Remembering the score? Don't count on it

By David Medcalf

Published 11/06/2016 | 00:00

David Medcalf
David Medcalf

300, 299, 298, 297………233, 231, 230, 229…

It is not working. Someone suggested the other day on the radio that counting backwards, down from 300, is a great way of inducing sleep. Much more effective than counting sheep and much healthier than reaching for the anti-insomnia pills, the programme presenter was informed by his expert guest. And I certainly have found this handy tip of great assistance at night as a way of banishing all thought of the day's incidents and arguments on the way to the Land of Nod.

…189, 188, 186. Hold on, missed one there. Drat. Better start again. 300, 299, 298, 297………

Unfortunately, the method has proven of no benefit whatever when attempting to return to slumber after waking before schedule in the mornings. The alarm clock is showing 4.37 a.m., far too soon to contemplate rising, yet I find myself unable to lapse back into a state of unconsciousness as the numbers jumble and jangle and jump around inside my frustrated head.

…235, 235, 235. Agh, what's next? 222, 221, 211…

Hermione sleeps on serenely through my tossing and turning, later showing scant sympathy over the breakfast marmalade.

'You are old,' she states baldly when I run my latest symptom past her. 'What else do you expect? It is well known that old people - old people like you - require less sleep at nights, though they sometimes make up for it with a snooze in the afternoons.'

Dear, delectable, spring-chicken Hermione is way wide of the mark there for I am at my very razor sharpest after lunch. Except, of course, on the odd occasion when she plies me with a glass of chilled white wine to accompany the mid-day ham with mustard sandwich.

I never drank wine at mid-day when I was one of the young people, but it is quite possible that the practice would have had the same soporific effect back then, so that proves absolutely nothing. Anyway, the early wake-ups are probably the merest passing phase, induced by a combination of bright summer sunrises and flimsy curtains.

The beloved is quite correct on the other hand when she suggests that the passing of the years does result in changes, for that cannot be denied.

Some of those changes are physical. To put it in sporting terms, old people like me must recognise that that they are no longer capable of reaching the green on any of the par fives in two shots. They must learn to use the rest when playing those awkward snooker shots rather than sprawling across the table like an over eager lover, with one toe in tenuous contact with the ground.

Then some of the changes are refusal-to-change changes, if that makes sense. The mind which was once open to all manner of styles and influences becomes stuck in its own little fox-hole. For example, it is a matter of unshakeable belief that the charts of 1967 marked a peak in the quality of pop music which will never be surpassed - and don't try to tell me any different. Please do not attempt to point out that the musical tide which washed in so many classics from The Beatles and Stones to Tom Jones also gave us Whistling Jack Smith and the not so immortal 'I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman'.

And then there are the mental changes. It seems that the brain is like a pint glass. It has a limited capacity. Fill the brain beyond the limits and it will overflow. The problem is that there is no control over what is retained and what comes dribbling over the side of the glass when limit has been reached. So, I have no difficulty recalling the lyrics of 'Whiter Shade of Pale', just in case I may someday be called upon to perform the song in public - something which has not happened in close to half a century.

Yet I had to ask a UCD fan the other day to remind me was who scored the goal for the student side in the cup final of 1984 against Shamrock Rovers - centre half Ken O'Doherty. Of course.

Coming up to date, I find myself looking with furrowed brow into the fridge and wondering what I am supposed to be fetching before sitting back at the table to curse the fact that my tea is black.

176, 175, 174…ZZZ, ZZZ, zzz.

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