You know my M.O. by now. I accumulate scribbled-on scraps of paper throughout the day. At the close of play I throw them in a pile; I pick them out, one by one and, by some form of alchemy that I do not understand, they coalesce into something that more or less makes sense. I will take three or four such ‘markers’ and then just drift along the path they present to me. Normally I have no idea where I am going until I get there. When, eventually, I arrive at something that could broadly be described as the denouement, I often have to go back to the beginning, in order to change where I came from. Occasionally things have a point. Usually it is quite blunt. Most of the time I have an idea, but no idea of where it might actually take me. Even my little fictions often have to be rewritten because the ending, when I reach it, does not necessarily match the beginning. I cannot plan what I am about to write, because I have no idea what it might be. Mostly I take my little scraps of paper and just start to type, to see where that might take me. Life is so much more interesting when you don’t know where it’s going.
I do give myself one or two signposts when I jot my random notes. Generally anything written in capitals would be a bullet point, just a subject that I’d like to encompass somehow. Anything in quotation marks I, by and large, intend to use verbatim. Underlined scrawl normally indicates that either I thought that this might be a decent subject for an entire post, or it is what I would consider a good title for same. How do I tell these two apart? Exactly.
The title of today’s little treatise is one such note. It stands alone on an otherwise virgin sheet of folded foolscap* paper. It is underlined. It could be a subject, or it could be a title. Your guess is as good as mine. Today it is both. The problem I have with this particular nosegay is not what it says, nor even where it should be used, but what it means. I like it, but I have no recollection of having written it and, therefore, no context to offer an explanation to me. Did I intend to examine the problems of sleeping when enveloped by silence or did I intend to investigate my own inability to sleep silently? If the latter, what particular noise did I suppose I had been making, and how did I know?
I suspect that none of us actually sleep in true silence. Clocks tick, pilot lights purr, fridges whirr, partners snore. Outside, something is going through the bin. Anyway, I watch the news: I know that the Universe makes a noise. In my head, it is that of a balloon being inflated. I cannot tell you how many sleepless nights the anticipation of a ‘pop’ has brought me. I once had to put some antibiotic fluid into my ears, followed by a sizeable wodge of cotton wool. The noise of the sea was unbearable: the whooshing of my blood and the beating of my heart. People actually put earplugs into their ears to block out noise. They must be deaf. Do I have an inability to sleep in silence? I have no idea. I have never tried it.
I know that I don’t sleep silently. I believe that is called death. I sleep fitfully. Being a man of a certain age, nocturnal bathroom visits are not unusual. I’m sure that I must snore at times – the bruises I bear from my wife’s honed and pointed elbows testify to the truth of that. I know that I move around a lot from the state of my crumpled knot of bedding in the morning.
Age does not bring restful sleep with it. Waking in the morning remains a problem, but it does not fill my mind nearly as much as the threat of not doing so.
Proofreading (a short explanation) – I have just begun to prepare this piece for publication and Oh Boy! One day, I am going to publish a piece exactly as it turns out in its first draft. See how you get on with it. Spelling errors litter the page when I am typing quickly (subjective – quickly for me) but they are easily rectified. I am instinctively a good speller, although like everyone, I have bogey words. ‘Parallel’ and ‘Restaurant’ are almost always underlined in red. And I could never decide between ‘premesis’ and ‘premises’ until I tipped the wink to autocorrect. Grammar is an altogether more nutty problem. I had a ‘classical’ education – I think that means I pronounce the letter aitch with only one of them – but grammar, in amongst a host of other essential attributes, was something with which I never got to grips. As I type, the word ‘comma’ pops into my head at random intervals, so I put one in. I guess you will have got used to my idiosyncratic take on most simple grammatical forms by now. I know that I have the tendency to repeat the same error ad nausea. My stream of consciousness style (ok, dribble of drivel) leads me into the regular use of parentheses, even though I have no real idea of how this is properly done. Forgive me. My syntax, I feel, is pretty much ok, because I always read everything out loud before I publish it. If it trips off my tongue, I figure it must be ok. Of course, that depends on the level of the whisky bottle. Anyway, all I’m saying is that one of these days I will publish my original work in its uncorrected form, so that we can see what you make of it without the help of Babel Fish. Until then, I will continue to fret over every single syllable and regret the fact that I can’t publish a little more often. Be grateful for small mercies. They are what make this nonsense even vaguely readable.
*what we old folk call A4.