Pillow talk

First pair to appear on British television in bed together?

You may “sleep together”, but does that mean you actually have to sleep together?

If he snores, she reads late, he gets up in the night to go to the toilet, or she likes the dog in bed… You can add in your own list of irritating habits. Isn’t it better to sleep apart than resent your partner for sabotaging your rest?

It doesn’t mean you don’t love each other, does it? You can still pay nocturnal visits – like King Maximillian II of Bavaria, who had a secret staircase leading down from his bedroom in Hohenschwangau castle to where his wife Marie of Prussia lay below. (I’ve seen the secret door. His bedroom was comfier and bed bigger – she should have come up instead.)

According to BBC radio presenter Jenni Murray, she and her partner have had separate beds for 22 of their 31 years together.

She says:

There is no shortage of intimacy – physical or otherwise – but not at night-time: that’s for peace and tranquility.

She makes the argument in the Guardian newspaper, having realised that sleeping apart was not the beginning of the end, and learning to stretch out and luxuriate in the broader bed expanse that was all hers.

But according to Orange Prize-winning writer Lionel Shriver – Jenni has it all wrong. It’s not just the sleeping together or the “sleeping together”, but the shared time and space and ideas before the light goes off. She writes beautifully about the whole experience.

You switch off the light, and turn on your side. Soon his light goes off as well. The wrapping begins. One knee nestles behind yours. One fine, high arch rests on the ground of your calf. He clasps your hand. His cheek lies on your shoulder. The fit is exact, much like your reading tastes. This, too, is the reason you married, much more so than what you do on more active nights. You are each other’s geometric destiny. You feel at once protected and protecting. It is like holding yourself.

There’s more here. She even deals with snoring. I’m with Lionel on this one.

She concludes:

Your sole motivation for crawling from the sheets is the promise of this same exquisite ritual in 16 hours. You can’t wait.

OK. So not everyone fits together so snugly. “His cheek lies on your shoulder…” could feel like being squashed to someone else. But better to aspire to that wonderful night world of which Lionel says…

The time does not simply vanish. It passes – sumptuous, langurous and think. Sleep is the very opposite of death. Your experience of being and only being is at its most intense.

Though, clearly, you have to keep a good grip on the duvet all the same to make sure your other half doesn’t pull it all over to their side. Gotta be a bit realistic.



Filed under life

15 responses to “Pillow talk

  1. Definitely agree with Lionel. Can’t imagine the idea of sleeping seperately from my husband every night! My better half would be missing.

  2. After the hot and heavies die down a little separate beds become a reality not because of a loss of intimacy but because of practicality to have a restful night to face the rigors of the work day.

  3. I love it when I turn over and the man I love is close; that all through the night when I slightly waken I feel his presence; if I should shift my arm or leg and feel his warmth…

    After 35 years.

  4. I heard Jenny talk about that on the radio the other morning.

    Let me tell you folks that after 21 happy years of marriage, climbing into a large lonely bed at night is no fun! My husband didn’t leave me. The curse that cancer is, took him away from me. Thirteen years down the line and I miss the snug cuddle as much now, as I did it the raw days of grief.

  5. Apparently Eric Morecambe was initially uneasy about the notion of sharing a bed with Ern, in case the viewers got “the wrong idea”. The producer suggested that if he smoked his pipe during the bed scenes, presumably on the basis that pipe smoking = heterosexuality. And to be honest, I can’t think off-hand of any gay pipe smokers.

  6. Have been reminded of Stephen Fry, Graham Chapman, Maggi Hambling and (probably) Noel Coward. OK, ignore that, all gay people smoke pipes. In their beds. So people probably still had their suspicions about Eric.

  7. Basil Dajani

    A Super Kingsize bed solves most of these problems surely. Except snoring and sleep walking perhaps. Malm Ikea bought in 2003 for about £130. Possibly my greatest ever purchase. I’m lying on it now. Almost two rooms in itself. Mind you, putting it together ended that particular relationship.

  8. Chenab Mangat

    While I agree with Ms Murray on the whole, who can deny the poetry behind
    ‘You are each other’s geometric destiny’…

  9. There’s a time and place for that luxuriously big comfortable bed all to yourself…just not for me! Would much rather fight for the duvet and one or two other annoying habits and have my man there to hug up to 🙂

  10. The feel of someone’s chin against your shoulder can indeed be very comforting. Until you remember that you live alone.

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