During the Christmas break, I got nap happy.
Up until very recently, I would have chuckled at the idea of having a nap. I’ve always been pretty active, getting by on the usual seven or eight hours kip.
In the last year or so, I’ve found myself getting phenomenally tired at unusual times of the day. The tiredness is so overwhelming, I’ve got to stop what I’m doing and have ten minutes shut eye. These brief kips are some of the best sleeps I’ve ever had. I wake up feeling like Popeye just after he’s shotgunned a can of spinach. I’m wide awake and ready to deal with whatever daft question is coming next in our house, like,
“Daddy, was Anne Frank married to Hitler?”
Of course, I’m talking like this is some sort of elixir that I alone have discovered, but really it’s just middle age starting to knock on my door and remind me that I’m nearly 43.
I can remember when I was tiny, just before I started school. I would watch my mum selfishly taking a twenty minute nap before she went back to work-got tea ready-did the washing up-hoovered the house-mowed the lawn-cut the hedges-stopped me putting forks in plug sockets. To my four year old body clock, this was an impossible amount of time to go without attention and she would stoically kip, whilst I tried to prise her eyes open with my thumbs. Such was the power of the nap, that, despite my attempts at sabotage, she’d still wake up looking sufficiently energised to take on the rest of her onerous day.
The naps that I have now aren’t like the stolen bits of sleep we’d get when our kids were babies. Those were much more frantic affairs, with an undercurrent of, ‘If you don’t let me sneak in a half hour gonk, I’m going to lose my fucking mind………..MY FUCKING MIND!’
No, these are much more sedate. I’m lying on the sofa, usually with a newspaper over my face, well aware that lying there with my gob wide open will be an almost irresistible invitation for Caleb (6) to recreate a scene from Return of the Jedi and drop Lego figures in there.
I can feel myself dropping off and it’s just... so… pleasant. When I wake up, it feels like I’ve been out for hours and it takes a few minutes for my life to have its clarity restored. In those moments, I haven’t got a mortgage, my knees aren’t rickety and all my wages are available to spend on CDs and pizza. It’s a blissful time. I don’t resent the reality swimming back into view either. I just look forward to the next nap.
One of my favourites took place on a ferry from Mull to Tiree in 2008. We were going to do a site inspection and had taken a structural surveyor with us. The journey took four hours on a flat calm sea. It was sunny and I took the opportunity to sit on the top deck and marvel at the beautiful view as we negotiated the Sound of Mull. The structural surveyor, a man in his fifties, opted for a nap in some very comfortable seating. When he joined us up top later, he looked blissful. He said that the rocking motion of the boat had just given him the best sleep of his life.
We all tried it on the way back and had to agree. One of the lads was so refreshed and affected by the cradling sensation, he said he felt like having a little cry.
I’m hoping that, as I get older, the naps will increase in their rejuvenating power, effortlessly counterbalancing the multiplying indignities of the aging process. For every tooth lost, I’ll get younger in the nap and start playing for United. As my trouser waistband creeps closer to my chest, I’ll pass those O Levels and start knuckling down at nap school.
For now, though, I’ll just enjoy these impromptu breaks and revel in the fact that the alarm clock in these situations is a six year old boy saying.
“Daddy, did you say you used to live in a terrorists house?”
“No son, I used to live in a terraced house.”