Virginia Barton

16 June 2017: The afternoon rest


16 June 2017


Unless you are still flushed with youth, you must have noticed that when we are old we revert to the habits of our very early years.

Do you remember the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson that starts:

In winter I get up at night
and dress by yellow candlelight;
in summer quite the other way
I have to go to bed by day.


AsleepThinking of this reminded me how as children we resented the after-lunch rest, particularly when the sun was high and the weather warm. The rest was obligatory until we were about eleven years old, presumably as an aid to digestion. My sister and I did anything but rest — it was my fault; I had the digestion of a horse and resting with the curtains drawn was anathema. Sis would have been perfectly happy lying down quietly reading her book.

Not so I. A large, active and tiresome child, too honest to actually leave the bed, I did everything but: standing on it, jumping, hanging over the sides, climbing on the bed-head or onto nearby furniture, chests-of-drawers and the like. Anywhere as long as neither foot touched the floor.


One afternoon, tired of gymnastics, I decided we should destroy Bloggs Beans. This was a lumpy, sexless, rag doll made of orange stockinette by an older sister. Leaning out of our beds we each took an arm and tugged — there was a satisfactory ripping sound. Then we each tugged a leg and all the stuffing fell out. Finally the head was yanked from the body. Yelping with triumph and bouncing up and down whooping like red indians. Poor little Gay, supposedly also resting in the same room burst into tears. Then in came the inevitable grown-up sister: the door was flung open and we were told to clear up and shut up.

The fate of Bloggs Beans still hangs heavy. The gratuitous destruction of the doll strikes me as brutal, and as for the kick I got out of it, very shaming. It must have been old Screwtape himself, instructing young Wormwood in devilry. There is no doubt I led my sister on – she would no more have done such a thing than little Gay without my encouragement.


These days you can’t keep me from my bed after lunch, where I nod over a book and will fall asleep — if the spectre of Bloggs Beans allows.





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