The meeting lasted three hours; bad chairmanship on my part, no meeting need last that long. Driving north on the M9, the car thermometer reads minus four; patches of freezing fog mask tail lights, not that there is much other traffic.
It is approaching 11.30 pm, the day seemed to start a long time ago; the morning will bring a longer list of things to do; “I have left undone those things I ought to have done”.
First, though the chance to sleep. Sleep is reassuring.
There is a line in Sebastian Faulks’ moving novel Charlotte Gray, where Miss Gray is about to be parachuted into Nazi-Occupied France as a spy. An RAF bomber is flying her through the night, deep into occupied territory, and one of the bomber crew announces to her that they are just passing over one of the French cities. It was a reassuring moment to me, the image of an aeroplane moving through a clouded night sky, almost as though it was tiptoeing so as not to wake anyone. The city below was a place I knew from summer holidays, but it was more than that; there is a feeling of safety, of security, in a community asleep below in the deep darkness. Is it perhaps that sleeping people are unthreatening people, or is it that sleep represents a refuge from all the worries of the world?
I remember reading Father Niall O’Brien’s story of his ministry on the Philippine island of Negros, a tale of struggling against violence and oppression. Many of the sugar workers led miserable lives as day labourers, yet there was one moment where Niall O’Brien describes stepping into a hut late at night to be met with darkness in which he could make out the sleeping figures of itinerant workers. Sleep seemed a moment of relief, a few brief hours of respite from the grinding poverty in which they lived.
Sleep can change things, or at least change how they appear; perhaps the list of what is to be done will not look so bad in the morning.