It is well known that old peo­ple – old peo­ple like me – re­quire less sleep

Bray People - - OPINION - with David Medcalf med­der­s­me­

300, 299, 298, 297……… 233, 231, 230, 229…

It is not work­ing. Some­one sug­gested the other day on the ra­dio that count­ing back­wards, down from 300, is a great way of in­duc­ing sleep. Much more ef­fec­tive than count­ing sheep and much health­ier than reach­ing for the anti-in­som­nia pills, the pro­gramme pre­sen­ter was in­formed by his ex­pert guest. And I cer­tainly have found this handy tip of great as­sis­tance at night as a way of ban­ish­ing all thought of the day’s in­ci­dents and ar­gu­ments on the way to the Land of Nod.

…189, 188, 186. Hold on, missed one there. Drat. Bet­ter start again. 300, 299, 298, 297………

Un­for­tu­nately, the method has proven of no ben­e­fit what­ever when at­tempt­ing to re­turn to slum­ber after wak­ing be­fore sched­ule in the morn­ings. The alarm clock is show­ing 4.37 a.m., far too soon to con­tem­plate ris­ing, yet I find my­self un­able to lapse back into a state of un­con­scious­ness as the num­bers jumble and jan­gle and jump around in­side my frus­trated head. …235, 235, 235. Agh, what’s next? 222, 221, 211… Hermione sleeps on serenely through my toss­ing and turn­ing, later show­ing scant sym­pa­thy over the break­fast mar­malade.

‘You are old,’ she states baldly when I run my lat­est symp­tom past her. ‘What else do you ex­pect? It is well known that old peo­ple – old peo­ple like you - re­quire less sleep at nights, though they some­times make up for it with a snooze in the af­ter­noons.’

Dear, de­lec­ta­ble, spring-chicken Hermione is way wide of the mark there for I am at my very ra­zor sharpest after lunch. Ex­cept, of course, on the odd oc­ca­sion when she plies me with a glass of chilled white wine to ac­com­pany the mid-day ham with mus­tard sand­wich.

I never drank wine at mid-day when I was one of the young peo­ple, but it is quite pos­si­ble that the prac­tice would have had the same so­porific ef­fect back then, so that proves ab­so­lutely noth­ing. Any­way, the early wake-ups are prob­a­bly the mer­est pass­ing phase, in­duced by a com­bi­na­tion of bright sum­mer sun­rises and flimsy cur­tains.

The beloved is quite cor­rect on the other hand when she sug­gests that the pass­ing of the years does re­sult in changes, for that can­not be de­nied.

Some of those changes are phys­i­cal. To put it in sport­ing terms, old peo­ple like me must recog­nise that that they are no longer ca­pa­ble of reach­ing the green on any of the par fives in two shots. They must learn to use the rest when play­ing those awk­ward snooker shots rather than sprawl­ing across the ta­ble like an over ea­ger lover, with one toe in ten­u­ous con­tact with the ground.

Then some of the changes are re­fusal-to-change changes, if that makes sense. The mind which was once open to all man­ner of styles and in­flu­ences be­comes stuck in its own lit­tle fox-hole. For ex­am­ple, it is a mat­ter of un­shake­able be­lief that the charts of 1967 marked a peak in the qual­ity of pop mu­sic which will never be sur­passed – and don’t try to tell me any dif­fer­ent. Please do not at­tempt to point out that the mu­si­cal tide which washed in so many clas­sics from The Bea­tles and Stones to Tom Jones also gave us Whistling Jack Smith and the not so im­mor­tal ‘I Was Kaiser Bill’s Bat­man’.

And then there are the men­tal changes. It seems that the brain is like a pint glass. It has a lim­ited ca­pac­ity. Fill the brain be­yond the lim­its and it will over­flow. The prob­lem is that there is no con­trol over what is re­tained and what comes drib­bling over the side of the glass when limit has been reached. So, I have no difficulty re­call­ing the lyrics of ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, just in case I may some­day be called upon to per­form the song in pub­lic – some­thing which has not hap­pened in close to half a cen­tury.

Yet I had to ask a UCD fan the other day to re­mind me was who scored the goal for the stu­dent side in the cup fi­nal of 1984 against Sham­rock Rovers – cen­tre half Ken O’Do­herty. Of course.

Com­ing up to date, I find my­self look­ing with fur­rowed brow into the fridge and won­der­ing what I am sup­posed to be fetch­ing be­fore sit­ting back at the ta­ble to curse the fact that my tea is black.

176, 175, 174…ZZZ, ZZZ, zzz.

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