Do you know what your neighbours get up to in the privacy of their own homes? If, like me, you live in one of those terraced houses whose bedrooms link together like the clinging limbs of a concertinaed paper doll, with walls of about the same thickness, you probably have a vague idea. For instance, since the septuagenarian on one side of our bedroom wall started to go deaf we can hear Radio FourÕs book at bedtime loud enough to follow the plot and can join in with all the songs on Desert Island Discs, while through the other wall, the three year old child often falls out of bed and calls for mummy so clearly that, on occasion, I have risen in the middle of the night thinking she wanted me. And since we once lived next door to a very energetic French couple who bonked nightly to the womanÕs rallying cry of Ōencore, encore une foisÕ, accompanied by the frantic barking of their yapping dog, locked in the bathroom for the duration, we have consequently learned keep our own nocturnal high jinks to a very low murmur. Especially since I realised that the electrical thrum coming through their bedroom wall was not emanating from a vigorous spurt of midnight vacuuming.
However, according to the BBCÕs dark, new sitcom Bedtime which looks at the lives of three ordinary, suburban couples, as seen through the walls of their adjacent bedrooms, thereÕs a brand new bed time activity that I didnÕt know existed: Talking. Yes, these characters actually sit up in bed at night and talk.
I donÕt believe it. Do you mean to say that for all these years of marriage IÕve been living a monosyllabic lie and that, truly, there are fully functioning couples out there who have conversations between the sheets? Do men really discuss things in bed? I thought it was one of those myths like thrice nightly, multiple orgasms and miracle cellulite creams, spread by bitter, single, thin people intended to make the otherwise contented amongst us suspect that there is more to life than a loudly snoring partner. Surely it canÕt be true? I mean, yes, I know in the early months of a new relationship you get to swap body fluids and, the female consolation prize of choice, intimate life stories, but when the pillow talk inevitably tails off youÕre lucky to get as much as a good night. When was the last time your life partner talked to you after sex? During? - Perhaps. Smoked? - Possibly. Watched Match of the Day? - Maybe. But wanted, urgently, to rehash the argument you had on the phone with his mother earlier that day? Dream on. As a male friend of mine says, ŌisnÕt that what sex is for Š so that you donÕt have to talk? If youÕre with a married man who wants to have a deep and meaningful with you in bed, chances are heÕs married to someone else. ItÕs a sad indictment of coupledom that going to bed together starts with frenzied foreplay and ends with you lifting a book off your sleeping blokeÕs chest. According to my friend Angie, the only thing her husband says in bed is: ŅWhen are you going to turn the effing light off?Ó While another friend whose husband regularly falls asleep with his one pair of functioning glasses slipping off the end of his nose, claims that the only heated debate that takes place under cover of their duvet is when he starts looking for the specs in the middle of the night and wakes her to ask if sheÕs lying on them.
In my extensive experience when it comes to late night conversations women may indeed be from the planet Garrulous but men hail from a whole different, distant, solar system Š Comatose. The minute my head hits the pillow itÕs instantly full of philosophical insights about the people we just had dinner with, the film we just watched on TV, or the disagreement we just had in 1975 which I feel, urgently, the need to resolve. What else is night for if not to worry. Aloud. I want to psychoanalyse my children, discuss the meaning of life, outline the plots for all my unwritten novels, debate the Booker Prize Shortlist, and read aloud all the nominations and practice my speech when my unwritten novel wins one. My husband, however, is gone to the silent land of mute wives and wall-to-wall oblivion. ŌThe first time I met you, I really wanted to sleep with you,Õ he said recently, pointedly, reinforcing the 'sleep' angle. Yep, and I really wanted to spend my life talking to myself in the dark. This must be why God gave women very sharp elbows.