Solstice night, nadir of the year. In the middle of the long night: the point where our day goes down to seven hours, then the direction reverses and the day rapidly lengthens...
This winter I seem to be waking in the middle of the night – not a new thing: since my 2009 stroke I generally need to go pee around 3-4 a.m. on any given night. (A small Science Fact for you: when older people need to get up to urinate at night, it is not because of, say, any weakness in their waterworks – it is actually the deterioration of a minor brain function: we are designed such that when we sleep, kidney function slows way down so we can sleep through the night. But it's not a strong evolutionary need, so that particular mini-module out of the various brain functions breaks fairly easily when we get older; for me it happened quite abruptly in the stroke.)
And I'm accustomed to that... but this is a bit different: I am awake a bit longer, happy to read or open a window, walk around the apartment a bit. (Unlike many northern Brits, I don't turn the heating off at night – yes yes don't nag me, I know that's more expensive and less green... but I can't stand the cold.)
And since I read – somewhere, recently – that, in the eighteenth century and before in Europe, it was perfectly normal for a night's sleep to be broken in two – that the northern nights tended to be 3-4 hours, wake, light a candle and read or sit, then back to sleep again until morning – I now feel pleasantly justified.
I think that, in this case, my body is somewhat relieved that my mind now has a reasonable justification for this habit; and that I can comfortably enjoy being up for an hour or so, without feeling as though I've ruined my sleep or the next day or anything similar. A pleasant way of making the winter less onerous.
The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories: among all the Xmas stuff, an interesting reminder that a proper Victorian Christmas always had its ghost stories, as important or more important than carols and trees. A wonderful story by Gaskell – so well written that now I want to read more of her.
Deep night, the cold, the dark: and a good ghost story....