Monday, June 4, 2012

The early reading habits of a night owl

In my natural state I'm a night owl but years of working odd hours and now setting my sights on a dream - meaning working from morning to midnight straight nearly every day a week - has thrown my sleeping and reading habits out of whack. As a result the hours I'd put into reading at night are no-longer available and I'm not quite so capable of working through the night as I once was. Not without a fair amount of retraining, that is, oh and some incentive.

But back in the day, when I was a child, or should that be in the good old days, I was definitely a night owl addicted to reading. We'd all be sent to bed and given a bit of time before Mum checked that we'd all gone to sleep. How she'd generally check was mostly by seeing if the light was off under the door or calling out that it was time to sleep, which gave me the opportunity to sneak past the check.

What I'd do was switch of the light if I heard footsteps and if needed call out my answer. Mum didn't go to bed immediately of course, being an adult and all. And she could often hear light switches flicking back on. So that left me with finding another solution to the problem of a light source. Now, you would think finding a torch would be a good idea. Most of you probably did if you read at night. A torch and the blankets for cover is generally the way to go. But no, not me. With no torch to take that wouldn't be noticed as missing and no money to buy one, as our 20c-50c pocket money was generally spent on more important things like carob buds and apricot balls, I settled on reading by the only other light source available. The digital clock.

The clock only lit up a few lines at a time and in red. My eyes did get a little strained too. But I could read without getting caught. And I did every night because I wasn't to be heard or seen doing so while Mum was awake and I just waited until I heard her head of to bed and then turned my light back on. And so I'd keep on reading.

Until Dad came home from work. Now this was the tricky bit. Dad came home at irregular times usually running from midnight onwards. And as you probably know all too well, by the time you hit midnight while reading you are well and truly in the zone. The imaginary world is big and large and the real world fairly insignificant. You want to keep on reading and you lose track of time almost completely. So usually I was woken from my reading trance with a start only by the sound of Dad's car drawing close and pulling into the drive.

Dad changed cars a few times in the early years (still does really) as he drives long distances rather frequently and thrashes the gear boxes until they're fairly begging for mercy. The changes in the car engine sounds threw me only a few times with each change but generally speaking I had the sound of Dad's car engine memories and could tell it was him before he was close enough to the house to see my light was on (I had the front room and the light shone through the curtains, giving me away.).

Nevertheless, as fast as I was sometimes at clicking that light off I was also sometimes too slow and caught. The first few times of being caught Dad would call out "Turn your light off" as he walked in the door. I never got in trouble but for some reason, after those first few times, it ended up almost like playing a game of tag. I'd still work at pretending I wasn't reading and if caught Dad would always call out with what sounded like a smothered laugh. 

For years I'd jump to switch off the light in time, though as I grew older there was less need to be told off as, well, I was becoming an adult and adults are on their own when ruling bedtimes now aren't they. Gradually the game of tag ceased though, as studies took over my time and jobs followed. At night though, the battles continued but not over reading hours. The battles were over who owned my pillow - me or Claude the cat. Claude was one sharp clawed, cranky and bullish cat whom I loved but wouldn't give my pillow to without a fight. 

Those nights of reading were ones I was sad to see fade away to be replaced with reading on trains and busses or while walking the streets. Sometimes I wish I could go back to being able to freely read like that but I don't have the freedom to keep the light on however long I like anymore.

Oh well, now I'm on to writing my stories instead. It is equally fun.

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