During the week I often stir restively in the small hours, surfacing and resurfacing at 3.30, 4.10, 5.40: the side effect of too much mental activity and hardly any physical activity. At 6 o’clock I am asleep, body and psyche utterly defenceless against the deceptively understated bibibibibiiiip bibibibibiiip of the alarm clock. Aural acupuncture.
I extend a claw to switch the damn thing off, and having decided, against the evidence, that I am not in fact dead and beginning eternity in one of the less spectacular circles of hell, emerge from my pit with all the zest for life of a crone in a Russian fairy tale. My centre of gravity is somewhere around the soles of my feet, and I’ve got about as much vertical hold as a stack of paint cans in a Laurel & Hardy movie. Body buckling under the unbearable heaviness of being, I shuffle towards the kitchen.
On Fridays I wake to the silence where the alarm clock isn’t. Ah. Bliss. A/C hums. Habibi snores. Birds twitter. (Saw Failure to Launch yesterday, arf arf. Go see.) I don’t move, savouring the feeling of spine stretched on cotton sheets and firm wide mattress, appreciative of sunlight filtering through curtains and closed eyelids, waiting to see if I feel like getting up or going back to sleep.
Sometimes I stay put just for the pleasure of being horizontal, cocooned, motionless except for the slow rise and fall of my chest as I breathe (always reassuring) letting thoughts drift until sleep washes over and I sink in quiet rapture.
If I decide I want to be up, then I might slither sideways in a satisfyingly silly private game of escaping unnoticed by mattress or duvet. Or just get up and go see what the day looks like. Sometimes I whip the duvet to one side and feel the cool air replacing the warm over me, give it half a minute – there’s no rush after all – and pootle off in search of tea to the rhythm of whatever happens to be playing in my head.
I think it’s a major misconception that music is something we appreciate exclusively through our ears – music is how we harness energy and spirit; soar, pivot, tumble and sweep onward inside without necessarily moving, at least on the outside; how we express what is otherwise inexpressible in all of us, and share the feelings and experiences of others. It’s right up there with love, food, drink and shelter as a fundamental human necessity.
How marvellous it is that there are people with extraordinary gifts as singers, musicians, composers and dancers; and a recording industry that enables us to see and hear over and over again artists we might never see live. But at the same time, the truly gifted only have in abundance what the rest of us have in moderation. We need to make music too, all of us, and if we’re too inhibited to dance, wiggle, sing, hum, whistle, snap our fingers, tap our feet, at least nod our heads for heaven’s sake, then something vital has been suppressed.
Bring on the live bands of local kids, and the folk clubs, the singalongs, the choirs, the school orchestras, the amateur operatics, the karaoke, the ceilidhs, the barndances and the dance classes. Bring on the superstar in the shower! Bring on the boogie-woogie bed-maker and sweeper-upper!
(I generally do housework while jigging along to Shania Twain, adding harmonies when the mood takes me, because that's where the fun lies, and also because it means that only a quarter of my brain has to engage with the tedious inevitability of dust everywhere - especially after this week's shamals blew half the desert into our apartment. The Empty Quarter must be very empty indeed today. (OK I exaggerate.) Habibi is very brave about the harmonies, which of course drown out the melody and the rest of the arrangement. It was very good of Habibibaba to leave his good headphones behind when he left home.)
OK, so it’s Friday morning, I’m out of bed, with a tune in my head, and the kettle’s over there. I think that different rhythms pour energy into different parts of the body – and in many different ways! Some the shoulders and upper chest (Peter Gabriel’s Salisbury Hill,
And later, after I’ve had my tea, and an hour or so on the sofa with my book, or BBC World, or some film I’ve caught the latter half of, I may decide to go back to bed. Just for the hell of it.
Today of course, I’ve been writing this, and now I’m taking the temple of my soul to the gym. Once again, it’s been over a week because of work and weariness, so I’m stiff, but I love doing it, I love the steam room afterwards, and weekdays at 6 a.m. are much better when I’ve been to the gym the day before. Begone ancient crone!