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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Morning gory

My guest column from today's Weekend magazine in the Independent

I read recently that Barack Obama’s wife Michelle wakes up at 4.30 every morning to work out on a treadmill before making breakfast for their two young daughters and getting them out to school.

She then heads off to her mega-salaried job on the board of the University of Chicago Hospitals, as well as cramming in time to help her husband in the not-inconsiderable task of becoming the 44th US president. And all before 9am by the sounds of it.

I find all of that pre-dawn hustle and bustle bizarre and, quite frankly, terrifying. Mrs Obama is clearly a morning person, and, while I myself can be called many things, “morning person” certainly isn’t one of them.

You’ve heard of getting up on “the wrong side of the bed”? Well, my bed is perpetually surrounded by wrong sides, complete with matching duvet and pillows from the trendy ‘Wrong Side’ design label.

We all know people who are sprightly, chatty, upbeat and productive first thing, but to my mind, I could imagine those same people jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch declaring their love for a brain-washed former star of a hit teen angst TV show: it’s just not normal behaviour.

Morning time for me is otherwise known as my daily Seven Dwarves period: I’m simultaneously Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey and sometimes even a little Sneezy. I’m also Bashful (as in I’ll bash anyone who comes near me), Happy (momentarily, when I get my coffee) and finally Doc (when I pump myself full of enough vitamin B and C to shock my system into action).

Those who know me, and particularly the saints who have lived with me, know not to speak to me before midday. Of course, that hasn’t stopped some of those individuals from deriving pleasure from my pain over the years.

When I was in school, my sadistic older brother used to barge into my bedroom at 7.45 every morning, pull of my duvet, throw open the curtains and open the window, all while singing, “Off to school, off to school, we’re all going off to school.” He would then be forcibly cheerful over breakfast, just to annoy me. Siblings can be so cruel.

These days, my morning-itis has been no doubt exacerbated by my job. There’s no real 9-5 structure to it. Believe it or not, I used to contribute to a breakfast radio show, which required being in the studio for 5.30am and having a stack of newspapers digested and ready to discuss on air by 6.30.  Just how that station wasn’t served with hundreds of libel writs during my tenure is anyone’s guess.

I then spent two years working evening shifts on a newspaper, which really solidified the vampire-like existence I live today. My brain learned that it only had to come to life from 2pm onwards, and though I’ve since left that job, the hard-wiring remains.

Now I work from home, where I desperately try to enforce regular work hours on myself. The problem is that, no matter how much I try to transform from an owl into a lark, I find I’m still basically catatonic until lunchtime.

I always get up for work for 9am, but at that time of the day, it’s not uncommon for me to use shampoo as toothpaste, pour orange juice over my cereal or go to the shop wearing just my socks. I’m actually a danger to myself and others in that condition.

Suddenly, mysteriously, my whole demeanour changes once the afternoon dawns. It’s like I’m a Gremlin and I’ve just been fed after midnight. I could work the whole evening through until the early hours if I needed to, which of course has ramifications for my already-just-hanging-in-there social life, but that’s the price that has to be paid when your chronotype is firmly set to the PM dial.

Having said that, I’ve heard that there are hypnosis CDs that might be able to re-wire my body clock to turn me into an Obama-esque, early morning power broker. Anything that can liberate me from my morning comas has to be worth a shot. Until then, the News at 1 will continue to be my Morning Ireland. And in case you’re wondering, I finished writing this article at 1am. Naturally. 

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