How can I beat insomnia if my Anna Friel and Madonna fantasies don't work?
Just when I thought that my recent visits to the osteopath had got my body back into working order for the long winter, I find myself sitting on a stool in the kitchen at 3am wondering whether I'll ever again be able to manage a proper night's sleep.
Like anyone else, I have a set of strategies for inducing sleep. I begin by lying on my right side with my head facing the bedside lamp and then curl the corner of the pillow up into a hard knot which I press into the side of my face just below the eye. If this fails, then the pillow routine is repeated on alternate sides. It's only when I find that I'm turning backwards and forwards at intervals of less than ten seconds, much like an amateur trampolinist trying to regain the vertical, that I allow my mind to absent itself from merely kinaesthetic considerations and entertain the first in a long chain of fantasies.
The order is strictly observed. Only when I have completed my Anfield fantasy (in which I run on to the pitch to howls of derision from the crowd and then proceed to score the winning goal) do I allow myself to move on to the jazz fantasy, in which I am dragged unwillingly from the audience at Ronnie Scott's to play bass alongside Miles Davis in a definitive version of "Kind of Blue".
The last fantasy in the chain, the point beyond which I know insomnia lies, can be stretched out for the best part of 30 minutes. It involves me entering a boxing ring in a crowded arena and taking on a variety of contenders. These come in various forms and are dealt with in an appropriate fashion. So, the radio critic of a leading Sunday newspaper who recently described one of my broadcasts as "lacking in intellectual substance" will enter the ring to be met by a flurry of quotations from Hegel and Foucault, which eventually reduce him to a quivering wreck.
After a couple of other cerebral bouts I turn to sexual encounters. There are a few preliminary skirmishes involving real women who've rejected past advances (Pam Wilson and Marjorie Fielding), then it's time for new challenges. One by one the ringmaster introduces a series of seductive celebrities: Claudia Schiffer, Madonna, Helena Bonham-Carter, Anna Friel and a woman called Julie who used to do the weather on Tyne-Tees. My role in these contests is essentially passive. Each woman enters the ring determined not to be impressed by my sensual presence, but each eventually indicates (sometimes after holding out for as long as three rounds) that they can resist no longer and is promptly counted out by the referee.
It's the open-ended nature of this fantasy that has always ensured its success in the past. Even on those nights when Madonna and Anna Friel only manage to last a single round before submitting, there's always another dozen famous women busily waiting at the edge of consciousness for their appearance. But twice in the past fortnight I've run the entire gamut of fantasy figures and still found myself staring open-eyed at the ceiling and despondently imagining that I can already hear the first chirrup of the morning chorus.
When I rang Phil to see whether he'd yet reached the point in his counselling course where he could offer any advice, he was brutally frank. "You're suffering from a serious case of unreconstructed fantasies. Your imaginings are so crass that your ego has finally decided to rebel by keeping you awake all night. What you need is a whole new unconscious."
"You mean deep Freudian analysis?"
"Not really. I was thinking full frontal lobotomy."