Wake up, little snoozy

In praise of the afternoon nap. A short dissertation accepring that great age has consequences...

The time has come to write in praise of the afternoon nap.

My hour is around 2.30pm and it doesn't matter where I am - at home, at work, in a meeting, in a shop - I could happily just curl up and go to sleep for half an hour.

It used to be a passing fancy but now it is a pressing need. There are certain things that trigger the need to close my eyes and I do my best to avoid them but it's getting to the stage when just about anything will rock me to sleep.

A warm afternoon, a cup of tea, eating lunch, putting on a cardigan, hearing a lawnmower in the distance, noticing the dust in a shaft of sunlight… but most of all it is Diagnosis Murder and Murder She Wrote that have the ultimate soporific effect.

These two daytime TV shows, the first starring Dick Van Dyke as a crime-solving doctor and the second starring Angela Lansbury as a crime-solving writer (there seems to be a theme emerging) tend to be shown at my most dozy time and now I only have to hear the theme music to drift off.

For Dick, sending me to dreamland is a far cry from his days in a twin-divan bedroom with Mary Tyler Moore or delivering an execrable cockney accent on the streets of London and enticing Mary Poppins and two children into a pavement drawing.

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But when you have forty winks at home at least you're not doing it at work.

You know what it's like. You're sitting at your PC and suddenly you are aware the skin around your eyes feels unnaturally stretched because your eyelids are so heavy. The office soundtrack gets louder but further away. You can hear people talking on the phone but the words are a blur; your colleague's striped shirt is a hypnotic haze and your arms seem to end at the wrist; your hands are like big formless lumps of clay.

The computer keyboard looks amazingly comfortable, if only I could lie my head down on that black plastic pillow with its tiny lettered cushions.

Please don't tell my boss but I have sort of learned to catnap while appearing to be full awake. When my sleep alarm goes off I settle myself into a business-like position and recede from the maelstrom of modern living. Somewhere between waking and sleeping is a cosy place with a “Lynne dozing; do not disturb” sign over the featherbed of my reverie.

I hadn't really put this down to my age - after all, I was exactly the same at school during double maths; at university during Robert Kilroy Silk's politics lectures and in all previous jobs.

But then, in London, last weekend, the tendency to drop off entered a whole new phase.

We (that's me and him) travelled up by train in the morning, having booked for lunch at a restaurant off Covent Garden before a night at the theatre. Three courses and a glass of wine later we were overcome by tiredness. Unwilling to succumb by finding an unoccupied doorway, we decided to walk it off and headed for the river, hoping a little Thames breeze might blow away the pinot noir cobwebs.

Crossing The Strand and walking along a little street, we found a gateway into the Embankment gardens.

Walking past the wisteria blossom and fragrant beds of wallflower, we headed for the river… but what was this? A whole area was set aside for deckchairs. We looked at them longingly - could we? Should we? The gaily striped canvas called to us. “Come here, sit down, settle back, close your eyes.”

“We could buy a magazine and sit and read it?” I suggested, avoiding the obvious.

“Good idea,” agreed my husband and we nipped into WH Smith on Charing Cross station where we bought a couple of history magazines we hoped would act as the printed equivalent of Diagnosis Murder and Murder She Wrote, returned to the gardens, selected deckchairs in the sun and reclined.

I opened my magazine, fully intending to read the article about Mary Tudor but it looked so invitingly like a duvet that I spread it across my chest and closed my eyes. My husband hadn't even managed to open his copy.

The noise of the trains, traffic, tourists and a rock singer strangling an electric guitar was an effective lullaby as we had a few minutes shut-eye in the sunshine. “Aah, look at them,” cooed passing voices.

“What did you do in London, mum?” asked daughter Ruth, the next day.

“Well, we had a little sleep on the Embankment.”

“You did what?”

“Little sleep… Embankment… tired.”

I knew it sounded a bit lame. Nobody goes to one of the most vibrant capital cities in the world for an afternoon nap.

Next time, we'll get a room.

After reading about my memory-lapse episode trying to remember actor Richard Wilson's name, Ron Keveren wrote: “On Tuesday I approached Bourne Bridge (in Ipswich) and started to think of the One Foot in The Grave person and it took me to the Docks (about a mile and a half) Wilson. I then tried your alphabetical ploy and bingo! I arrived at Richard. When I got to my meeting where I was to give a talk, my first acetate was a picture featuring - you know who - his name had gone again and I had to appeal to the audience for help in identifying him!

Believe me the memory problems do not get any better as the years progress but you can always do what I do and sing: “Always look on the bright side of life, dedah dedum, always look…”

Thank you, Ron for reassuring me (sort of).

Always look on the bright side of life, dedah, dedum, dedah, dedah, dedum… Yes, I think it's working.