Lots of people have asked me over the years how easy it is to come up with ideas for columns. Does it keep me awake at night, they ask. The answer is that I usually manage to find something pretty interesting to write about without too much of a problem and, failing that, I can usually rustle up something boring. And, no, the challenge of producing a column doesn’t keep me awake at night — other stuff keeps me awake, which is good, really, because that’s when I get my best ideas for columns.
In fact, it has become progressively easier to think up funny column ideas as I have got older because I have been waking up progressively earlier, to the point where sleeping through an entire night has become as likely as a Hull City win in the Premiership.
In my teens I was an accomplished sleeper. In holidays from school and university, I occasionally managed 18 hours. Having said that, I very rarely had a good idea for a column back then (admittedly no one ever asked me to write one).
It’s not that I didn’t have worries, it’s just that they weren’t the kind that kept me awake. I used to worry about, well, waking up in time to get to lectures. Now I dream of oversleeping — or rather I don’t.
Anyway, being awake at five am has its advantages. I have lots of time to run, shower, think of a column, make a sandwich, meditate, clean the fridge, look online for inflatable mattresses (don’t ask) listen to Wake Up To Money (rather than actually waking up to it which would be better), write a column, lie down for a little rest, fall sleep, wake up in a panic with 30 seconds till my train goes.
Yes, it has to be said that insomnia has its disadvantages too. This is why I have made repeated attempts to overcome the problem. First I tried the usual things — counting sheep, sleeping pills, ambient music, narcotics…
Then friends came up with ideas: davening, wilfulness exercises (Zen Buddhism), not eating carbs after 6pm, only eating carbs after 6pm, camomile tea, whisky, turkey schnitzel, exercising in the evenings, avoiding exercise after 4pm. While none has so far been a total success, the schnitzel was tasty, the whisky seemed like a good idea but gave me a 4am hangover and camomile tea is to be avoided at all costs.
Then, one morning I had a brilliant idea. As I lay awake at 4am I realised that if I lived somewhere which happened to be three hours ahead, I would be waking up at the same time as everyone else.
So my next column will be written from my new home in, er, Smolensk. I hope they sell Nytol there.