In bed with . . .Like sleeping in a railway station: Susan De Muth talks to Paula Yates: In the first of a new series, the Big Breakfast presenter explains how she sleeps with all the family and gets up at 3am to hop from one bed to another
'I WOKE UP, stark naked, in the middle of the main road, at 3am. Bizarrely, my mother happened to be on her way home at that moment and found me with all these cars going past. I was 10 years old.
'I used to sleepwalk a lot when I was a child. I hated bedtime. I was always afraid that my mother would leave while I was asleep. I found the night incredibly frightening when I was little: you're totally alone, it's totally silent, there's a bloody owl hooting on the mountainside and you don't know if you're going to wake up parentless.
'Bob and I have a 9ft bed so that the children can sleep with us whenever they want to. I get up at 3am on weekdays so that I can write for three hours before I go to the Big Breakfast studios. Bob doesn't come to bed until 2am and there are little girls coming and going all the time. It's like Grand Central Station, a frenetic hive of activity with people rising and plummeting and moving into other beds. It is disturbing . . . especially when Peaches turns up, because she snores really badly. I don't think I ever get really good quality, deep sleep.
'Bob thinks it's 'complete bollocks' as he puts it, letting the kids sleep with us, but I'm a great believer in the 'continuum concept' of raising children and holding them all the time. It's probably also selfish because I like them kissing me and being on me all night. We extended the bed so Bob could have a bit of space . . . He'd been spending nights hanging on to the edge with a prehensile lip and it had to end. I don't think he feels excluded from my affections. But we are the lark and the owl.
'I love writing when everybody's asleep. It's deathly silent and the most fantastic time. My mind is totally clear. I have an office in our house where I write. It has a big log fire and huge windows overlooking the street. I've just finished one book about the countryside and now I'm working on another. I do bound out of bed at 3am and feel happy to get up but I'd be crying and crying if I had to do it in the evening when I'm always whacked. I usually go to bed with the girls at 7.30pm but if Bob is home I pretend I'm an erotic dream and stay up till 9pm - but I'm not telling you about our conjugal rites. I always read a book till I fall asleep.
'At the moment I'm on volume four of the History of the Church of England. I've been reading it for ages and it's really gripping. There are lots of things about parish vicars, which is very useful as they're basic characters in country living.
'As soon as I arrive at The Big Breakfast it's back to bed with my interviewees. I suppose I interact well horizontally. I never get worked up about an interview. When you've got one or two celebrities in your bed every single morning you're only concerned with the next question and keeping on top of everything . . . as it were. There's no scope for tremors.
'We take the Big Breakfast bed with us when we travel to do interviews. I went to Madrid this week to do Arnold Schwarzenegger and they'd given me a massive holdall with all the bedding in it. It burst open in customs and all these sort of prostitute's bed covers came out and something really bizarre which was actually part of the headboard but looked exactly like a whip. I was so embarrassed. All these bewildered little Spanish customs men just stood there staring. They probably thought I was part of some travelling circus.
'Since I've been a grown up I have only happy memories of bedtime, which is nice, because when I was a child I hated everything. My father died recently and it was very painful for me. I dream about him all the time now, though I never did before his death. I meet him in my dreams and we're in places we've been together . . .
'But the best bedtime stories of all are the births of my children. When the last one, Pixi, was about to be born, Fifi and Peaches were both there with Bob at the hospital; they were old enough for it to be thrilling for them, too. And I was breathless with the excitement of it, it was like waiting for Santa Claus when you're a child. She came into the world at midnight and it was all so magical and so perfect.'
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