Sleep. Ah, sleep!! Sweet Hypnos, death’s beautiful little sister, so lovely, so capricious, fleeing so frequently when sought, yet twining her arms so closely, so irresistibly about us at inconvenient moments. Actually, for me it’s normally more a case of the latter problem than the former. As far as I’m concerned, things have to be really bad for me not to be able to sleep.

Last night was our first in our rented house in the Dales, a house which is miles up a winding B road which becomes a winding single-track road which becomes a winding track which eventually becomes the yard in front of the house. We are miles and miles and miles from anything which could be described as a town, although we do have a rather nice cobbled village, Dent, three miles down the hill. We can see other houses across the valley but not hear them.

When I switched off the light, the darkness was complete and the silence profound.
I woke up seven hours later at the time I would normally wake for work and, since the house was still silent and it was far too early to get up, I went back to sleep. For four hours. I haven’t slept in until ten o’clock for years. The last time that I can remember was three Christmases ago when I was staying at my sister’s. She and my brother-in-law were both working and left early. Since they were going to be out until early afternoon, I was under strict instructions to switch the oven on at 10 am and put the turkey in at 10.30.

I got up to wish my sister and brother-in-law a happy Christmas before they went off to work, made myself a cup of tea and went back to bed. I drank my tea. It was seven am and the house was silent, my nephew deep in the arms of Morpheus after a hard night playing festive World of Warcraft. I didn’t have to put the turkey in the oven until much, much later. I snuggled down. I slept……

And woke up at 10.45. I stretched, yawned, glanced at the time and turned instantly into a one-woman version of the Keystone Cops, running round falling over my own feet and bumping into myself in my panic at realising that I had missed my turkey deadline. My sister is known in her own house as “The Boss”, and not without reason. You don’t cross The Boss and get away with it…..

Fortunately she was cool about the fact that Christmas dinner would be half an hour late, and this morning nobody cared that I had overslept, because I hadn’t. Our only appointment was to walk down the valley to Dent to have a pub lunch and then walk back. Eleven hours sleep is merely another little holiday luxury here to be enjoyed.

Before I left the office, I printed out a sheet to tape to my computer screens whilst I’m away. It reads “On holiday until 9th September; please talk to Tara” and below it, a picture of a beautiful room looking out onto a deck beyond which is a calm, clear lake. Just visible sticking out from behind a sofa in the foreground are the furry stomach, back legs, paws and tail of a cat which is clearly stretched out comfortably on its back on the thick carpet, bang in the middle of a patch of sunshine, luxuriously asleep. Below it is the caption “Vacation – you’re doing it right”.  Indeed.