I stayed in bed for three months. And it was bloody hard work. It was knackering. Really. Between January and March 2003, I didn’t get up. I never got out of my pyjamas and every meal was breakfast. It was great, strangely unstrange, both tiring and retrospectively exhilarating.
I had long nurtured a fantasy, an ambition to do this. I recall being oddly moved by Rod Steiger saying; ‘I just went to bed. I didn’t even get out to go to the bathroom. While I was upstairs you could smell me downstairs’. I remember Morrissey reviewing a David Sylvian single in Smash Hits. ‘David sounds as if he’s about to spend his 3rd year in bed’. Great! I thought. That’s a put down?? Really? I was 16 in 1987 and deeply impressed by this staying in bed stuff. What a glorious cop out.
So I stayed in bed. For a long time. Why? Oh that’s the tedious bit. Something about an overlooked clause in a contract meant I wouldn’t be getting my yearly advance when I thought I would. Imagine working all month and then finding out the day before payday that in actual fact they didn’t actually have to pay you because blah blah blah . . . As is so often the case, the cause of something profound is banal. While the solicitors went to work, I went to bed. When the matter was settled, as it was on a bright sunny day in March, I emerged from my bedroom, whiskers flowing down my face, fingernails like talons, feet encased in tissue boxes, cash card in hand.
But let’s backtrack a little. In 1997, I came up with the idea of making the morning last until it was time to get ready to go out. We all know that feeling of Saturday morning, the expectation and the possibilities stretching ahead of us, into the valley of the light (I used to think that lint only fell through sunlit rooms on Saturday mornings until I left school). Living in London in the mid-to-late 90s, we still got two posts. One that was usually pre-8am and another that could be anywhere between 10 and 3. I cultivated a sense that the day could not begin until I’d replied to my fan mail, bust open the packages of bootlegs, binned the final warning from the credit agency (‘We break thumbs’) . . . and then, well, it was time for a nap.
Speaking of which, here’s a tip. Do you have a date this evening? A social gathering? Perhaps it’s the birthday party of someone that you’re not particularly close to but . . . well . . . it’d be good to be seen there. It would a fine thing to have your presence felt. And, who knows . . . perhaps you’re chums, distant chums with Brian Eno. You met at a private view at the London Aquarium. Michael Brook’s wife’s in law introduced you. You connected. And tonight, Brian is giving a lecture. You know. It’ll be good. But. Not. That. Good. Still. Better to go than read in bed. What would be ideal in these occasions – other than a well-evolved sense of self and maturity – would be a small ball of opium. You tried to score some opium lately? Where are these Russian sailors when you need them? ‘Cos they ain’t down Dalston harbour, that’s for sure. Here’s my tip if you find yourself opiumless and want a dreamy evening. Drink half a bottle of Scotch before 3 and then take a nap. When you awake at 6 you’ll be loose but sublimely coherent. Trust me on this. I got through many an opening night on it.
What was I dreaming?
What is it you’re getting from those PM moments anyhow? That dull creepy greyness – it’s not even darkness – that comes on over England at 4pm, bringing only the promise of the landing light on, tea and toast at best. It’s a shroud, the bedspread of a ghost, the shadow of all that’s wrong with us . . . us and our crappy weather, our low sperm count, our uptight umbrella in clenched hand attitude, our collective self-defeating attitude and great music.
So anyway, early 2003 and there I am. In bed.
With Madonna? Fuck that. No, I was in bed with my cats, my girlfriend and the Monkees. With my Tesco own brand Scotch, my cheese on toast and my sleeping pills. I was no passive victim; I made a decision, a commitment to stay in bed.
My staying in bed was a protest, a self imposed sickness, a holiday and a suicide.
Charles Bukowski once said that getting drunk was a suicide you could wake up from. I also believe that you wake up from the other type of suicide, too. You know, the type you don’t ‘wake up from’ – a gun in the mouth, a hanging, jumping from a bridge. Which is not the same as falling from a bridge. And this leads me arterially to my beard. I usually shave once a week. This isn’t because I don’t like shaving, though of course I don’t, it’s just that I can’t be bothered. So when people say; ‘Oh, are you growing a beard’ I say ‘No, I just haven’t shaved’. And there’s the difference. During my Bed trip I actively pursued the discipline of growing a beard, proactive during the height of my aggressive passivity.
One thing I really didn’t miss was all that bother with clothes, especially the tying of shoes and the finding of socks. I’d lay dreaming about a world where a man was not mocked or pelted with fruit and gummy bears if he chose to live his life in pyjamas. When living in East London, we were lucky enough to have a fantastic off-licence just around the corner. A weary and unflappable old Irish guy behind the counter, a huge scar circumferencing his throat. I popped in one night, 3 sheets to the wind to stock up. It was summer and I may have had a dressing gown over my pyjamas at a push. I don’t think I was being that flagrant about it, I just couldn’t be bothered with the rigmarole for such a short but essential journey. As I handed over the cash his only quip was ‘Nightcap, is it?’
I went through two pairs of pyjamas while in Bedland. An A.M. (I won’t say morning) pair and a P.M. pair. A.M. was my trusty old Muji grey number and then after my daily bath – in itself a suicide within a suicide – I’d lay around in my hooded white towelling robe until dry. (It comes as no surprise to know that I’ve never been proactive about getting dry). Then I’d change into a homegrown combo of old sweatpants and T-shirt.
And thus the day would endure. Being an English winter, it wasn’t light for long anyway and I like to think this helped. From the window I could watch the farm opposite. An abundance of birdlife provided some diversion. Occasionally a top hatted fool in a hot air balloon would float by. If it were a really eventful day, perhaps a minor storm or the hint of grey sleet.
Entertainment wise; I had summoned the strength to fix up a 20ft Ariel cable to the second RF output of the digibox, plugging it into a portable TV to the side of the window. This did however mean that you couldn’t change channel from the bed, the digibox being in the living room. So my other half would flick through the on screen TV guide in the other room and I’d shout through ‘Info’..Or ‘yeah’. This was before I installed the in-house intercom system, which my same other half refuses to use.
I’m skirting the issue here because there’s really nothing to be said about staying in bed for this long. It’s hard to remember my time in bed as anything other than one day. Like a long day. A really long day. A 12-week day. Staying in bed for 3 days is all you need to know about staying in bed for 3 months, after a certain amount of time it doesn’t get any different.
And that’s about it. I never stopped reading, didn’t develop bedsores. My libido survived unabated, I could still handle a phone conversation occasionally. I am surprised in looking back at how unradical and natural it seems. Less an aberration, more a mere vacation.
And what’s more, I now know it’s always there. The bed has become to me more than a piece of furniture, of this I’m sure. If they can only make some with wheels on. And a bubble. A plastic one. I’m sure they do. All good things come to those who E-bay. Then again No . . . I take that back. I don’t want to live in bed. Let’s not forget. We sleep to dream and dreams are, ultimately, what we wake up from.