Tony Lewis: Sleepless in Porthcawl

Only twice in my life have I not slept all night, and the second was during this last week.

Long after midnight I was still turning the pages of a new hardback – Seeing Things As They Are: the recently published writings of George Orwell. I am an Orwell fan, but surely I would soon sleep.

It never happened and it was three o’clock when I went downstairs to the study to start a walkabout, looking for a truly boring book. Easy.

I went straight to the work of one of my university history lecturers of the 1950s whose Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages always sent my head diving between the pages in deep sleep. I can still hear the guttural intonations of this Austrian-Jewish tutor Walter Ullmann, a man who ran Latin into English and back again in the same sentence: ‘The sacerdotium controlled by the Pope and freed from lay control, was the domina of kingdoms.’ Quite. Still awake?

A bit of late night George Orwell clearly worked a treat for this chap, but not Tony

But now, in June 2015, the Ullmann story of the long wrestle between Church and State ignited my interest for the first time in 55 years. What sent me to sleep as an undergraduate suddenly made me switch from tea to coffee to keep me reading.

Then came my big mistake. I closed Ullmann and grabbed George Orwell again. He truly does tell it as it is.

The Tribune 1947 – “The Scottish people, usually so moderate, are beginning to think about autonomy and feel that they are being pushed into an inferior position. Scotland is almost an occupied country. You have an English or Anglicised upper-class, and a Scottish working class which speaks with a markedly different accent, or even, part of the time in a different language. This is a more dangerous kind of class division than any now existing in England.

“We should pay more attention to the small and violent separatist movements that exist in our own island. They may look unimportant now, but, after all, the Communist Manifesto was once a very obscure document, and the Nazi Party only had six members when Hitler joined it.”

Adolf Hitler
Lay off the cheese, Tony – or else you’ll start dreaming of this man

I still find Orwell stimulating even when he sees through a long-distance lens an imagined future. It was appropriate in Waterloo week to think of Orwell’s Animal Farm, where Napoleon, the boar, ended his absolute monarchy as a mature boar of 24 stone in charge of every other animal, but confirming the story’s well-known conclusion that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Then, as the Porthcawl sun rose I could not escape the other time I failed to get any sleep all night.

Diary

December 20, 1973

Tonight, on the evening before playing my first Test match, I wandered through the lobbies of The Oberoi Intercontinental hotel in New Delhi. Christmas music floated from the main lift where Bing Crosby had been Roasting Chestnuts on an Open Fire for several days.

‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’? No wonder Bing can’t get any shut eye

The England tour party dined in a private room and then, to bed: an early night for the opening day of a new five-match Test series. At two o’clock in the morning I am still awake, writing this diary. I would prefer to sleep and keep thinking about six or seven hours of blistering sun, fielding against the talented Indians who have just beaten West Indies in the Caribbean and Ray Illingworth’s England in England. Fear of failure is often a problem in professional sport. Then the telephone rang. A reporter from BBC Wales in Cardiff asked if he could record an interview for Good Morning Wales. He was sorry: he had failed to check the time difference. Unforgiveable. I never got to sleep at all.

I have ordered fruit and tea from Room Service and here comes the massive sun rising to fill my large bedroom window. I fiddle with the air conditioning, read the morning newspaper and do some stretching – everything but sleep. My first Test match is four hours away.

December 21

England have a successful day in the field but I had a miserable debut. Out lbw for duck to a ball turning a mile down the leg side. Not even the Indians believed it was out, so they said! On the other hand, 11 of them appealed from all parts of the field, followed by 40,000 spectators inside the ground and then another 50,000 outside it. What Indian umpire could refuse?

December 15. Christmas Day.

England win a Test match in India for the first time in 21 years. I was nominated the Man of the Match, one of the early individual awards in Test cricket anywhere, and I carried off a roll of sari material to the dressing room..

All I need to add is that I never set eyes on the sari material again, but reading old diaries might well send me to sleep.

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/lifestyle-opinion/tony-lewis-sleepless-in-porthcawl--9527936