Sleep. Hiatus. A View.

“I wound up my clockwork sufficiently to tick out onto the waking streets and buzz a newspaper off the sleep-deprived vendor. Like the rest of the poor in sleep of the coming twenty-first century he was a money junkie, trading shut-eye for a tight fist. Nobody can afford to sleep anymore. Do you realise how much it costs?”
–Disappearance I, Jeanette Winterson

I love my sleep. Love the ritual of clean teeth, the gurgle of gargled water down the drain pipe. The shedding of clothing, as if removing them meant you were rid of the day’s troubles and worries. Slipping between sheets; the tangle of limbs. I don’t often get enough sleep, despite the fact I don’t think I ask for much. Give me at least six hours, I say. Usually I average 4 1/2 during my working week.

“And then I was offered the job of a particle in factory physics. I was offered the job of an electron in an office atom. I was offered the job of a frequency for a radio station. People told me I could easily make it as a ray in a ray gun. What’s the matter with you, don’t you want to do well? I wanted to be a beach bum and work on my wave function. I have always loved the sea.”
–Disappearance I, Jeanette Winterson

The other day, I woke up with a start. Maybe my alarm clock didn’t go off. Maybe I was so sleepy, I turned it off without realising. Or maybe I totally forgot to set it to begin with. Either way, I started the day with a run. Running down the street to the train station. Running to catch a bus. Running, past skyscrapers and concrete empires, threaded between blue skies I don’t have time to glance at. Running, to catch up with the rest of my day. At the end of it, I ran all the way home.

“I know we are walking home by a roundabout route, but after I bought my paper this morning I decided to go to the park and feed the rubber ducks. The real ducks died because so many people were feeding them in the new twenty-four hour working day that not a drake nor a duck had a moment to itself. Some sank under the weight of soggy bread, others exploded. The rubber variety are much more adaptable.”
–Disappearance I, Jeanette Winterson

You know when you’re so out of breath that you can’t whistle? Sometimes I feel so exhausted, that this endless cycle week after week, makes me feel like an exploded duck, weighed down by so much expectation. Expectation of bouyancy. Of being able to fly. At the end of the road, when there’s nothing left of me but a funereal bill, will anyone remember what the duck looked like?

“I flung myself down and watched the clouds bumping each other, the break and mend of a morning sky. My body was relaxed and the ordered chords of my thinking mind began to separate into component notes, to reply themselves without effort, without purpose, trailing into.. sleep.”
–Disappearance I, Jeanette Winterson

Sleep restores me. When he’s by my side, that calm and gently breathing B, shoulders rising and falling, his warmth envelops me like no blanket can. I like turning over, knowing he’s there. That sleepy smile, when he realises I’m staring. The profferred shoulder, then snuggled like a spoon against custard.

I realise life is all about what you make of it. Make your own bed, as they say, and lie in it. One day I hope to achieve that magical balance between life and work. When I finally disappear, I hope it will be on my own terms. In the meantime, I continue to push myself. Push out of bed, push to the train station, push through the day and at the end of it, push home to see the B.

Baked Mandarin Custard :
(serves 2)

80g strained mandarin juice (approximately the juice of 1 honey murcott mandarin)
zest of 1 mandarin
50g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
180g double cream
1/4 teaspoon spices of choice (optional)*

Preheat the oven to 150′C.

Whisk the sugar, zest and juice together to dissolve the sugar. Add the yolks, spices, then the cream, whisking only just to combine. Strain the mixture, pressing to extract any flavoursome oils from the zest and pour into two ramekins. Bake, covered with foil, in a water bath for 25-30 minutes or until the custard is only wobbling slightly.

Allow to cool in water bath, then chill for a couple of hours or overnight, before serving.

(* I spiced this custard with cinnamon and cardamom, in honour of Anita’s theme for this month’s SHF : Spices! The custard was served with mandarin and hazelnut sable soldiers.)

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24 Comments »

  1. Christie@fig&cherry said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

    A wonderful dreamy story and a recipe too – it’s my lucky day ;)

  2. Lorraine E said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

    Interesting custard and story, so the acid doesn’t curdle the milk and cream? I confess I thought it was a soup at first!

  3. cakebrain said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

    Good-looking custard…but I’m eyeing your cute ramekin dish too! It’s so perfect!

  4. Y said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

    Lorraine, pumpkin soup with cheese straws might’ve been good too! :) The acid doesn’t cause any curdling.

    Cakebrain : It’s a spanish tapas dish, I believe, but I thought it would be great for a custard, or maybe even a single serve potato gratin.

  5. Reemski said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

    Looks yum. Will you post the recipes for the soldiers?

  6. Aran said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 9:31 pm

    i agree completely. balance is a hard thing. sometimes in life you will work more than live and others you will live more than work. and that’s ok, specially when you have someone on your side. lucky lady you are.

  7. Jude said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 12:45 am

    Never heard of “Make your own bed and lie in it.” Nice words to live by, if I should say so myself :)

  8. matt wright said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 5:02 am

    YUM. This looks lovely. I am all about sleep myself.

  9. clumbsycookie said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 8:51 am

    What a beautiful post! I really enjoyed reading it! I hope you find your balance soon! Meanwhile enjoy this custard that must be delicious!

  10. Tartelette said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

    I live for after dinner….when my B. falls asleep in the chair with one of the dogs and within a few minutes I have a melody of snores accompanying my writing or baking!! Like you. I sleep between 4-5 hours and if I sleep any more these days I feel groggy and slow. I am riding the wave as long as I can! B. laughs that I make up for it by wearing my pjs all day on sundays we stay home :)
    The custard would be the perfect element of balance at the end of a crazy day!

  11. pea and pear said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

    You really jumped in my head and wrote my thoughts with this post. Granted a lot more eloquently then I ever could. I empathise with this need for balance and the blurring of one day to the next, but having someone wonderful to share your life with does always help to swing the scales in your favour. Your custard looks sessational, and the fact you manage to cook at home and grow a garden is a evidence that you truly are one together lady!!!!
    Ali

  12. Shari said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 11:57 pm

    I love custard, but I love your post more! “Running, to catch up with the rest of my day.” Wonderful. I hope you have time to look for shapes in the clouds soon!

  13. maybelles mom (feeding maybelle) said,

    October 18, 2008 @ 1:44 am

    This was such a wonderfully written post, I am not surprised at all that you quote Jeanette Winterson and her talented writing. Indeed life in the end is your own and what you make of it.

  14. grace said,

    October 18, 2008 @ 2:26 am

    cinnamon and cardamom sound like the perfect spices to use. lovely post. :)

  15. kathryn said,

    October 18, 2008 @ 10:07 am

    I do love Jeanette Winterson. She seems to capture my thoughts and moods – and express them in a way that’s miles beyond my capability. I don’t have the words, the ideas, the ability to express both the profound and the mundane with such beauty. She’s one writer who constantly leaves me in awe.

    I also love my sleep. Love my bed. Love that first moment when you get into bed, snuggle down and get comfortable. But 4.5 hours, phew – don’t know how you cope on that. Without at least 7 I’m cactus.

  16. Dee said,

    October 18, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

    An evocative post, and one I can relate to. You write, cook and photograph beautifully.

  17. Cakelaw said,

    October 18, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

    I hear what you’re saying – I don’t get enough sleep, and it’s my own fault because I try and pack too much into a day. Loving your mandarin custard – the citrus would balance out the sweet goodness of the custard.

  18. linda said,

    October 19, 2008 @ 6:37 am

    Wow, 4.5 hours a day…when I was young(er) I could manage that but not for too long or I would start making stupid mistakes at work.
    Love the custard and the ‘napkin ring’.

  19. Lael said,

    October 19, 2008 @ 6:49 am

    thanks for sharing an honest glimpse into your life. You’re certainly not alone in the continual search for balance and adequate sleep in the craziness of life. I have felt this way the past five days too.
    This custard looks delicious; thanks for sharing another great recipe.
    Hope you have a restful Saturday!

  20. Vera said,

    October 20, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

    Delicious looking dessert, Y!

  21. the caked crusader said,

    October 20, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

    Yum – this looks great. I’m a sucker for anything custardy!

  22. Lee said,

    October 21, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

    A nicely arranged bunch of words indeed. Lovely to read.

    I have a weird relationship with sleep. I almost always go to bed or couch after The Dreaded One but I’m almost always up earlier than her. But when I do have them, I luuurve afternoon nanna naps. They slam me.

    That custard looks sensational.

  23. Christy said,

    October 21, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

    Ok.. So I need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night for me to feel good. I mean, so I don’t get headaches and get really sick. I consider it a disability, this. Especially when I’m wanting to pursue a career path as a pastry chef. And I can’t believe Helen only needs 4-5 hours. I’ve heard of people like that, but I’ve never known one til now. Gee, do I envy her. Maybe I need to start learning.

    A lovely post, Y, I love the excerpts from the book. And I agree with Aran that juggling is a difficult act, but it’s definitely easier with someone by your side.

  24. Marysol said,

    October 22, 2008 @ 6:45 am

    Wow, someone who gets less sleep than I do. Y, I feel for you. If I didn’t get my 5 hours of beauty sleep, I’d be one nanomillimeter away from cranky, and it wouldn’t be pretty.

    Your mandarin custard looks delicious, and I especially love the sable soldiers!

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