In bed with Susan De Muth: Barbara Smoker / Stranglers in the night
Wednesday 14 September 1994
I AM afraid of sleeping. During the Second World War I was a wireless telegraphist for the Navy in Ceylon. We had long night watches, during which I was always terrified of dropping off and missing some vital code groups. I knew that could cost thousands of lives. I've been an insomniac ever since.
For several years I suffered from hypnagogic hallucinations, on the verge of sleep. I would hear screaming, for example, and go to the window and see a man strangling a woman in the garden. Then they would disappear and I'd wake in a panic. A psychiatrist said, 'You are phobic about sleep and must take valium for the rest of your life.' Luckily I hardly ever do as I am told or I'd be a zombie by now.
I sleep for a quarter of an hour at a time, then awake with a very active mind. I don't particularly care unless I'm lecturing or broadcasting the following day and need to be sharp. My bed is not, I admit, very comfortable - there are springs poking out of the mattress - but that makes no difference. It's just the same if I'm in a hotel.
I officiate at about two funerals a week and I write texts for them in the early hours, between sleeps. It takes me about five hours to compose a funeral because they are individually tailored. I write an obituary, having interviewed the deceased's friends and relatives, which I read out at the service. I always concentrate on their positive attributes and end with the Epicurean epitaph, 'I was not, I have been, I am no more.'
I also spend ages lying in bed polishing up slogans because I like to do competitions. I've won quite a few. The only drawback is that you have to buy all these products that you don't particularly want, which adds to the general litter around the place. My flat is a terrible mess with clothes and papers and books in piles everywhere. My tenant downstairs calls it 'thought compost'.
My tenant is an insomniac too. One night I woke at 3.30am and could hear someone creeping around in my living-room. I thought it was a burglar and, armed with a stick, went to check. It was my tenant looking something up in one of my encyclopaedias with a torch.
I'm glad I live alone. I've always liked my privacy and I couldn't stand someone else's mess. I did have several love affairs when I was younger but I'm glad to be free of that now. I always thought sex was such a messy sort of thing. I've realised as I've got older that actually my main orientation has always been lesbian, though I was never a practising one.
My first love was Jesus. I was so bloody religious. I was going to be a nun - several books have been written in the past few years revealing that most nuns are lesbian in orientation. I used to get up in the night to pray. When you're that emotionally involved, prayer is a form of sexual release. In my twenties I started reading, discovering other ways of thinking, and on 5 November 1949 at midday, I suddenly realised I no longer believed. It was the most dramatic experience of relief - like an orgasm. I have never had a second of doubt since.
I think a lot about death when I'm lying awake at night. I can remember thinking that 10 was very old. Old for me now is 90 - I don't want to live into my nineties. I'm not afraid of death but I fear a long illness. I have a supply of pills and I will decide when I die. The best time to go is winter - you take your pills, lie on the bed with no covers and open the window. Hypothermia hastens your death and it's an easy way to go.
I wake up for the last time at 6am and get out of bed. I feel very positive in the mornings. The few problems I do have - such as how I'm going to pay my gambling debts - have somehow been sorted out during the night and I start pottering about, whistling and thinking how lucky I am in so many respects.
Life & Style blogs
Three in every four British men will be overweight by 2030, says World Health Organisation
Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...