Thoughts that go bump in the night

WOKE UP the other morning, suddenly, at 4.30, absolutely frantic with worry about the Universe. You know the sort of thing, bottom sheet rucked up, inexplicable sand in the bed, tubercular glow of the street- lamps, cold sweat, palpitations.

It's not always the Universe. There are lots of other things to worry about: what is actually happening in my modem, where my other Space Pen - writes upside down, underwater, in zero gravity - has got to (Space, probably); whether there's a market for used pencil shavings, and, if so, what; who designs burglar-alarms' beeps, and how they feel about their work; whether I would finally be happy if I had a silver Zippo, a Fortis GMT chronograph, a Prince of Wales suit, a complete Oxford Latin Dictionary, the entire Creed range of gentlemen's eaux de parfum, a motorcycle and a Tyrolean hat; why Ginster's, Peter's, Miller's and all the other piemakers in the country are allowed to go on getting away with it; whether Frank Sinatra really is dead; whether there's any point lying in bed fretting or would it be better to get up and then risk feeling knackered all day ... so that, around 7pm I'd have to go out for a well-chilled Mai Tai just to keep going, but one thing would lead to another and I'd meet some paradisiac popsy in a sleazy bar who, hypnotised by my sesquipedalian manliness, would cry "Give it to me, big word!" and take me back to her place where I would be unable to Do It on account of being knackered because I hadn't had the sense to lie in bed fretting instead of getting up.

But the Universe leads the pack. You can worry about the Universe when you've exhausted all other possibilities. It even beats cancer. The only problem is, you never really seem to get anywhere. Sometimes you think you've got somewhere and you nod off happily enough, but then when you wake up there's nothing. Half-way through breakfast you think: "Good heavens! I actually got somewhere with the Universe last night!"; but try to be more specific and there's merely a vacuum, of the sort which Nature is supposed to abhor but doesn't.

I've been fretting about it more than usual lately, though. I finally managed to get the hang of quantum mechanics, which is as significant a piece of ammunition for a confirmed Universe-fretter as a new flesh- eating bacterium for a hypochondriac. At the same time, people have begun sending me unsolicited auguries and prognostications. A few days ago I got an entire horoscope by e-mail, full of stuff about trines and oppositions and rising signs, and basically telling me that I was going to have the most horrible year, not only of my life, but of anybody's, and that the purpose of my existence was to serve as a warning to others. And then the Jehovah's Witnesses turned up at the door, which, given that I live on the top floor and my bell doesn't work, is alarmingly spooky in itself.

So I decided to do something so unexpected, so egregious, that it would startle them into a radical re-assessment of their life and beliefs.

I invited them in for a cup of tea.

They sat down and I said, Nice weather, wouldn't you say, and they said, We've Jehovah to thank for that, and then they told me all about Jehovah (who, as far as I can see, is basically the same as God, except even more narrow-minded) and denounced my horoscope and explained how I could be saved, which was basically by listening to them and not listening to anyone else, which just goes to show that all religions are, at root, the same religion, credo in unum nostrum.

So I went out for a walk. You can think things through when you go out for a walk, don't you find? Assailed by stench and rumble, gassed by fumes and deafened by jabbering tourists and mad, pot-bellied roadwork gangs, the mind disengages itself from the surroundings and roams free. And so it did. I suddenly had an extraordinary insight, and I knew exactly what would happen. I would get home, and reach for my pen, at which point the insight would vanish completely. So I thought, This time it is not going to happen. I shall go to Tottenham Court Road and buy one of those speech bubbles, those tiny digital Thought Recorders that you can use to put down your Thoughts while walking along or having a bath or making love or even having just woken in a crumpled frenzy.

The process of getting to the shop and choosing my Thought Recorder of course completely drove from my mind the Thought I had wanted to Record, but I wasn't too upset. I was tooled up now, and ready for anything my brain could throw at me.

Four thirty the following morning, there it went again. Sudden catastrophic thudding, a tangle of sheets, eyes snapping open, brain screaming its head off: "The Universe! The Universe!" But this time I was ready. I grabbed my Thought Recorder, jabbed RECORD and started jabbering wildly. Got it all down, Turned over, went to sleep.

In the morning there it was. I listened to it over breakfast and it all made perfect sense: a perfect synthesis of Jehovah, the strong atomic force, quantum gravity, necromancy, astrology, New Age therapy and the moral failure of modern corporatism. I was, although I say it myself, most impressed.

Naturally, one doesn't want to keep it to oneself, so later that evening I popped out for a drink with some friends and took my Thought Recorder along too. At the appropriate moment, I pulled it out. "That's neat," they said. "What is it?"

"It's a Thought Recorder," I said. "Do you want to hear a Thought?"

"Yes please," they said.

I hit PLAY. "Right! Right, look!" it said. "The thing about the Universe is ... we're talking about discontinuity ... observable data's no good unless it follows the predictions of the theory ... the consistency isn't inherent in the methodology but interdisciplinary ... so far it's coherent ... the problem with God is - "

I turned it off. It was bollocks. My special Big Thought had gone off somehow, during the day. I have written a stiff note to the manufacturers insisting they rectify the problem. Until then, as far as the Universe is concerned, you'll just have to be patient.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick