Friday, August 12, 2005

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

Cures for insomnia are a current topic on the Guardian Letters page. I fear it will run for as long as the eventually tedious one on uses for 35m film canisters.
Now that I blog I never get the urge to write to The Guardian. It's been so long since I did so that I'm not sure my green biro even works any more.
But why would I want to share my rantings with hundreds of thousands of people when I can share them with several hundred of the discerning and mostly wonderful people who make up the micro-readership of this blog?

A cure for insomnia I sometimes use is an alternative to counting sheep. I attempt to count the number of people I've had sex with in my life.
Although I don't consider myself to have been a particularly promiscuous person, I invariably recall someone who has never previously figured in these late night lucubrations. This may be because it can take thirty years for alcohol-induced amnesia to wear off.
Unfortunately, you can then spend a long time asking yourself the same questions you asked on the morning you found them next to you in bed:
Who are they?
Where did you meet them?
What's their name?
[The use of 'they' and 'them' is not intended to imply there was more than one person at a time. Well, not usually].

Another reason this cure for insomnia is seriously flawed is that you sometimes remember a particularly enjoyable experience and that can trigger the release of all the wrong chemicals in your brain. Sleep is then the last thing on your mind and you have to quickly conjure up images of Anne Widdecombe in the shower. Everyone was put on this earth for a purpose and that woman is a veritable lumberjack to Morning Wood, Evening Wood, an entire Sherwood Forest of wood.

Laughter is not conducive to sleep either and there's always the risk that you remember some of your funnier sexual experiences. That doesn't mean they were funny at the time, which is just as well because laughter and sex can often be uneasy bedfellows.
Laughter can often be instrumental in getting someone between the sheets but if the removal of your Y-Fronts provokes hilarity rather than passion it's probably a case off 'booster rocket fired....we have lift, we have a problem.'

It wasn't funny at the time when I said to someone "Don't worry, you'll get an erection soon", only to receive the distressed reply "But I've already got one."
Although it makes me smile now, it was disconcerting when Jean-Pierre, an allegedly straight French guy, breathed in my ear and whispered "God, I wish you had tits."
"You French are so romantic", I replied sarcastically, which was one in the eye for that arrow that did for poor King Harold in 1066.
As Simon Fanshawe quoted in yesterday's Guardian 'the difference between straight and gay is five pints of lager'. Or, in that case, half a bottle of Pernod.

Five or more pints of lager can also engender an Equal Opportunities Policy where sex is concerned, albeit not intentionally.
Only yards from my flat, a silver-tongued Irish boy with more blarney than Wogan on speed told me the craic was good and the night was young, before adding ominously "there's something I should have told you."
"You're straight", I said, "or a priest...... or you're on active service for the IRA". (This was London in the 1970s).
"No, I've got an artificial arm. Is that OK?"
"Er, yes, absolutely fine. So long as everything else is real."
"You really hadn't noticed?"
"Well, the pub was very crowded. You could hardly lift your hand to scratch your nose. Well you couldn't, obviously. But neither could I. Nobody could. Do you fancy a coffee?"

I've always been squeamish about prosthetic limbs, ever since as a small child I saw the film about Douglas Bader, who lost both legs in the war.
But lager and lust are a potent combination and, whilst a straight Frenchman might still regard tits as a sine qua non to coucher avec moi, the odd arm being AWOL on a gay Irishman soon became a matter of supreme indifference to me.
I even helped him unscrew it before we went to bed, so my parents' misguided idea of giving me a Meccano set for Christmas had finally proved useful. In short, everything was going swimmingly.
Until, that is, the point in the proceedings where waves crash against the shore and fireworks explode in the sky, which was interrupted by a tremendous crash.
I sat bolt upright in bed.
"Oh my God! What's that?"
It sounded as though the police were smashing down the door.
"It's all right", said Seamus, "my arm's just fallen off your dressing table."

The detumescent effect could not have been greater if Seamus had metamorphosed into Ian Paisley.
If only the earth had moved before the arm did.

In case you are thinking that my life has been a feckless fandango of one night stands, I should add that there were one or two more stands with Seamus but to avoid his arm going walkabout again we always laid it on the floor.
And that's another reason why these recollections are such a bad cure for insomnia. For every ten 'What the hell was I thinking ofs?' there's always one 'What if?'
Youthful sexual encounters occur before you've untangled the complex threads of love and sex, of looks and character. Before you've realised that relationships, like politics, are the art of compromise.

Seamus wasn't 'drop dead gorgeous', a fact that had nothing to do with his missing arm. That only features prominently in my memory because of the unfortunate timing with which it fell off the dressing table.
But what shines brightly over a distance of thirty years is an extraordinary sweetness of nature, an inherent goodness, and a great capacity to love and be loved.
That's why 'casual sex' is such a misleadingly derogatory term. Yes, it can be as empty and meaningless as some long-term relationships. But it can also be loving and life-enhancing.
A few hours can be a significant event in the narrative of your life and a part of who you are. Maybe in some parallel or alternative universe it never happened. But in this universe it did happen and can never un-happen. A casual encounter can be forever and that is something to celebrate and sleep on.
Sweet dreams.

[Some names have been changed to protect the identity of people who, if still alive, could now be married, or famous, or leading libel lawyers].


At 8:09 PM, Blogger Jane said...

You know that is one of the nicest, sweetest, romantic even, things I've read in a long time. A Hurrah to taking a chance and one night stands because they are not always bad and often great fun.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger cello said...

Marvellous stuff Willie. It's never wrong to give someone love if it's not going to hurt anyone else. Though always better to stow loose items in the overhead lockers before taking off.

I am rather envious of you being able to use your sexual partners as an alternative to counting sheep. I would barely have put my head on the pillow before running out. Damn my Catholic teens.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Vicus Scurra said...

I have just woken up in the middle of the night, and would like to invoke your method of getting back to sleep. Unfortunately, I know far fewer of the people with whom you have been intimate than you do, so unless you email a list to me by return, I don't think it will work.

At 6:59 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Good Grief, Vicus, I hope you don't know any of them although I suspect one or two of them put themselves about a bit.

Thanks, Jane. I was actually annoyed with myself for setting out to be funny and then getting sentimental. Hope I'm not turning into Richard Curtis.
I blame Seamus.

cello, overhead lockers? In the places I rented in those days you were lucky if you had a wardrobe. That must have been one of my more upmarket bedsits because it had a dressing table.
This was more early twenties than teens. But from this distance that still seems terribly young.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger zaphod said...

Brilliant post Mr Lupin...Leaves me a bit stuck on counting lovers though 'cos well, what with me and Mrs Zaphod being married all these years, I can't remember anyone else. I'm not sure that there was anyone else.
Oh well. Just have to think of something else to get me to sleep.

At 5:55 PM, Blogger Wyndham said...

I've never understood that phrase, one-night stand. There seems to be precious little standing involved in the process. Erm, if you know what I mean.

At 6:37 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

zaphod, at least you won't lie awake wondering when you're going to get a letter from the Child Support Agency.

wyndham, I've always thought it an odd term too. And if you've had too much lager there's no standing of any kind going on.

At 9:02 PM, Blogger Merkin said...

Wilie. In all seriousness, that was the nicest (and simultaneously most amusing) post that I've read from any blog for a very long time. Thank you for making me smile after a crappy night in a crappy pub!

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

merkin, glad it made you smile.
People seem to have seen more in that piece than I was aware of.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Urban Chick said...


now there's a word i ain't heard in a while

i shall try my hardest to think of a means of incorporating it into my own blog in the coming weeks

thanks for the reminder

p.s. loving your blog - it's my first time!

At 7:51 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

'detumescent' is so much more tasteful than any of the alternatives.
Welcome to MFME, urban chick.
Although I now live in a village, I'm an urban lad at heart.


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