04 December, 2005

Dawn chorus

I've come down with a bad cold, one of the symptoms being an inability to lie flat without coughing. Hence I barely slept at all last night.

Down the years I've developed various strategies to cope with insomnia, but I've found the most tried and tested one is listening to the BBC World Service. Tuning into a music station is no good; I get too distracted and involved in what songs are playing. The World Service, which Radio 4 always switches to when it closes down at 1am, is far more agreeable: a low hum of remote chatter, lots of strange mysterious voices and dialects, stories and reports that don't demand too much attention, and above all a somewhat surreal quality prompted by the globe-trotting schedule that helps to lull you into sleep.

So last night, between getting up to make mugs of tea, endlessly blowing my nose or going to the toilet (why do you always have to do this, no matter how many times you wake up?), I learned unrelated facts about:

- a Presidential election in Kazakhstan
- a film that's just been released in India about the making of the Taj Mahal
- somebody from the United Nations making an inspection of Zimbabwe
- the World Health Organization's campaign to get three million people inoculated against AIDS by the end of 2005
- what a journalist from the Financial Times thinks of another journalist from the South China Post
- some sheep in Canada

Of course I could easily have got further information about all these online, but I haven't, because I feel they all belong to the muffled conversation and burbling static of those bleak hours just before dawn, and as a result should stay there.

I just hope I won't have recourse to seeing if they're still there tonight.


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