The Witching Hour


Wikipedia notes the ‘Witching Hour’ as the time of night when “creatures such as witchesdemons, and ghosts are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful and black magic to be most effective.”

Personally the most memorable reference to this period of the night when time seems to stand still and you feel as though you are the only person awake in the darkest and most silent of moments is when Roald Dahl’s pragmatic Sophie lays awake in her orphanage bed unable to sleep ‘because a brilliant moonbeam was slanting through a gap in the curtains’ onto her pillow, and she first encounters the BFG.

This reference struck a chord with me. Not just because I felt a bond with Sophie as my fellow namesake at a particularly impressionable point in my life, but because I was – and am still (a little) – afraid of the dark. I well remember many times when I awoke in the night as a child and was terrified of going to the loo (the dark bedroom, the gap in the door / under the bed, the ‘black’ window with no curtains and the deep darkness that was ‘DownStairs’). I would usually be OK on the way there, but would then run as fast as my bare feet would carry me back into the bedroom and leap back into bed to avoid the hands which might try to grab my ankles from underneath with my heart racing and my head full of ‘things that go bump in the night’.

Thankfully, this irrational fear has pretty much dissipated as I have grown older (though I generally avoid horror movies as these still don’t tend to sit well with me), but I wonder now whether I am chased (on occasion) by some slightly different ‘demons and ghosts’. These ghouls which now keep me awake at night are generally split into two groups – the ‘Devil on my shoulder’ that keeps me up too late because I am enjoying what I am doing, and the ‘work demons’ which take advantage when I am dragged out of slumber for a call of the wild or to pacify one of my children.

To be honest, the Devil on my shoulder feels more like an old friend who understands that every once in a while you need to let your hair down and release the tensions of ‘mid-30’s life’ (perhaps I will save my thoughts on ‘mid-30s life’ for a separate blog entry altogether). Suffice to say that this particular ‘friend’ usually leads me slightly astray, but once I’ve recovered from the lack of sleep I have generally had more fun, feel more fulfilled, and am more relaxed than I would have otherwise been.

The work demons are much more serious. These are much more akin to the ones which kept me awake as a child – the ones which get your heart racing and won’t let you forget about them without a concerted effort. At other times in my life these could easily have been replaced with ‘money demons’ or ‘relationship demons’, but really the essence at the heart of their power is the same; in the middle of the night when you are at your most vulnerable, your thoughts and worries are not blocked out by the soothing ‘white noise’ of daytime but are allowed through in all their terrifying glory.

Perhaps this may seem a little dramatic, but to be honest – dramatic is how I feel when it is the middle of the night and I can’t get back to sleep! We all know that everything seems better in the morning, but getting through the witching hour – fighting your demons and getting up the next day to carry on regardless, seems (to me) to be important for the success of the human race. Everyone has their own Witching Hour demons to fight and many people are dealing with nightmares in their waking lives let alone worrying about disturbed sleep, but one thing is for sure: while we may all be visited in the Witching Hour by demons and ghosts, the rising of the sun always brings hope and (to end on a lighter note) hopefully a hot cup of Earl Grey tea.


I’m late, I’m late… for a very important date

Illustration of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland


I never have enough time.

Or maybe I should re-phrase that; I never seem to be able to manage my time well enough to fit everything in.

From the moment I wake up (always earlier than I would like it to be) to the moment I go to sleep (always later than I planned) I have this nagging feeling that I haven’t gotten everything done in that day that I should / could have. A heavy workload with a never-ending ‘to do’ list doesn’t help, and when you combine that with two young kids and a husband; a house in need of more-than-a-little tarting up; trying to maintain some kind of relationship with family and friends I don’t see as often as I would like; not to mention the thousands of other things that I would love to do ‘if only I had the time’, it’s no wonder life seems to literally fly by.

I’m not ashamed to admit that there are times when I feel like I’m in free-fall like Alice down the rabbit hole, (though to be honest I would probably quite like to escape down a hole into a surreal world so far removed from the daily grind that all residual stress is eradicated by the sheer wonder of everything around me), but what bothers me most about all this is that this feeling of perpetual tail-chasing seems to be shared by the vast majority of people around me.

This got me wondering:

1) Are we telling each other how busy we are all the time when in reality this isn’t really the case – similar to the way that people claim their 2mth old baby is already ‘sleeping through’ when in reality they may sleep between midnight and 4:30am which enables you to operate as a semi-normal human being, but can’t really be classed by anyone as a ‘good night’s sleep’?

2) Is this simply a symptom of modern living which we will eventually learn to live with as evolving human beings?

3) Are we being expected to perform way beyond capacity and keep going because we’ve been sold a middle class fantasy where it’s possible to have a relatively successful career (I’m not just talking about high-flyers here), enjoy a loving relationship with our significant other,  produce well-behaved / well-educated / well-adjusted children while still finding time to visit the theatre, go the gym, eat a balanced diet etc. etc .etc.

I found a great article on being allergic to modern living in the Daily Mail where a successful TV Producer suffering physical symptoms of long-term exhaustion, migraines and bad digestion (diagnosed as electro-hypersensitivity, or EHS) eventually gave up work and moved to rural Kent to grow vegetables on her own allotment and would you believe it – within a month, her “health improved dramatically”. Now I don’t know anything about EHS, so apologies if I seem unfeeling, but I reckon if you took most people with high stress levels and put them in a house in the countryside to grow vegetables then their health and well-being would take a turn for the better pretty quickly too – Felicity Kendal figured this out a long time ago…

If the reality is 3) then I don’t think any of those ‘time-management’ techniques to help you to be better organised will be enough to resolve the problem  (though I’m sure better organisation would be helpful to an extent). Perhaps the way forward is to turn our backs on what is ‘expected’ of us and focus on what makes us real – what generates energy within us because it nurtures our soul rather than draining it.

Yes, your career is important – it’s incredibly draining to work in a job that you hate, so it’s definitely got to be better if you’re lucky enough to find a job that you love (or ‘like’ for that matter), but for me it’s the other things: the extra conspiratorial glass of wine with a friend on a ‘school night’; or releasing your brakes while cycling down a steep hill; or going to a hip-hop night and dancing like you’re 15 again; or chasing your kids around the house while pretending you’re going to ‘eat them when you catch them’ that alleviate stress and remind me of the important things in life – the things that remind me how it feels to ‘live’ for the here and now.

Because let’s face it… none of us really has enough time to waste it.