The Little Hours

By Alison March 2, 2011 13 Comments 3 Min Read

For all my pontificating about the wonders of magnesium yesterday, last night I forgot to pop a pill before I went to bed, and in an act of unparalleled shivery laziness couldn’t bring myself to expose my goose-pimpled skin to the perils of escaping the blanket to go downstairs and fetch one, with a nice cup of cardamom sprinkled warm milk.
So I lay there instead. And I lay there. And I lay there. And I thought about seafood sticks and the weird case of the boxer shorts I found in the tumble dryer that don’t belong to anyone I ever wash for and whether I would get my comeuppance in hell for sucking up a big spider with the vacuum cleaner.  I listened to Finley mumbling in his sleep, worried about the day he flies the nest, listened to a bat shrieking in the tree’s, worried that the faintest little scratching noise my imagination conjured up was a colony of mice in dresses living in the loft and worried for quite a long time about an inverted nipple I haven’t got. Followed swiftly by concern about my growing hypochondria.
Then I started dwelling on eggs because I seem to be living on them. Dwelt on making the headmistress cry with my mean tongue. Dwelt on what to wear to a Pilates class Kath wants me to join and indulged in a short fantasy about being swept of my feet by Bob from Emmerdale. For a while I made plans for puttery word domination, struggled to remember one of my favorite Carol Duffy poems, and then remembered that  dear old Dorothy Parker had once wrote an exquisitely funny short story about this very thing: the torture of being awake when the rest of the world is asleep.
So readers, because there is no salve like a literary salve, didn’t I do no more than hop of bed, wrap myself in a blanket and skip down the stairs to find it on my colour co-ordinated bookcases: prowling along the orange and yellow shelf to find my Penguin copy of her collected works and lunging at in glee, then standing almost naked in the dark room, to read Dorothy’s hilarious indignation at the thoughts that crowd one’s mind, when sleep just won’t come?
“Untender it may be, but all my life I’ve hated sheep. It amounts to a phobia, the way I hate them; I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t fall asleep again until the middle of next August. Suppose they never get counted – what’s the worst that can happen? If the number of imaginary sheep in this world remains a matter of guesswork, who is richer or poorer for it? No Sir : I’m not their scorekeeper. Let them count themselves if they are so crazy mad after mathematics. Let them do their own dirty work. Coming around here, at this time of day, and asking me to count them! And not even real sheep at that! Why it’s the most preposterous thing I have ever heard in my life.
But there must be something I could count. Let’s see. No I already know by heart how many fingers I have. I could count my bills I suppose. I could count the things I didn’t do yesterday that I should have done. I could count the things I should do today that I’m not going to. I’m never going to accomplish anything; that’s perfectly clear to me. I’m never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don’t do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don’t even do that anymore. I don’t amount to the powder to blow me to hell. I’ve turned out to be nothing but a bit of flotsam. Flotsam and leave’ em – that’s me from now on. Oh it’s all terrible.”
A kindred spirit. A woman as mad as me! Dear Dorothy Parker please rest in peace in the knowledge that my name will never be writ large on that roster either. It is all terrible, I agree! And with my own bundle of shame and disappointment tucked under my arm, I climbed the stairs and crawled back into bed, never for a moment considering that warm milk and magnesium might have been preferable to shivering through the kind of neurosis’s that all too quickly inspire my own…
But hell Dorothy Parker is a wonderful writer. Do seek her out if you haven’t read her won’t you? She’s a riot.


  1. Gena says:

    I too adore Ms Parker and sadly I am a fellow insomniac,I must try the magnesium,how much do you need to take? I may just hot foot it to boots tomorrow and get some.xx

    1. brocantehome says:

      I'm taking one Magnesium-Ok (from Boots) every night, and I really have noticed the difference… just more relaxed, less twitchy and achy and alert if that makes sense?

      1. Gena says:

        Thank you darling,I will get some for sure,I am a mess when I have had a night of mind racing!x

  2. Heidi says:

    I have loved Dorothy Parker forever! If you haven't seen the film about her life, please do. It is titled "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Campbell Scott and Matthew Broderick, from 1994.

    1. brocantehome says:

      I had never heard of it, so I've added it my Lovefilm list and will wait with bated breath for it! I love it when I get a good film recommendation… thanks Honey pie.x

  3. Danielle says:

    I've never heard of her before, but on just reading "you might as well live" I think I'm going to have to get me some Dorothy! Lord knows I could do with a laugh!

    1. brocantehome says:

      Oh do Danielle… and I highly recommend starting with Penguin collection, cos it's got a good selection of all her works, prose, poetry et al… you can buy it for buttons on

  4. Lynda says:

    Headmistresses are cast from a different mould from one of mine then *shudder*

    1. Lynda says:

      oh, forgot to add, it was over 30 years ago!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content