Thursday, 28 December 2017

Sleep slips through my fingers - Day 29

Day 29 (Friday 29th December 2017)
25 the High Street, Canterbury is the address of the Eastbridge Hospital.
It was built in 1180 to accommodate the increasing numbers of pilgrims
wishing to visit the tomb of Saint Thomas Becket. Becket was martyred
on 29th December 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral (the above picture is
a 15th century alabaster altarpiece from Elham Church, Kent, UK showing
the 4 knights of the royal household who assassinated him). In the
12th century a hospital was a place that provided hospitality (as opposed
to simply a place to treat the sick and injured). For the past 400 years
Eastbridge has provided (and still provides) a home for eight elderly
individuals known as Indwellers.
I'm back from my flying visit to Somerset - hospitals visits done and I have brought my mother and sister up to London for a few days. It will be good for all of us to spend some time together doing family stuff that is different from our conventional day-to-day existence. I am toying with a trip either to the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace - it has an exhibition on relating to Charles II and it is small enough not to be exhausting, or else perhaps the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

Today's post is by Rachel Burnham, a learning and development consultant based near Manchester. Rachel works with trainers, L&D professionals and HR teams to help them modernise their approaches and become more effective. Rachel is highly creative. The delightful drawing of Rachel and the selkie was done by Rachel herself. Rachel is a talented lady. She writes an excellent L&D focused blog - L & D Matters and is active on social media (you can follow her on Twitter via @BurnhamLandD). When not drawing selkies, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and is a keen jazz fan, as well as having a passion for gardening (as below illustrates). 


I love the night-time.  I love the darkness of it.  Night time in Manchester is all lights and noise and sparkle at this time of year.  But I like the dark. And looking up at the stars.

When I go to bed, I like to turn the lights down low and for the room to become a quiet and dark place.  A place of imagination.  As I ready myself for sleep, I imagine the night sky and feel it wrapping all around us and our little world, like a cloak.  A cloak, warm and enfolding.  

A cloak with a big, deep hood, a long and swirling cape, made of deep, dark blue velvet. Midnight blue. 

During the day, I never wear blue, but at night, I dream I am wrapped in a cloak of midnight blue velvet as I sleep. 

Or I imagine my bed, with its wooden frame and warm and cosy quilt, slipping free of its moorings and drifting out through the open window, across the roof tops, sailing amongst the clouds, dallying with the stars, adrift across the mountain tops or with the sea far below, perhaps an island or two, floating round a lighthouse,  whales, porpoises lift out of the waves and return with a silent splash, selkie seals with big eyes retrieve their skins from under rocks and swim through the night and birds large and small flock all around. 

The truth is that though I go off to sleep well enough, these days I rarely make it through the night undisturbed.  This past year I wake at 3.30 and 5 and whereas I used to turn and dive back into deep dreams, now I am often awake and unable to sleep.

I try everything.  I cut out tea and coffee after 6pm and for a glorious three week period in April, I sleep the full night through. But in May, I start to wake again.

I try deep breathing.  I read.   I write poetry.  Sometimes I work. I read some more.   Sometimes a snack helps.   Sometimes I slip off as I read.   I plant imaginary gardens – this is the best kind of gardening – no sore knees or back – I picture a walled garden with pinky-red bricked walls, a large lawn and a coloured-themed border fronted with box, which fortunately I trim only in my mind’s eye!   From the door where we enter the path goes straight-ahead and the border on your left gradually moves from white flowers, through lemon-yellow, to deeper butter yellow, then to full sunshine yellow, with a hint of pale-blue, deepening to full blues as the border ends.   Whilst if you turn to the right, starting again with pure white flowers, the blossoms deepen through cream, tan, soft orange, to tangerine, scarlet, wine red, and deep purples.  I plan a spring planting, begin the summer bedding, but rarely make it into autumn!

Yet even this sometimes fails to lull me to sleep, so I read again.   Or remembering a book, often read to my son when small, where an older brother rabbit told his younger sister rabbit to think of happy things before she went to sleep, I fix my mind and think of happy thoughts.  And think of friendship.

I realise now that it is only this year that I have begun to really value friendship.  How wonderful and precious it is.   Of course, I have had friends before.   And some have stayed and some I have lost along the way.  But until this year, I don’t really think that I have fully appreciated friendship.

I am such an introvert that I need and like lots of time on my own.  And I have always spent so much time surrounded by family, that until now, I never seemed to have room or feel the want of more than a few friends.  But these last few years everything has changed so much for me, that now I want and enjoy the company of many, many friends.

Friendship is such a varied and elastic term.  There are friends and there are friends.   There are acquaintances and colleagues and social media connections, people met through work and joyfully some of these turn into and grow into fully fledged friendships.

This year I have been blessed with my friendships.  There are friends who supported my through some bad times – who listened and were there.  There are friendships developed through collaborative learning projects.  There are friends who I have discussed ideas and who’ve challenged my thinking – in person and at a distance.  There are friends who I have giggled with.  There’s a practical friend who willingly gave up her lunch time to help me stick things up on walls.  There are friends with whom together we have made things happen.  There are friendships which have come into being through volunteering & campaigning together.   And there is a particular friendship which has been all of these things and so much more – a many-faceted friendship of work, learning, jazz and cricket. I feel nurtured by this wealth of friendship and give thanks for it.

And as I think on friendship, I feel that warming, welcome heaviness filling my limbs and a gradual drowsiness, so as dawn comes, I at last slip away to sleep again for an hour or so.  A good morning is here!

Rachel Burnham
9 December 2017

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