God and mashed pilchards: Susan de Muth In bed with Lionel Blue

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Rabbi Lionel Blue is a broadcaster, writer and lecturer. He lives in London with his friend, Jim.

I QUITE often wake in the middle of the night due to anxiety or prostate problems, but realised some years ago that there is no obligation to sleep. I match odd socks and make myself something nice to eat. My greatest indulgence is mashed pilchards with onion and condensed milk butties.

Jim sometimes wants a break from me and goes back to his own home. Then my nocturnal activities become extremely silly. I love pretending to be my dog, lying on my back and waving all my limbs in the air. I also sing bits of opera - all the voices - something you can only do when nobody else has to suffer.

But night is also a time for serious pondering. I think about God and how He sees things, trying to stand outside myself. I read books on spirituality and am warmed with reassurance that reality is not in this dimension but another. The presence of that other home always brings me peace and is somehow more accessible at night when the strains of the day have receded.

If I really must get to sleep I read things with guaranteed happy endings - Georgette Heyer novels or recipes. Nibbling a small bar of wholenut chocolate is very comforting - unfortunately it takes the weight off your mind but redistributes it everywhere else. Making love is not good - it makes me terribly wide awake and bouncy.

I have had three long-term partnerships in my life. Jim and I have been together for 15 years - I am a sticker. We both want a faithful, committed relationship - though it took us about three years before we came back from holiday speaking]

It's not easy working through the difficulties in a relationship when you have no social or religious support. You get no advice and you learn the hard way. I had such romantic scenarios in my imagination - straight out of Georgette Heyer (the heroine having had a sex change of course) - and expected people to fit into them. It took many years before I realised life isn't like that. I have a tendency to be too imprisoning, too demanding.

Being Jewish and gay has given me a great sense of empathy with all outsiders, but I used to feel very angry about the difficult hand God has dealt me to play. One way I neutralised my bitterness was subconsciously, in dreams. I still have these self-pitying dreams that are very comical. I invent another person who is saying to me, 'Oh poor old Blue - such a nice chap and look at all he's going through' and I say, 'Oh yes, it's absolutely true]'

I've been having psychotherapy for more than 40 years. Though I could get by without it, I find the business of self-knowledge very important. If you're religious and try to know God better than yourself you end up with fanaticism. Dreams are still a significant part of the process and I try to write them down, but it feels too much like homework. I talk about dreams and the significance of same with friends, too. It's a very north-west London Jewish thing - Jim, who's from up north, finds it completely dotty.

Dreams are not only to do with unravelling the past, they can also show you a new path. I had a very strange dream not long ago in which I was having tea with some people who were so polite, correct and wooden that they were almost dead. I went down to their cellar and it was full of very lively people having a marvellous time. The message was that all that heavy thinking I was doing was getting on top of me. That I needed to do something with the creative side of myself. So I've decided to go back to painting and try my hand at a novel.

I wish I could say I have mystical dreams. The Bible and Talmud are full of them, and they are very much in the rabbinical tradition, but I am far more likely to get my religious revelations when I'm buying a ticket at Euston station or standing in a queue in the supermarket.

The rabbis used to say that sleep is a sixtieth part of death, and I somehow feel that is so. Certainly waking is like a daily resurrection. I really look forward to bouncing out of bed at 5am, terribly interested in little things like trying a new tube of toothpaste with a different flavour before settling down to three hours work before breakfast.

(Photograph omitted)