Favourite things


How can it be 11th January already? I had a very relaxed Christmas and New Year, and recharged the batteries a bit, but apparently I’m still trying to wind myself back up again to normal levels of activity. I think I was really in need of a holiday, because — for most of the time — I slept like a baby and felt much better for getting all the sleep I needed. However, once or twice, I woke up in the very early hours of the morning and found it impossible to get back to sleep again.

I’m very lucky that I don’t often suffer from insomnia, but when it does strike, I have trouble calming my brain down and quietening my thoughts. In these moments I often deliberately work through ordered, systematic problems, because those are the kinds of things I find engaging enough to keep the chaotic, wilder worries at bay. Systems — of almost any kind — are calming for me. In the past, I have run through little programming puzzles in my head. More recently, I have added in thinking through the construction steps for making parts of garments, because they are nicely systematic, and involve visualising how you orientate and handle the pieces of the pattern, what stitch length and width to use and so on. Writing that down now makes it sound deeply weird (even to me), but I really do find thinking through the processes of making a jeans fly, or a Python script to parse my todo list and print a filtered and organised collection, relaxing. I’m a freak.

Anyway, on one particular occasion over Christmas, not even these soothing mental activities could lull me back into sleep, and in desperation, I started thinking about my favourite sounds and smells. They are not really an ordered list, because I would find it very hard to rank them, but here they are.

Favourite sounds
Favourite smells

  1. I think the best recording I’ve heard, which is incredibly moving, is one made by the BBC in Surrey in 1942, which accidentally captured the sound of bombers flying overhead to a raid in Germany. The way that the nightingale just carries on regardless, bubbling and trilling its liquid gold against the rumbling of the planes gives me a lump in my throat every time. The nightingale recordings were part of a regular series from the garden of the cellist Beatrice Harrison. The story goes that when the sound engineers heard the sound of the bombers, they stopped the broadcast, fearing that it would provide advance warning of the raid to the enemy, but they continued to record the sound. ↩︎

  2. Despite my adoration of cats, I definitely don’t like the smell of cat pee. ↩︎