Pat Blythe – Sleeeeeeep…..and other stuff…..and music

It’s a glorious fall day today (Tuesday), and my walk in the sunshine was equally wonderful. I needed it, not just to clear my head, but to rid myself of the crushing guilt of thoroughly enjoying a piece each of apple and pumpkin pie this morning. Open the fridge and there they are, staring me in the face, gently calling (nope screaming) my name. So coffee and pie it is for breakfast! C’est la vie as they say.

It was a good Thanksgiving this year, just a bit odd. I roasted a turkey and made all the fixings, but no one actually joined me for dinner. I rang up my 88-year-old uncle and his partner to ask if they would like me to deliver a turkey dinner. Instead, they both decided to come to my home instead. We had a lovely visit…..it had been far too long…..and off they went, turkey, stuffing and pies in hand. I also sent my youngest a message, something about awesome gravy, figuring it would catch his attention. It did! (he’s a gravy freak) His partner just happened to be in the general vicinity of my house, so she dropped over and I sent her away with two turkey dinners. Another friend popped in the following day, and I sent him packing with turkey and the last baby pie. So that bird managed to feed a number of people with lots of leftovers but, quelle horror, there is still pie in the fridge!

Feeding the BBQ the requisite number of coals (2011)

Chris loved Thanksgiving. He especially loved nothing more that to roast a giant bird on the BBQ and feed a cast of thousands. I baked pies. Seven years ago Monday was his memorial/celebration of his life…..on Thanksgiving, his favourite holiday. I wasn’t about to let the Thanksgiving of 2020 escape without the requisite bird. I, however, use the oven. BBQing a turkey takes a special kind of skill and patience. He had it down to a fine art. Coals were added and specifically placed every 15 minutes with the bbq kept at a certain temperature. That turkey was Chris’s “piece de resistance” (as he would say) and was his forte, not mine. The line “burnt to a crisp” comes to mind.

COVID has put life on hold for most of us, separated loved ones, destroyed businesses and livelihoods, inflicted untold damage to mental (and physical) well being, taken lives and left lasting effects on others…..even governments are scrambling, trying to make sense of the upside down world we now live in. Any and all media have not been extremely helpful, continually bombarding us with nothing but negativity and in your face “breaking news”, all specifically designed to captivate and depress the shit out of us. Basically it’s been a shitshow from the word “go”. I wish someone would tell them to back off!! ….and all those dire warnings and predictions about the housing market….will they please shut the fuck up!!!! You’re scaring the shit out of people and making matters worse.

So in this hurly burly world of confusion, try and find a moment to relax and calm yourself, slowly inhale and then exhale and think of one thing you are thankful for…..what makes you truly happy, what makes you smile, your heart swell and feel joy…..what vision comes to mind. Your partner, your parent(s), your grandchild/children, your home, a special friend, a group of friends, the fall colours, a walk through the park, a special moment…..? When you are feeling out of sorts, think of that one thing that brings you joy and focus on it. Let it envelop you like a soft cloud. Sounds corny, but I bet you’ll find the corners of your mouth involuntarily turning up. Hang on to that moment because it’s those moments and memories that will get you through this.

Having had a few things to say about fear, loneliness, touch, comparing, ageism and mental health, I suppose that moves us right along to sleep. Type the word “sleep” or “history of sleep” into your browser, and the information is endless. Studies, recommendations, postulations, remedies, opinions and all manner of suggestions are available at your fingertips….at 3pm or 3am. The bottom line is we need sleep to regenerate our brains and our bodies. To process everything we’ve learned or done during the day and store all that info in our memory banks

What exactly is sleep? Well according to everyone’s “go to” page, Wikipedia, it’s described as, …a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, reduced muscle activity and inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles during rapid eye movement sleep, and reduced interactions with surroundings.” We are told how many hours of sleep we should have, when we should sleep; to nap or not to nap and how long they should or shouldn’t be; what to drink or eat (or not) and when; what the best sleep position is and so on….. You all know I love a little history so here goes.

The bed and the bedroom

We started making straw “beds” up off the floor in the Neolithic era. Circular “nests” from 8,000 BC were discovered indicating the fetal position was most popular. Fast forward to the Middle Ages, and bed frames and stuffed mattresses of straw (if you were poor), or feathers (for the wealthy), were coming into use. During the Renaissance, people began draping their beds in rich fabrics such as silks and velvets making the bed more luxurious and inviting. In today’s world, the bedroom has become a sanctum sanctorum with all the comforts necessary for relaxation and a good night’s sleep. We have soft duvets, the perfect pillow, restful colours, drapes that shut out the light, maybe some soft music playing in the distance…..whatever makes your bedroom and bedtime routine most comfortable. Then why, for love of Pete, (or Tom, Dick or Harry) can’t we sleep?

No concept of privacy

Throughout the centuries the bedchamber of the lord and lady or king and queen was where important matters such as business, trade and marriage took place. It was a huge room of immense importance, a privilege to be invited in, and of even bigger significance if you were welcomed to stay and sleep. It was the centre of the court or the household. Beginning in the early 1700s, bedrooms were slowly becoming a more private area. However, servants were always close by (usually in the same room) to assist whenever required. During the Georgian period, hallways, a brand new concept, along with internal staircases, were added. Prior to this each room was directly connected to the next. If you want to get from one area of the living quarters to another, you would walk through rooms and this included the bedchamber.

If you wanted to get passionate, everyone was in on it…..at least their ears were.  It certainly wasn’t a problem with witnesses to ensure the marriage was consummated and the bride was a virgin. To engage in a little “slap and tickle” in a private place, well there weren’t a lot of options.  Possibilities were an open field, a hayloft or even an empty church. Giving birth was also a very public event. To ensure the “heir” was not a changeling, the birth, especially the first, had to be witnessed. This was mandatory within royal circles to ensure the future monarch/ruler was legitimate. When Mary of Modena (wife of King James II of England) gave birth, she had 200 witnesses.  Even in today’s England, a member of parliament has to be outside the door during the birthing process.

During the Tudor and Stuart eras beds were also works of art and very expensive, often valued at one-third of a family’s wealth. These ornate and prized beds would be passed down through generations and were symbols of status and wealth. But still, the only thing keeping prying eyes out and offering a wee bit of privacy were bedcurtains. It wasn’t until Victorian times separate bedrooms were built for the Mr. and Mrs. as well as separate bedrooms for the children…..and quite often on separate floors.

Wherefore art thou, oh wondrous, glorious sleep?

So it seems all this waking up at night is completely normal. It was the advent of the Industrial Revolution that quite literally changed our sleep habits. This business of getting a good seven to eight hours of solid sleep every night, according to sleep researchers and scientists, is balderdash (my word, not theirs).  References going back over 500 years refer to “two sleeps”, but by the 1920s it had all but vanished. In a BBC documentary called The Myth of the Eight-Hour Sleep it notes “historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.” Known as “segmented” or “biphasic” sleep, it’s our body’s natural rhythm or sleep pattern and, if allowed, it’s the one we instinctively “return” to. In another article, A Brief History of Sleep, published by the World Economic Forum The intermission between the two periods of sleep was a time for people to quietly socialize, play music, relax, have sex or do nothing. And this was the case for centuries.” Writes Kat Duff in The Secret Life of SleepIt was highly valued in Medieval Europe as a time of calm relaxation, when thoughts and perceptions mingled with dreams,”

So what exactly is this two-phased sleep pattern? Each sleep phase lasts four hours and they are referred to, quite naturally, in various writings, as “first sleep” and “second sleep”. The natural awake time in between was spent in any manner of reading, walking, a romp under the sheets, even heading to the local café. In1667 Paris, named “The City of Light”, was the first city in Europe to light up their streets at night. One hundred men were employed to keep 700 wax candles in glass lamps lit during the night. Other cities rapidly followed suit and the cafés and coffee houses became popular destinations for those between sleeps.  Roll ahead a few hundred years, and we’re now required, no expected, to go to bed and sleep through the night until the alarms goes off. If we don’t something is wrong!

However, Ekirch believes “Many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body’s natural preference for segmented sleep as well as the ubiquity of artificial light. This could be the root of a condition called sleep maintenance insomnia, where people wake during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.” Ekirch continues, “The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleeps and is likely to seep into waking life too.”

Now massive changes in our lifestyles due to COVID have turned our sleeping habits on their ear. Anxiety is creeping in, gradually eroding any kind of calm we seek at night. With stressor after stressor piled on, fear has become our silent bedmate.  It used to be what kept us alive…..we had to be alert to anything that would threaten our lives or our families, but we don’t live on the plains anymore. According to evolutionary anthropologist David Samson, who studies the evolutionary links between sleep and cognition “It turns out fear is actually a good thing from an evolutionary perspective…The problem is our psyches stay on high alert when we sense threat. Because we can’t just chase off this problem, we are unable to extinguish our fear, he said. “It’s turning into what we classically call insomnia, which is a perpetual chronic condition characterized by the inability to fall asleep.”

A restful sleep is a precious commodity these days however you slice and dice it. There is no one single approach since we are all handle and process stress and anxiety differently. I wake up after about four hours of sleep, but usually my “awake time” doesn’t last very long. Others may be up for an hour or two, while for others a “second sleep” eludes them entirely. Rather than getting anxious about it, go with the flow. Nap when you can, but no more than 30 minutes, otherwise you’re heading into deep sleep followed by REM and will wake up disoriented (it’s called sleep inertia). Nap too close to bedtime and you know what happens……. Exercise as best you can. Avoid caffeine at night. But most importantly, don’t isolate yourself, since personal contact is important now more than ever. Contact and physical connection are key for reducing anxiety and raising oxytocin levels, helping us to relax…..and for God’s sake, stop watching the news!

One of my favourite bands, a trio I’ve been following for five years now is James Blonde. These three incredibly creative multi instrumentalists and vocalists have put together a tribute to the Bee Gees and recorded Stayin’ Alive. Fun during COVID, Phil Taylor (drums), Stef Mercier (guitar) and Neil Carson (bass and keys) harmonize beautifully. Carson’s falsetto is pure Barrie Gibb and the entire production gives the Bee Gees a run for their money. Once again, my flabber was gasted. Positively brilliant!!

Their message, “Here’s a bit of a cheeky, yet appropriate song for us to cover for 2020. Check out our cover of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees we recorded as ep. 2 of our Covid-Covers! We hope you’re all making good choices to Stay Alive and keeping your friends and family doing the same.”

James Blonde – Stayin’ Alive (cover)

Sleep on the Floor – The Lumineers

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead – Bon Jovi

Golden Slumbers – The Beatles

A Pillow of Winds – Pink Floyd

Dream Weaver – Gary Wright

And Dream of Sheep – Kate Bush

Dream On – Aerosmith

The Lion Sleeps Tonight – The Tokens

…..and if you’ve never seen this (it’s my mom’s favourite)

The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Happy Hippo

Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Love Me – The Smith

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics

Lady D’Arbanville – Cat Stevens

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay in touch.

Cheers!

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

One Response to “Pat Blythe – Sleeeeeeep…..and other stuff…..and music”

  1. Damon Hines Says:

    Luvverly. ❤ ta, vm.

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