Monday 14 July 2008

Sleeplessness: it's no joke

No idea once again; 10.0 units of alcohol yesterday evening; 1,301 days left; Newcastle upon Tyne.

My night’s journey started off so well, as I drifted quickly off into a deep sleep at around 11 o’clock. Unfortunately this was brought to an abrupt stop when the bloke in the bedroom above mine came crashing in at 12.15 a.m. He then marched around for a scarcely believable length of time, perchance reliving the joy of square-bashing at the Guards depot in Pirbright back in the 1960s. I found it hard to believe that anyone could take so long and cover so many hundreds of yards just to perform the normal bedtime routines of hanging up clothes or brushing teeth. To my utter amazement, he then repeated his route march at 2.10, 3.40 and finally 4.50 a.m. Never in all my years have I encountered such a fatal combination of chronic prostate trouble, St Vitus dance and a total and utter lack of consideration for the welfare of others. I don’t know how he felt when he finally rolled out of bed this morning, but when I gave up trying to sleep after his last outburst, I can tell you that I was totally shattered.

I caught the 07.00 train to Newcastle, on which I found myself surrounded by earnest, young, blonde female accountants. There are worse fates. As they and the many other youthful, London-based advisers poured off the train at Newcastle Central, it was remarkably easy to visualize them as a plague of oversized, parasitic, blue-suited insects, about to suck what little life is left out of the North East corporate sector. Luckily they did not all want taxis; unluckily the curse of the ignorant taxi driver who is new to these parts has finally arrived on Tyneside. I made several attempts to explain very slowly to the straggly bearded berk in the driving seat where I wanted to go, then gave up and acted as navigator for the journey. Luckily this is an option for me in Newcastle; in Leeds a couple of years ago I nearly shat myself in the front passenger seat of a taxi whose driver had an A to Z propped open on the steering wheel in front of him throughout, and paid infinitely more attention to that than to the traffic speeding at us from all sides as we weaved erratically through the central motorway system. I am sure it was only the Koran, prominently displayed on the dashboard, that got us through.

I am not much use for anything at the best of times, and am worse than useless when I have only had a couple of hours’ sleep the previous night. Just my luck then to have one of my very few business meetings of the year in Newcastle this morning, and a speech to write for another client when I got home late this afternoon. I battled to do so in the face of extreme fatigue, and feared that the result was embarrassingly short of decent (or, for that matter, indecent) jokes. Then the fax machine of the hotel to which I had been instructed to send it would not work. I have to confess that I used some very bad words indeed at this point. When the great Ledger is opened and my life weighed in the balance in just 1,300 days time, I hope that I will be permitted to cite extreme fatigue as part of my plea in mitigation.

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