A handful of the short term jobs that I have never gone to the trouble of mentioning on my CV have involved night shifts. During one of my less enjoyable years at university, I worked from 22h00 – 06h00 in a petrol station in Sheffield. Then, shortly after graduation, an agency found for me by the Job Centre placed me with a specialist firm that oversaw the opening of new supermarkets. I worked an entire week of night shifts placing Waitrose merchandise on the shelves of a newly refurbished supermarket acquired from the defunct Safeway. This was done so that regular employees could go in on their first day as a Waitrose ‘partner’ and know how the place should look. You may not agree with me on this one, but I don’t believe that any job I have ever had has provided such simple job satisfaction as is found when employed to go through a supermarket aisle lining price tags to products, and turning packages so that bar codes are not visible until the item is taken from the shelf.
Nocturnal employment seems cathartic to me, although the Waitrose job was less so since the bright lights of the supermarket burned twenty-four hours a day. That felt more like being in a huge television set (Supermarket Sweep perhaps). I am not crippled by insomnia, but I do not sleep as peacefully as I would like. As many as six or seven hours can easily be achieved, but once I am awake, it is very difficult to return to sleep, regardless of what time it is.
I have, in recent weeks, blamed Lumpy (one of two cats that cohabits with us) for waking me in the early hours by climbing onto my pillow and then my head – usually around five or six in the morning. I’ve come to realise, however, that she only climbs onto me when she knows that I’m awake and therefore liable to give her a cuddle, scratch or stroke.
This morning, on the first morning of 2009, I was awake before the last reveller had returned home. I was quite content with a modest (a.k.a. “credit crunch”) New Year’s Eve at home, especially since it brought home made pizza, supermarket own-brand “bierre de France” and a modern classic film (“the sky’s beginning to bruise, night must fall and we shall be forced to camp.”) With a reluctancy that is getting ever weaker, I was upright to hear the pips of the six o’clock news and to start the chemistry required by a new bread making machine. The instruction manual that accompanies this device advices me that with the time delay feature, I can wake up to fresh bread. There hardly seems any point, since I will most likely be up early enough to set the machine going myself.
I have, since moving to Glasgow, revisited my nocturnal self. With a daily routine that is establishing itself, so too is an internal rhythm over which I have no control. The strangest thoughts creep into my mind when I wake in the dark early hours, and they can be quite enough to destroy any hope of returning to sleep. If there is a new year’s resolution to be made (and I detest them usually) it is that I will not fight my unforgiving awakeness in the early hours. Making bread, writing letters or reading books will substitute for tossing and turning. I hope.