“Early to bed/Early to rise/Makes a man healthy, wealthy, witty and wise”. My father liked to quote that old saw, and at the time – when I was in my teens and early twenties – it struck me as both boring and false. These days, about fifty years later, I’m much less sure. By the time it gets to ten o’clock of an evening, I’m usually to be seen shuffling towards the stairs and my bed. Not so much because I’m terribly tired, but because I know that if I don’t get to bed soon, given that I wake pretty early in the morning, like around six, I’m going to feel like a sack of pig-dung in the morning. Most people who know me know not to contact me any later than 9.00 p m.
So the other night I’d composed myself and was in the land of Nod shortly after 10.00 p m. I’m just getting my dream system organised and I’m working on giving Yvette Mimieux a walk-on part, when the phone beside my bed goes off like a hand-grenade. The clock says it’s something to eleven.
“Hello” this man I know says. “Were you in the bed”?
“Yes” I say, trying not to shout.
“I said I was in bed. I am in bed”.
“Good man, good man”.
One of two things. This man didn’t take in what I said – that I was in bed – and so is asking questions, the answer to which he can’t be bothered listening, or he did hear what I said and doesn’t give a monkey’s toss whether he has roused me or not. Of course I didn’t put any of this to him. I was polite, took his message about some arrangements that could have been dealt with the next day, and tried to go back to sleep. Could I? Can my cat play the saxaphone?
There’s a fortune waiting for two people. The first person will make himself 24/7 available to take the phone number of someone who’s disturbed a sleeper like myself, he’ll wait until the offender is himself asleep – sa around 2.30 a m – at which point he’ll phone him every hour, on the hour, maybe greeting him with the shrieked words “How d’you like them apples, punk?” The second person will devise a setting for your phone which detects when someone as rung at an unnecessarily late-sleep-time hour; when activated, this device will send a middle-ear-puncturing blast back into the skull of the after-hours caller.
Some sins are too heinous to go unpunished.