bed and especially the door. I used to make sure I tucked the duvet right over my head, wrapped around my face - my eyes peeking over the top. That way, I thought they couldn't get me from behind, and if I slept facing the door, I could also keep watch- that was, until I could watch no longer, and begrudgingly fell asleep. I don't know who they were, but they scared me anyway.
But at five O'clock, when I'd awoken wide awake, I'd lie there for a moment and stare at the door, my eyes peeking, blinking into the dark, and wait. For something to jump out at me, or for me to fall back asleep... For what seemed like forever.
So I think. I'll go use the bathroom. That would take up some time.

I'd jump from the gap under my bed, missing it by nearly a mile, and land in the spot where the floorboards didn't creak. I'd peek in at my sister (just to check she too wasn't lying in bed, and staring at her door). No, she never had any trouble sleeping. I'd creep down the stairs, leaning on the banister to take all my weight so I didn't make a sound which might wake up the house. The floorboards always felt cool as I tiptoed and balanced my way across the hall, hopping from one bit of clothing left stranded on the floor to another. Leggings, jumpers and socks lay there like little islands in a deep, dark sea, and I hopped across them, leaping one last leap to land on the long Persian rug at the end of the hall; my jetty. Safe on that jetty, I'd take my time. There was no rush. Tiptoe. Tiptoe. I'd pull the cord carefully in the bathroom, knowing it would clink the light on in that loud, vulgar way, which in the dead of night, the silence of five O'clock, would sound thunderous. I had to shut the door quickly behind me, so only the slightest shard of light could dart across the landing which lead to Mum and Dad's room. Then, I'd pause and wait. Listening for five minutes in case they'd heard the thunderous clink and might want to get up to see what it could be.

Once back in bed, I'd stare at the digital clock, watching the green lines switch like worms changing shape, from 5:09 to 5:10 to 5:11 to 5:12. But it didn't tick. Thank God, it didn't tick. I'd have listened to that for hours. Instead, I'd listen to the birds singing, sat in the sycamore tree outside my window and I wondered what they were saying to each other. I wished and wished that it was my house, and there was only me in it. If it was, I'd race down the stairs, thumping two at a time with all the lights switched on. 'Like Blackpool illuminations...' Mum would say. I'd make some tea and toast with Marmite spread all thick, and watch as many Disney films as I liked. Any one would do, even something like Pinocchio which scared me a little, or Bambi which made me cry- anything that would quiet the birds and stop me from waiting.

Sometimes I even got ready for school. I'd dress up in my crisp white shirt, school jumper with the tree logo on it, my grey pleated skirt and thick woolly tights, and then get back into bed. All ready to go, except for brushing my hair, putting my shoes on - oh, and cleaning my teeth.

'Why are you so crumpled?' Mum would ask as I ate my Shreddies at the breakfast table.
'Dunno.' I used to reply, yawning and shrugging a bit, reading the back of the cereal box.
She would walk away mumbling about how we should be more careful as we sorted the airing cupboard after Gran had spent ages ironing our things.
I knew she'd go mad if she knew. Either that, or worry.  

All these memories come back to me tonight. It's 5:32am. It's a Saturday night - or rather a Sunday morning, and I'm sitting in the living room table in my little flat. I've got some herbal tea (ginger and lemon, if you must know) and I've made myself some toast (with oodles of butter and half a pot of Marmite). Liam is snoring in the bedroom (he always does that when he sleeps on his back) only stopping for a moment when he rustles the duvet and turns every ten minutes or so. I've crept into the living room in my white fluffy dressing gown, and I'm writing to you. I wasn't afraid of the dark, but I still don't like the gap under my bed, if I was really honest. I did creak the floorboards as I crept from my bed, because I'm just not used to avoiding them here. I'm not master of the silence, quite like I used to be. But I did lie awake for a little while and listen to the birds, wondering what they might be saying, and why I couldn't sleep. It's funny how it all came back. But I'm okay, I've got my little lamp on, and having just scribbled furiously on my pad, to you, I'm feeling a little bit tired. Think I'll crawl back into bed in a bit. Besides, my tea's nearly finished. Goodnight.



  1. I hate insomnia. It will sneak up in nasty little bouts for no reason. :S

  2. I never had this kind of problem. My problem is that I can't wake up in the morning. I don't hear my alarm and if I do I incorporate it into my dreams. I've always hated getting up early and I still do. I never saw a sunrise or heard birds singing in the quiet morning. I perfer sleeping...

  3. For me the time is 3:33. I wake up at this exact hour and minute more times in my life that I can count. I have no idea what it means and it doesn't scare me but I know there's some meaning to it and I want to know what it is. Funny how as kids we all had something to be afraid of.

  4. I often have this problem over the years. I try to go to bed as late as I can in the hope my body will stay asleep but it doesn't always work. The worst part is when I run out of thoughts to entertain myself with. Hope you get a good night's sleep soon.

  5. I woke up daily at 3am for years and it is a terrible thing for a girl. Very aging, and bad for disposition too. Thank God now I am over it, mostly.

  6. I remember doing this as a kid. I still remember which stairs creak in my mom's house. I hate when I can't sleep. At least now when I wake up, I can walk anywhere I want and turn on any light. No one here to wake up :)

  7. I'm likd Happy Frog with this. It comes and goes. 4 o'clock was always my times and I loved that it was called the hour of the wolf - you can make some great stories with that. I would also go for tea and toast so that made me smile.

  8. As you get older you need less sleep, so five or half past five is usually the time I awake and spend time staring at the ceiling. Love this story though, it brings back those fears we all tend to experience as children in the dark.

  9. i used to have similiar experiences when i was younger. nowdays no matter what time it is, as soon as i wake up i get hayfever straight away ....wife loves it when i wake up and start sniffing [on the rare occasions she can hear it above her snoring]

    (and all that talk of your cat a couple of weeks back has inspired me to write about the joy of having a dog)

  10. First thing, that was beautiful. Your writing has a quiet poise that I envy. Second thing, those of you that wake around 3, that's liver related, not in a bad way, but in a busy way, Google 3am liver.

  11. Don Carter is ovah!

  12. Ah, Master of the Silence, this is beautiful. My daughter's the same way. I can't usually find her under the covers in the morning--she's so balled up in one corner or another. I think that what went through your mind as a child is precisely what goes through hers!
    I shared my bedroom with two sisters, so I was never afraid of the bogeyman. Funny what scares us when we're children. ;)

  13. I had insomnia something fierce as a small child. And then came the teen years. That was worse. I battle bouts with the insomnia elves several times a year still. They take spells of leaving to bother someone else and then return.

  14. Hi Lizzie! Funny you should email as we were just thinking about you guys last night and reading your blog - its great! Glad you are enjoying our travel stories, you guys are featured in a pic at the famous Mitani Cafe!Hope London is treating you well. Stay in touch x