I’m writing about sleeping, not the sort of sleeping the Westminster civil servants do in the middle of a hot afternoon, when they can’t think of anything else to add to the Green Machine. I’m writing about the sort of sleeping that you, your parents, your grand parents, great grandparents and I have done over the last 90 odd years, how it compares with the duvet and its effect, in fact, on the environment. While those civil servants were so busy telling us about switching off neon indicator lamps for saving an infinitesimal amount of electricity, they missed one of the biggest, perennial, wastages of electricity and carbon footprint.
For most of my life I slept in a bed with a head and a foot, under and on sheets and blankets, and above me the inevitable eiderdown. In the very depths of winter I would have stone, or aluminium, or a rubber hotwater bottle, and the rest of the year, just by taking off a layer or changing the weight of a layer, or even taking off most of the layers, I was able to sleep comfortably, peacefully, with no worries about being overheated or cold. I suggest that in the coldest periods there were more layers of warm air and pockets of warm air in the old system than there are in the modern duvet. In the 30s I went on school trips to France and Switzerland, where I discovered the abominable bolster, that the huge, hard, stuffed encumbrance, that slouched across the top of the bed, and put such a strain on your neck you spent half the night awake. We discovered also the duvet, that continental, elephantine covering that was used from the Channel to Sicily. When you got under the duvet, you were totally lost, it was like entering a cavern, and if it started to slip, you were naked.
For some reason, round about the 60s, maybe it was the Flower People, we started emulating the continentals, some of our beds had no bottom end, we abandoned the traditional covering. The duvet, I grant you, did not have such gargantuan proportions, and at some point subsequently people realised that in the northern hemisphere it can get very cold in the winter and so everybody had to buy electric blankets. This whole diatribe started as the result of a few pensioners discussing the merits and demerits of the electric blankets they have purchased in recent years, complaining bitterly that there were areas, totally unheated. I have discovered for myself that this is absolutely true, the bed doesn’t stay warm like it used to, if you get up for an hour to make yourself a cup of tea or something, when you get back into bed you have to switch on the blankets to warm yourself up, then you either have to lie awake for ages until it reaches the right temperature, or you wake up to a strong smell of roast pig. And this is not only the problem, if you’re over 6 foot and tend to lie on your face, the extension of your foot coupled with the height, and the fact that you don’t like your head firmly pressed against the headboard, means that your feet inevitably hang out at the bottom and get frozen, or you have to curl up in the foetus position.
It therefore follows, although I haven’t done a survey, that most people today have one of these awful duvets, coupled with a huge area of electric blanket, and they are consuming electricity at the rate that makes turning off the neon indicator lights, as a comparison between a mouse and an elephant. But then of course, the civil servants don’t mention this wide extra use of electricity, because they wouldn’t want to do away with their duvet, after all it is the fashion, and they wouldn’t want to do away with their electric blanket, because they might lose sleep, and not be able to think clearly the next day, what they were going to stop us doing.
So the Green machine isn’t as efficient as they would like us to think.