On Wee Willie Winkie and Medusa



I lie awake at night. Night after night after intermindable night.

How much sleep does a person need, I wonder as I toss and turn and thump my pillow. Can you die from the lack of it?

I watch the moon, fat faced and full cheeked, slip behind a curtain of cloud to commune with stars I can no longer see.

I heard faraway thunder sneak up because nobody’s looking.

And then I hear the first plump drops of rain. Warm rain, tapping on the windows, with its companion, a softly moaning wind, crying through the locks, like Wee Willie Winkie in his nightgown (will he rub sand into my eyes, I think to myself; perhaps he’s already been: that’s what it feels like).

And the slowing rattle of the fan as the power cuts out with a lightning strike.

The rain falls and the mosquitoes rise like ghosts and singwhine irritatingly into my ear, ‘Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah: you caaaaaaaaan’t sleep’. I swat ineffectually.

And I get up to drink another glass of milk.

An objection to sleeping pills is all very well, but there’s only so much chamomile tea and sleepless nights a girl can take.


My groceries gather on the soft wooden counter of Kaidi’s duka. I scan shelves for inspiration for the merchandise is out of reach, unless Kaidi grants you special dispensation and you are permitted hallowed access to examine the products you might be tempted to purchase: reading with your eyes and not your hands does not apply where retail therapy is concerned and Kaidi’s is all I have unless you count bad Ebay and Amazon habits.

‘Kaidi’, I say, ‘please can I come and look at the hair conditioners?’.

His assistant lifts the hinged counter so that I can shuffle underneath it, Kaidi remains sitting on his high stool, sipping thick black Arabic coffee and smoking cigarette after cigarette so the smoke filters up snakelike into the gloom overhead and top-shelved Ariel is almost obscured.

‘Try that one’, he says, directing me to a hefty pot of thick, yellow unguent, like custard.

Snake Oil, reads the label.

‘Snake Oil?’, I say. ‘Snake Oil!?’ ‘On my head!’.

Kaidi laughs. And I select something benign and familiar and safer.

For whilst lack of sleep may reduce me to poisonous Medusa temperament, I do not want to look like her as well.

‘Can I have a discount?’ I ask Kaidi as my shopping is packed into blue Marlborough plastic bags, because in the Outpost smoking is still alive and well despite the dearth of strapping Stetson-wearing hunks riding bareback through cactus littered canyons.

No, says Kaidi, but he gives me a bag of cheap toffees instead.

Which is something.

13 Responses to “On Wee Willie Winkie and Medusa”

  1. Mwa Says:

    I am a genetic insomniac. Those long long nights are the worst. They seem like they never end.

  2. nuttycow Says:

    I am one of those lucky ones who can sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep. I can send you over some of the reports I have to read if you like, they’ll send you straight off!

  3. Grannymar Says:

    I was still waiting at 5 am, waiting for the elusive sleep.

    ‘A nights sleep’ – What is that? The last time I had what most people call a normal nights sleep was pre 1991! Two or three consecutive hours sleep are a luxury these days.

    I now refuse to get up, unless to the bathroom, and try to concentrate on something pleasant and just rest my body. It seems to work.

  4. rosiero Says:

    You’re right. Nobody ever died from lack of sleep, but that’s no comfort at 3am in the morning. All you can do is not let it get to you, relax, do something like read or do some crosswords. Eventually those eyes will get heavy.

  5. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you all! there is odd comfort, though perhaps perverse, in knowing others are lying awake as i am. distant companionship in those long, longer lonely dark hours …

  6. daisyfae Says:

    you articulated the frustration, almost desperation, of insomnia very well. i’m lucky that it’s rare, but when it strikes, i want to scream….

  7. R. Sherman Says:

    Sleep is overrated. Look at what you would have missed had you been snoozing. Plus, you got a blog post out of it, so bonus!

    (I’ve discovered that one scotch at bedtime–single malt, please–puts me down like an elephant gun, BTW)


  8. Tash Says:

    I haven’t slept through a full night in five years – unless, that is, when I’m in the bush and camping. When I’d be quite happy to be woken by lions or hyenas or a soft sawing leopard, I miss the lot. Meanwhile here in the depth of the French countryside I lie awake in silence, till eventually I succumb to turning on the radio which lulls me to sleep – until some jarring music (never classical, always rock in the middle of the night) is suddenly played to snatch me from the gentle embrace of sleep. The other thing I try is a bit of horizontal yoga – the deep relaxation you do to unwind at the end of a session. But Noir generally tends to sense me waiting to fall asleep and comes and sits on my pillow to whisper at me. So that’s that… Come morning I’m usually shattered!

  9. lulu campbell Says:

    I too sleep fitfully. Perhaps it’s a blogger thing? Given up worrying now. Just pretend I’m asleep. Lx

  10. Iota Says:


  11. janelle Says:

    anthea! happy new year darlin’! love the kaidi story…can imagine it EXACTLY. me too, not sleeping very well….but i think its because i spend the entire night wacking my head…too hot to go under cover…damned mozzies…millions and millions…whenever am i going to actually SEE you. i live in arusha, ya know. x j

  12. Leilani Lee Says:

    I never used to have insomnia, but as I have gotten older, it happens more and more often. I fall sleep OK but then wake up either because of an animal making noise outside or…. To sleep… perchance to dream.. I try to think pleasant thoughts and relax as best I can and get through it

  13. Kunstof deur Says:

    Your posts always show me that you really have some indepth knowledge about this. Quite a valuable read i must say.

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