It's very quiet.
It's very dark, despite the ubiqitous ambient light of London and I've found it is quite impossible to roll over and go back to sleep.
Strange what thoughts and dimly lit dreams occur to you in the wee small hours? By a process of trial and error I am now well educated in the vagaries of my subconscious and it's obstinate reaction to conscious demands - put simply, my head will think and display whatever old crap it likes. If I lie and try to think of the colour blue I'm as likely to get a slow motion video of a rhinocerous anally assualting a cartoon traffic warden as a cool soothing azure hue. It appears that the vivid imagination of childhood has not been lost after all, in fact over the years I (we) have accumulated a myriad images and characters that can be assembled in an infinite number of outlandish scenarios....perhaps it's just that I (we) have become better at filing them. That is until the doors become carelessly unlocked and the inmates come out to play?
So I'll get up. Go to the fridge.....not tea, ooo no, this me.....pour a glass of wine, open the back door and sit with my feet on the fire escape stairs in my shreddies and peer into the night. It's not long until there's a pitter patter of nails on stone and a rrrrrreeeeeeooaaaarrrrrr as Charlie's curiosity overcomes him and he'll stretch and snuffle up to me. Toffee never does this, Toffee could sleep in a washing machine on the spin cycle.
I saw the sun rise like this earlier in the week and whilst my locale is not some rural idyll, the early morning mist rising out of the trees and gardens of the urban sprawl has its own ethereal beauty. Or maybe I shouldn't have gone back to the fridge.
It's not the end of the world, whatever it was that woke me up generally dissipates after a while and I can go back to bed and catch another hour. In fact it's almost like having a lie in.
But it's amazing what you think about sitting on the step, in the pre dawn silence.
I remembered being a child and being scared of the dark. I was never scared of the dark outdoors, the night seemed comfortable with the trees and fields and hedgerows of my youth. It was only indoors, at home, when the lights went out. The countryside dark, of pitch breathlesness, where one could lie in bed with eyes open or shut or wave a hand before your face and it mattered not. Utter sightless night.
Now I push the covers away, but then....the little boy who was me would tuck his chin into the blankets and not a single extremity would stray from under the bed covers lest it were touched by some malign cold hand. And in the dark, the paucity of sight was more than made up for by acuity of other senses....there were bats in rafters, the soft susuration of the breeze in the garden oak, the creak and groan of old furniture cooling before the ash of the evening's fire...all were just cause for consternation and goose bumps. I remember laying abed terrorized by a mouse. He lived in the loft along with my father's seed potatos and the rumble-thump as he rolled them to his nest over individual rafters sounded for all the world to me, then, in the dark, like the scrape and footfall of some fiendish ghoul on the roof.
One night when walking home from where the village bus used to drop me, over a mile from my front door, up hill and along tree lined roads bordered by fields and not another dwelling - that night walking home in the early winter gloom a patch of mist detatched itself from a hill top copse and came curling down the hill, to spill over the wall to the lane which had been cut in below the level of the surrounding field....for a long long moment the earth and I stood still within a bitter soaking cocoon of grey.
And I didn't turn a hair. There is no malice in the earth, no threat in the clearing wisps that reveal a starlit sky. It was only when I found home and was put to bed with a kiss goodnight that I had any misgivings and, after a cautious wait, quietly opened the bedroom door to whisper call for the cat.
So Charlie and I sat on the step last night. We saw thin ribbons of cloud sidle east towards the first glimmerings of dawn. We saw the bathroom lights of early risers and a fox in the shadows of a neighbour's garage, we chuckled when Charlie farted and at the gurgling rumpus of the Toffee monster's rabbit chasing dreams.
And when I went back to bed, because of some compulsion I don't understand, I tucked my fingers, toes and nose under the duvet.