'I HAVE a recurring nightmare that I can hear the bongs of News at Ten and I'm stuck in a traffic jam, clawing at the car seats. I dream constantly and nearly all my dreams are anxiety dreams. This would certainly surprise people who know me well. Everyone thinks I have a cool, unflappable exterior, but I'm not an inwardly calm person.
'When I've been reporting from abroad, for example in South Africa or Iraq, I have often been so distressed by the horrible things I've seen and heard that when I get back to the hotel I have great difficulty sleeping. Then you also feel so absolutely lonely. I try to cut myself off from the reality of such places by listening to music. I've often rigged up a little sound system in my hotel room. I need to hear voices, and the voices I'd rather hear are those raised in song and in some sort of harmony. Any music will do, pop or classical.
'In a Belfast hotel some years ago, a young woman, for reasons best known to herself, smuggled herself into my room one night. Perhaps I was a bit of a coward, but I made my excuses as politely as I could and left. Now that doesn't happen enough these days . . . they've stopped doing it] I suppose there are what you could call 'news groupies', but they go after the younger, more eligible people, not ageing, paunchy people like me.
'I do less reporting since the anchorage and I like to be in at ITN by 11.30am. You can't be semi-detatched if you want to have any say in how it's done. Once News at Ten is over I try not to hang around and chat - I do that all day - and I am normally home by 11.15pm.
'My wife is usually asleep when I get in, but it's comforting to be aware of people's presence in the house. Our paths hardly cross, actually - we go our separate ways at breakfast time and have very little conversation. We do spend weekends together. I'm still not sure if this is a recipe for a happy marriage or an unhappy one.
'I wind down with some difficulty. Letting yourself relax is a very conscious mental and physical process. It takes longer if the news has been particularly exhilarating or, worse, disturbing. At the moment, for example, I am infuriated by what is happening in Bosnia. We are in the 20th century, and killing people in this way, setting out brutally and systematically to murder each other, is almost antediluvian.
'A good stiff drink helps, though I haven't taken a medical opinion on whether that's the most healthy remedy. Sometimes there's the odd bottle of champagne left from the weekend and I'll finish that off, otherwise it's the only time I drink spirits. Like all night workers, I have to be very careful not to crash around and wake up all the world.
'Reading is the surest way to invoke that wonderful, overwhelming, physical lassitude and to set your mind on another plane. I've just finished Alan Clark's diaries. An absolutely appalling human being, but he writes like a dream - hilarious. I never miss an opportunity to read. I have books in the loo.
'The most tiring part of my life, actually, is that I invariably get up every morning a little before eight to make my son, Jamie, his breakfast and have a chat with him before he goes off to nursery school. Otherwise I'd never see him, and I couldn't afford to do that. But it does make a long day.
'Until recently I was also writing a book about the more interesting (or boring) things I've done in the course of my career. I found I was unable to write at home, so I would go into ITN a couple of hours earlier and bash away in my office. During that period I used to come home absolutely buggered.
'By the time I crawl into bed, wearing nothing more than a splash of after-shave (it's nice to sleep unencumbered), I'm really longing for the 'sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care . . . sore labour's bath', and I never get enough. I am told I snore, which must be annoying, but I do not, to the best of my knowledge, divulge state secrets . . . nor the secrets of other women who may have wandered into my bed.'
Trevor McDonald's book 'Fortunate Circumstances' will be published on 21 October by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pounds 16.99.
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