Friday, 16 February 2007


What a dreadful night. Shark's been having nightmares. And when she's not busy waking me up every hour, Tiger joins in, and has nightmares too. So I'm standing freezing cold, at 2am, 3am, 4am and 5am, with alternate children, trying to coax anyone who might be having a nightmare not to please have any more nasty dreams because I am desperate to go to sleep for more than 40 minutes at a time.

Shark's in tears at 2am when she tells me she sees flashing lights in her room. She says she thinks it might be witches. I tell her that the window faces the yard of the house next door. And they have an outside light. It could be that. There are lots of teenagers living next door, and teenagers come and go at odd hours of the day and night because research has found their brains don't work. Apparently, I tell Shark, with my eyes half-closed, and tilting sideways, hanging onto her bedrail to stop myself falling over with sleep, teenagers can't recognise when their parents are suffering because teenagers have an inability to identify body language and facial emotions. Shark stares dolefully at me, and I wonder if she's in training.

At 3am, Tiger joins in. She won't tell me anything about her nightmares. I hope it's not the child-eating eagle again. The kids are all bird-crazy and can watch Life of Birds for hours, if we'd let them. But Tiger says it's not the child-eating eagle. Apparently he lives in the attic, and he can't get down the stairs because his talons can't grip the carpet. It doesn't seem the right moment to suggest he might fly. So I say nothing about that and try and coax her back to sleep. I'm just glad it's not the eagle.

At 4am, Tiger's crying again. I try and make her laugh. I tell her that at the age of 7 I was terrified about going to sleep because I was worried about being chased by a giant ball of string. She laughs, and says that's silly. I say that it was frightening at the time, but I don't know why. But if I had that dream again now, then I'd dream up a pair of scissors and cut the string apart, then jump up and down on the bits. As I crawl back to bed I hope I haven't given her a new nightmare to worry about, mother going crazy with a pair of scissors while laughing like a maniac.

I'm barely back to sleep when it's Shark's turn again at daybreak, so instead of standing by her bed, freezing, I tell her to get into our bed. This is normally a definite no-no as there's not room, and it's guaranteed I will sleep zero, but this time Dig's wandering about some former Russian state, so there's space. Shark drifts off. I still don't get any sleep because she hogs the bed and kicks.

By morning, everyone is shattered, except Squirrel, who bounds out of bed. Bleary eyed I tell her that her sisters have had a disturbed night, so go easy on them and no picking fights. When I tell her it's because they've had nightmares she looks disdainful and says nightmares are rubbish. She tells me that she keeps UK TV History channel in her brain and she switches on a programme about history if things are going in the wrong direction. She says that's never scary, especially when that man tells you about it.

Phew, I think. Instead of just two girls in nightmare land, I could have had three girls up all night wailing and weeping. I think I might have had to kill myself. So thank you, Simon Schama, for not putting any child-eating eagles or witches into your narrative on Henry III.

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