The BBC tells me that women have more vivid dreams than men. I've been having some Dorothy-in-Oz-style technicolor dreams in the past couple of weeks, which is good, because I love interesting dreams and bad because sometimes, well, the dreams are not so pleasant to live in for however long they last.
Have you ever had sleep paralysis? I've had it a couple of times, only in the past couple of years. I dreamed I was awake, and pressed into the mattress by a force that left me unable to get up and unable to speak, as an intruder prowled around the bedroom and whispered in my ear. It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.
I also dream quite often that I can't speak. I want to talk but nothing will emerge and meanwhile the world is heading for a disaster I could stop if only I could talk. Perhaps I should start writing down when these dreams occur, if only so I can relate them to my psychological state at the time. At least I no longer take maths A-level in the nude.
The reason I am writing about dreams is that (a) can't sleep; and (b) a strange thing happened the other day.
Three nights ago, I had the most intense dream about a friend of mine who I haven't seen or properly spoken to beyond a phone call and a Christmas card in maybe five years. I miss her. She's magnificent -- an army veteran who has been to Afghanistan and Bosnia as a driver for bomb disposal squads; and one of the truly brave, good-hearted people I know. But the army life (and the fact that she's been married twice and I can't remember which surname she's going by these days) means that she's hard to track down.
I dreamed she had died and I was attending a memorial service for her in my home village. Then, as we were eulogising her, she turned up and everyone was filled with joy that she had somehow cheated death and come back to us. Then it devolved into a whole bunch of incidents from my childhood -- the time we stole the boat and went out onto the castle lake or jumped from the top of the straw bales to the bottom of the barn and I nearly broke several vital somethings on a hidden beam -- particularly the day when we were all about eight and had a serious talk about the devil, only for there to be a thunderstorm that electrified the air, painted the clouds black and turned the light the colour of a wet scab. It scared the bejesus out of us.
Yesterday, in the village where I grew up, my mum was walking down the street when she heard someone yelling her name. It was my friend, who was back home for just a week to look after her mum who was having an operation. She asked after me and gave mum her surname, so at least I know who she is again.
I know it's a weird coincidence, but it feels like more than that.
3.30am. It's the nadir of the circadian cycle. I should be asleep. The foxes are chittering and screaming outside my open window. The air smells of autumn -- a bite in the air, rotting vegetation, the oncoming chill. Today is our roughest day at work -- we have 120% of the work we do on a normal day, and two and half hours fewer to do it in, yet I can't seem to close my eyes and disappear.
I've been feeling ill for five days now and I would like it to stop, please. The three day festival of vomiting is over but I still feel wrenched sideways. Woman does not subsist by bananas, water and yoghurt alone; not that it will do me any harm to do so.
Politics depresses me. I think the Republicans are going to win, probably through various forms of gerrymandering and wedge politics, and I think this is a bad thing for the world. And I'm sorry, but I think that if you vote Republican this time, you're nothing short of a dangerous fool.
McCain is thick, bellicose, corrupt, with a hair-trigger temper and an ego that can be seen from space. Sarah Palin is exactly the kind of chortling, smug, intolerant tool who believes she knows better than everyone else about how people should live their lives. Neither of them has espoused a single policy which would make the world a better place as far as I can tell. If they are voted in, they will transform a beautiful country still further into some kind of Hobbesian wilderness, subject to the diktats of a strain of religious fundamentalism which is approaching the same kind of aggressive, backward-looking, insular conservatism as the Wahhabis they so vilify.
What kind of lunacy is it where you're free to lose your home and fall into near-starvation but not free to take sovereignty of your own body? Where it is legitimate to ban books and vilify your opponents?
(I will stop expressing an opinion on US politics when the US army buggers off out of Menwith Hill, RAF Fairford et al, just as I think the rest of the world is entitled to have an opinion on British politics because we have troops abroad and the remnants of an empire -- which incidentally, we are trying *very quietly* to expand because of mineral rights. And we can't bloody leave well enough alone.)
Meanwhile, all the polls point to a Conservative victory at the next election, probably by a landslide. According to Channel 4 news last night, they could have a majority of 150 or more. The new group of conservative MPs and activists say they are pro-welfare state and pro-environment but research by the Guardian earlier this week suggested that they were deeply socially conservative, favouring, among other things, a lowering of the abortion time period and the teaching of creationism in schools.
Creationism. For the love of fucking Pete.
It pains me to say that this Labour government need to be kicked out, but they do. They are authoritarian in the worst ways, allowing the state to gather information on things that cannot possibly be its business, permitting gross encroachment on our liberty and attempting to dictate how we live. Worse still, their anxiety-driven short-termism means that they are constantly in search of 'magic bullet' policies which will somehow deliver them a polls boost, instead of delivering steady, sensible policies. Nothing is given any time to work.
The business of government is to leave people the hell alone in their private lives. If people with a BMI of more than 30 want to frot each other with cheese graters and shag themselves silly, then have a fag indoors afterwards, leave them be.
But I can't help thinking that the government to come, led by an overprivileged Tory who has no more substance than Blair did, will be even less concerned with our traditional freedoms and the parts of this country that make me genuinely feel proud: the BBC, the welfare state, the ability to speak my opinion and know that I will not be punished for it.
I feel as though the world is becoming a colder, less rational, less free place. I can't tell whether that's a symptom of age or a genuine phenomenon.
4am. Oh dear.