No cause for alarm
So, what chronotype are you? Are you a morning lark who gets up with the dawn, full of vim and vigour and a smile on your face, or a night owl who is just coming into your own as the sun sets over the horizon and who views early-risers with suspicion? Or are you someone in between, happy to rise and go to bed at what might be considered ‘reasonable’ times of the day?
One of the advantages of lockdown is that, for many of us forced to stay at home, it no longer matters which type we are. For the duration of lockdown at least, we are all free to follow our own natural circadian rhythms. We can get up and go to bed whenever we please. Even if you’re working from home, you don’t have to be up and dressed to tap away at a laptop. No one can see you when you’re sitting on the sofa unless, of course, you’re invited to one of these new-fangled video conferences that everyone is using now – but even then, you only need to dress the bits that show up on screen – just take care not to stand up while on-line…..
I don’t think anyone would describe me as a morning person. It’s not that I hate mornings – I actually quite like them and I’ve seen the sun come up many a time, even in the summer months when it comes up very early. But I’m almost as likely to welcome the dawn while on my way to bed as greeting it as I wake up. Yes, I’m one of those people who stays up late, cracking on with things while others sleep, and who then goes to bed just as the sun’s coming up. I am what you might call a creature of the night.
Being nocturnal has implications of course. I’ve been subjected to the tyranny of the early start for most of my life. The world is organised for larks, not owls, and it’s the owls who have to make the compromises.
In my school days, I found it hard, particularly as a teenager, to get up, get dressed and get off to school on time. To arrive late at the grammar school I attended (with an 8.45am start), meant being sent to see the headmaster to explain one’s tardiness. I avoided such encounters by not being late, but I owe that much more to my parents’ constant nagging than to my own willpower. If it hadn’t been for their persistent urging to get up, I suspect the headmaster and I would have been on very familiar terms.
The early starts continued into my working life. Being someone who worked in an office, I had to be at my desk by 8.30am. As people arrived, they had to sign a register. At 8.30, a red line was drawn across the page just beneath the last person who had signed in. The manager would inspect the register mid-morning and anyone whose name was signed in below the line was called into his office for a reprimand and one of his ‘motivational chats.’ Again, being a good boy, I am pleased to say that I was never called in.
Flexible working hours, introduced in the late 1970s, and then homeworking which really became possible around 15 years ago for me, changed everything. The demands of the early start was still there when working from home but at least, when I didn’t need to go into the office, I was spared the daily commute – heck, I didn’t even need to get dressed! (I feel I must now offer apologies to any colleagues from back then who are now picturing me sitting in my pjs while taking part in those telephone conferences! Yet more apologies may be due when I tell you I don’t wear pyjamas….)
Today, video conferencing has necessitated a re-think to what to wear. I do think one has to make an effort: the implications of ‘Come as you are’ really don’t bear thinking about when you can see and be seen from the comfort of your sofa. I might be talking to you from my lounge but this is no time to be seen in what I think stores call ‘lounge wear’.
Since I retired from full-time work, my alarm clock gets very little use. I can’t quite relegate it to the back of the cupboard as I still have to get up occasionally to go to meetings. Most days, though, I can sleep in if I want to and I often do. I can, at last, deal with the world on my terms. Now, I don’t even answer the telephone before 11am.
One of my pet hates is people who ring me up at 9am (or even earlier) and begin their remarks with “Did I get you up?”. Some of them even sound faintly surprised to hear my voice, fully expecting to go through to the answering service (so why not just phone me later?). I try not to signal my irritation but give me strength! Sometimes I tell a downright lie. “No, I’ve been up ages”, I’ll say, stifling a yawn, or “No I’ve been out and just come back” and so on. It’s a bit harder to come up with an excuse for not answering the phone under lockdown without giving the game away: I can hardly say I’ve been out, can I?
Occasionally, I think I might try scheduling a meeting for 2am, just to see who’s up for it, or giving one of my morning lark friends a call at, say, 3am? “Did I get you up?” I would ask, in all innocence.