I can remember the times I’ve not been able to sleep on one open hand.

Usually I can sleep anywhere – planes, trains, sitting up, lying down. Catnaps, dozes, forty winks or more. Not a problem. Indeed recently I’ve taken to perfecting the siesta (less than 45 minutes is the optimum.)

But tonight I can’t sleep.

Lying on the night train from Glasgow to London, rocked by the rattling that usually sends me straight to the deep,dark state. Tonight I am awake.

Bright, wide, fresh-eyed awake. And it’s only 3.47am

On the rare occasion that this happens I usually read for a bit and then get bleary eyed, but there’s someone sleeping in the bunk below and it seems bad form to turn on the light. So the glow of an iPhone seems acceptable.

I have been lying here doing mindful choreography. Probably the result of this last week on Holy Isle but also as a strategy to ward off the circular thinking that can curdle this dead hour. (This is the hour of the night most people die. When most people phone Samaritans.)

So instead of tail-eating thoughts, Mindfulness.

I lie on my side and listen to the layers of sqeaking, webs of rattle, harmonies of hum. And I open my right palm against the pillow and the left against the wall. I uncurl my right toes and touch the cool wooden footboard with my left. I notice how my one knee is bent and the other extended, like a Nijinsky faun, but flat on these sheets not hung in the air.

And then a movement there, a uncurling there. Everything animated by the dizzy of the train.

But to no avail. I still can’t sleep. The Gods can’t be summoned by dance. So I write instead.


  1. Athene

    October 1, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Good Morning Alistair, I hope you found some peace.

    I emailed you for the first time last night, through
    Mind Springs. I look forward to meeting you.

    Another Journey.

    Athene x

  2. toshi

    October 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    your a poet dear Alistair,
    hugs from Antwerp Belgium

  3. Athene

    October 1, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Definitely and beautifully descriptive.

    I stumbled across this and the Mind Springs site yesterday and this morning I felt
    like it was Spring. I realise this extends to my emotional evolution but wasn’t it a
    beautiful day? New beginnings.

    I wish you good sleep tonight.

    Athene x

  4. m

    October 2, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    and that time of night is when seratonin is at lowest levels – a fact which when I remmber it reminds me to ignore the dark and gloomy thoughts as passing.

Leave a Reply