We have a rather attractive long case clock in our sitting room. It chimes the quarters and sonorously marks the hours with a resonant Westminster peal. It helpfully tells me the time in the small hours of the morning. Sometimes I am woken by vicious attacks of cramp. More often it's a fussing dog that wakes me or a cat sinking heavily into slumber on me. Occasionally my husband mutters incomprehensibly in his sleep and I hear myself attempting to answer him. The worst awakening of all comes courtesy of a nameless occurrence that might have been dreamt but has brought me to full wakefulness, alert, wide-eyed, heart pounding, listening. I feel that I am pricking my ears to catch passing murmurs; actually I'm lifting my head from the pillow to allow binaural hearing as the tension in my neck muscles attests.
Usually I wake around 2:00 a.m. Often I hear three, four and five o'clock strike. Sometimes I read. At other times I play mind games. Now and then I give up all attempts at rest and go downstairs 'to get a jump on the day.' Making an early start makes no difference to the way the house runs; there are enough tasks to fill twenty-four hours every day and many of them are overlooked or put off to a mythical other day.
Several times recently I have woken about 3:00 a.m. On the first occasion it was to clean up after a poorly dog. The next time I woke and knew within a short time that sleep would not welcome me back to her loving arms so crept downstairs in the dark. Why I moved quietly I do not know. The other sleepers in the night never wake when I'm tramping round the bedroom in agony from cramp. I could have flooded the house with light for no-one stirs when I read till my eyes cross with weariness. There's just something about going downstairs in the middle of the night that urges me to tread silently in the gloom, breathe evenly, whisper. I fill the kettle, hoping no-one will be disturbed by the water running through the pipes. I press into action various machines, trusting their noise will not act as alarms.
The second time gave me the opportunity to see the sun rise and to photograph it. At such times I vow that I will always rise early for it is truly a lovely time. I feel privileged to hear the day arrive, for the birds begin to sing while it is still dark and the participants in the chorus grow in number as dawn approaches. I enjoy the tranquillity of early morning and find pleasure in welcoming the new day.
Yesterday at three o'clock I went downstairs with Buddy Liver Spots who was restless and seemed uncomfortable. I gave him a snack but that didn't settle him so I stayed in the sitting room with him. He went to sleep and I dozed, alerted every fifteen minutes by the clock. Monty climbed onto my lap and kept me warm.
Once again Buddy woke me at 0300 hours this morning. After I let him out he fell asleep. I did some chores and read. Barry appeared an hour later and I made a pot of tea while he livened up the fire. A little later we saw a large, handsome fox trotting purposefully across the patio. He was in no hurry and we were reminded once more that our garden is ours in name only. We may own the deeds but the territory belongs to the descendants of the animals and birds that lived here long before man put his mark on the area.