OVER THE past month or so, as I have been describing the difficulties my wife and I are having coping with two young boys and a wakeful newborn baby, I may have neglected to mention that I've been sleeping in the spare room the whole time. So when I speak of the frustration of sleepless night after sleepless night, I don't mean me personally. I'm sorry for any misunderstanding caused.

I've always vaguely disapproved of fathers who take to the spare bed when the baby comes home, the same way I disapproved of a whole lot of other things that have since come back to haunt me. With our first two babies I was right there with a pillow wrapped round my head. My wife and I did have an arrangement whereby if one of us had something important to do the next day he or she could apply to sleep in the spare bed, but all my applications were turned down.

This time my wife confessed that she found the rigours of breast feeding on demand easier without me there. She also thought I would be better positioned to attend to the other two children's screams, and to get up with them in the mornings. In spite of my protests, I was despatched to the spare bedroom and ordered to resume a normal life. It was supposed to last only four weeks, but it's already been seven.

At first, I'll admit, I was thrilled. The spare bedroom is where we keep all the old "nice" things that people with children aren't meant to have any more, and sleeping in there is a bit like staying in a small country house hotel. I brought in some bottled water and a stack of books I'd been meaning to read, and tried to pretend I was on holiday.

But I'm not sleeping well. Being alone only increases my CVC, or Chronic Vigilance Syndrome. Once the lights go out I am convinced that the house is being burgled or burning down. Although I keep the door shut, our sublimely stupid cat comes through the window, and he has taken to bringing me nightly tributes of mice, which he leaves on the carpet where I put my feet in the morning. Since then I've come to dread bedtime, so I stay downstairs and watch telly into the wee hours, sipping those weird liqueurs from deep in the cupboard.

Over the past two weeks I have been lobbying furiously to get back into my own bed, but to no avail. My wife likes the new arrangement all the more now she knows it doesn't suit me, and she has refused even to review the situation until the end of the month. In the meantime, I have decided to move on to the bottle of green stuff someone brought back from Slovakia.