We had had our fill of sleep. We had gone to bed early the previous night after a long, lazy, cold January day, surrounded by snow and ice and into our third week of sub-zero temperatures. We had been reading newspapers, making and eating comfort food in the form of a massive steak, kidney and mushroom pie, washed down with generous helpings of a rather good St. Emilion that Tesco normally sells for €22 but in these miserly times was offering it with 50% discount at €10.99. The pie with its marvelous puff pastry crust, the seductiveness of the wine and the heat of our wonderfully insulated, Gallagher built house, soon had us nodding and we slept the sleep of the gods.
It was just before dawn when the brightness of the day had not shown itself but when everything is seen in various shades of grey. It was warm in the comfortable pit which is our bed. The mornings icy chill could not penetrate the numerous togs of our duvet. She was lying on her back and talking of this and that. I on my left side gently massaging her strangely taut stomach, taut in fact as the skin on a bodhran drum. I did not question this tautness as the undefended strokes of my right hand were giving me great encouragement.
There was something not quite right. I knew it was me and it could only have been her. We were talking of familiar things and she is the only one she allows in my bed. I massaged away not letting my ardour overcome the tricky exercise of circumnavigating the act. A little like crossing a stream on stepping stones, with the stones buried beneath the water, there is moss on some of them, but which ones?
Something disturbed our reverie, wether it was a fox snuffling around our verandah in search of much needed scraps during this cold spell or a stag fallow deer that often came up from the shallows down by the lake, in search of pastures and conquests new. I sat up and looked through the low window, out into the greyness and saw nothing but the indistinct line of the fence and the elderberry strangled hawthorn tree’s hazy shape. The garden whitened by the recent snow and frost seemed undisturbed.
I leant back and returned to my recently vacated position and quickly took up my amour. The strangeness had gone. The tautness of the belly had been replaced by a quite distinct and familiar wobble, similar to that of a balloon half full of water. I was immediately elbowed in the gob, followed by a rapid tattoo, made by a stiletto like big toe, on my retreating rear end and a harsh gutteral explosion of “gerroff you bloody perve, and make me a cup of tea” as I fell out of my side of the bed.
On ruminating on this scene later that morning whilst drinking some excellent coffee and eating a hot buttered slice of toast made from my darling wife’s incredible home made bread and idly looking out of the kitchen window at the virgin snow, only disturbed here and there by a robin’s hop skip and jump, did I begin to realize the ethereal effect that the strange half light of the early dawn has on one’s senses. Sometimes you are awake and enjoying the physicality of life when in fact you are asleep and dreaming of things 30 years previous, and sometimes you think you are asleep pondering on the freedom and liberality that the unconscious world can give you. When all of a sudden the strong hard elbow, the stiletto like big toe and the harsh gutteral welcomes in the bleakness of another new winter’s day.