There are many times when I feel as if I live my life backwards. I say this because, more often than not, I wake up feeling tired and go to bed wide awake. I don’t go out of my way to deprive myself of sleep, it’s just that my brain likes to play tricks on me by telling me that I’m tired and then as soon as my head hits the pillow, it says, “Only kidding!”
My husband suffers from it occasionally too, and on these nights of synchronised insomnia, we often stay in bed, perhaps drinking a cup of tea, and he will ask me about random pieces of trivia that I may have picked up since the last time neither of us could sleep. I’ve kept a kind of a log of all the topics our midnight meanderings have touched upon, and, as I read back through them, they are very wide ranging.
I see, for example, that a couple of weeks ago we discussed the fact that not only are polar bears invisible to night vision equipment, but they are not white. My husband refused to accept this second fact, and actually made me switch on my phone to Google my explanation that their fur is actually a collection of clear, hollow, translucent tubes which reflect light, thus making the fur appear white. To my eternal shame, I did a victory dance in bed when he told me I was right!
We’ve discussed too, the topic of nominative determinism, which is the idea that your name determines what you do for a living. For example, John Baker would be a baker, Simon Plumber would be a plumber, and Donald Trump would be an arse that keeps spouting hot, noxious gas that you hope will disappear quickly. (For my dear friends across the Atlantic, “trump” is a primarily English synonym for “fart”)
We then moved on to the tragic notion that Albert Einstein’s last words are lost forever. The reason being that he spoke his last words in German, and the only person to hear what he said was a nurse who didn’t speak German. If only I had a time machine, I could go back to April 18, 1955 and record his last words for the world to hear. Maybe we would be astounded. Maybe not. We tend to think that the last words of such a genius would be profound or prophetic. But what if he’d said something really banal, like, “God, this bed is uncomfortable” – would we all be disappointed?
I think though, that of all the topics that have made up our midnight meanderings thus far, my favourite has to be the theory that the French mathematician, Descartes, had that monkeys and apes could actually speak, but that they kept quiet in case they were asked to do any work!