Absolutely not in the Shakespearian sense, though at the time bundling was very popular. The courting couple, dressed in every garment they had, were put in bed together, sometimes with a plank of wood between them and then further bundled up. You would get an opportunity to find out how bad the snoring was and how strong your wrists were.
Neither is this about the Great bed of Ware, which now lives in the V&A but was originally in an inn, though how it got in the inn, or indeed back out to the museum, is debateable. It moved three times before it got to its current location. It is a four poster, ten by eleven feet wide, which can reputedly accommodate four couples or twelve people. Why the four extra singletons? Are they thinner than the wed or do they lie stiller in the bed? Which door did it go through? How did they wash the bedding? How many pillows? How far would you have to go to find your lost hot water bottle?
There are no facts that I can find relating to bed bugs and the great bed, did you get your money back if you got bitten to bits and how much would that be and did anyone, actually, get any sleep?*
Sam Pepys’ wife, made ill by ‘those that are in the bed’ took to her bed as a cure. May be a slight flaw in the logic there, one feels.
How did you sleep in the heatwave? Did you sleep in the heatwave? Ridiculous isn’t it – just a few degrees either way and no one gets any kip. 15.6 to 19.4 Celsius is the ideal temperature range, or 65F, if you still have sheets and blankets. What do you wear in 40 degrees? My south-facing bedroom got up to 35, which I made worse by arrangements. About a week out of hospital, my wound leaked through several layers of bedding, just stopping short of the mattress. Thereafter I slept on a nice fluffy, absorbent, warm towel. I appreciated why they have plastic coated mattresses and one sheet in hospital, despite the tendencies of patients to slide out, which is what the railings are for.
Snakes can’t sleep any colder than 16 degrees and if there is an undigested meal in them when they go into brumation it will rot and they will die.
There is a slight possibility that I might be a sea cucumber. They undergo aestivation when it gets too hot to sleep; they shut down, their gastrointestinal tract shrinks by half, they have no energy and go all stiff and useless.
Does anyone know why beds are so high currently? When I was a child you sank into bed at round about the level of your knees. In mediaeval times the bed was high so that the servant’s truckle bed could slide underneath. There was a hanging at the head end called a dosser, and visitors were invited to hop in and stay for the night. Now, if you’re not feeling up to much, getting into bed is a branch of mountaineering; when I was really weak I developed a technique of flinging my arms across the bed and shuffling on like a seal. Chris Bonington would have been proud of me, in a mere half an hour I made it up the south face of the bed, sadly not to a glacier.
How do mountaineers sleep in those tiny tents fastened on to the side of a vertical cliff face and how many are lost popping out for a pee and where do you put the alarm clock?
About twenty five years ago I visited a relic of an ancient fortified lodging with a turret, out in the sticks at the end of the sort of country track that gets narrower until you start asking if you’ve missed the turning. There was a double height hall stuck on to a turret with a spiral stair clinging to the outer wall and a nice sheer drop on the inside. Up a perilous turn was a room with a garderobe with a crumbling seat and a long drop and a four poster bed, much higher than wide which must have been built in the room. The stone floor sloped into the centre which the bed occupied. The bed had the remnants of hangings and coverlets that may once have been fur with an interesting hovering of insect life. Down stairs safely again there was a sort of guide with an impenetrable accent, a table, a radio and a microwave. He could have been glad to have visitors, or not, it was difficult to tell.
Windows open or shut? In a heat wave you need some old fashioned net curtains. Some years ago I sent away for a brilliant invention which was the hook side of hook and loop tape to stick round the window and a piece of fine net to pat onto the hooks. After several summers the sticky residue acquires a life of its own, goes yellow, rolls up, occasionally incorporating the odd spider and is completely and utterly unremovable. Nothing will shift it that will not also melt the plastic window frame. So I didn’t put that on the new window, I had old fashioned nets, trapped at the bottom with heavy things that will still make the morning start early with a little light droning. Is it a wasp? If it is a wasp, where is it? Is it a wasp that is likely to go out again? Is it a pissed-off wasp? Is it a huge bee? Where is it? I can hear it. Oh! It flew right by my ear! What time is it? That early! Shall I get up and deal with it or go back to sleep? Do stinging things more readily sting sleeping people or people waving newspapers at them? If I throw a slipper at it, will it make it more or less annoyed?
But the real bugbear in a heatwave is what the heat does to your hair. Prior to the heat I had had a perm. When you lie a sweaty head on a wet pillow you get curly on the top in the morning and a horizontal mullet round the lower half. You stare in the mirror amazed at yourself having time travelled to the early eighties in the night, sad that you gifted your striped flares to the charity shop, certain that these plus the hanging curtain arms that weight loss and dehydration have added to the mix are a definite look, add the white face and brown hand that you couldn’t be bothered to move away from the window and there you are straight off the margins of a mediaeval apocalypse. I wish I were joking. The OH did come in from the garden to find me, sleep-deprived, spark out in the chair and thought I was dead. Worryingly he did not try to revive me.
In a normally hot summer, always cold, I rejoice in sleeping outside of the covers, warm all over. In a heat wave the question arises of what to wear. Nothing is not the answer for nothing permits contiguous flesh to self-weld with sweat like wearing nothing. It might be acceptable if you have a large bed and can sleep spread-eagled like a starfish but that won’t last. A flung-over arm will stick to any other part of the anatomy, instantly doubling the temperature. How strange is it that sticking a leg off the bed is cooling even when there is no bedding? I was very fortunate that my bed is mine alone. How you do a heatwave with another body in the same bed is a puzzle. I vaguely recall being piled with tossed-off blankets in summer and frozen by hauled-away coverings in winter. What if you are someone who shares your bed with the cat or the dog?
As a teenager I had a friend who had been maid servant to a very famous French singer. He shared his bed with several huge dogs (never mentioned in the romantic songs) who brought along bones, fleas, bodily fluids and mud. It was my friend’s job to turf off the dogs and make the bed every lunch time when the singer arose. It was one of those 1960’s chalet maid jobs that was glamourous from the outside only.
Do you read in bed? I clear the library from the side of the bed when the piles are high enough to cause damage in a book slide. A portion of the unfinished novels are by me and there are always numerous notebooks, though as notebooks are for the brainwaves of the morning, they become useless as I age because once I’m awake, I’m up.
The weirdest thing about the heatwave and being poorly during it was the thwarted requirement to dream. Pottering along to the north facing bathroom in the night to change a dressing and sitting on the toilet seat to recover from the walk, I woke up in a start from a vivid dream when I fell backwards on to the flush arm, which is a pressure handle. Returning and sitting on the bed, prior to sealing up on to it, I fell asleep again and woke in a rush from a dream about boxes. I dreamed in the chair in the day too, almost as soon as I sat down.
We are going to have to develop strategies for the hot nights of the future. There are countries where flat roofs permit urban dwellers to catch a breeze. I think a promising development could be solar powered fans. Charge up in the day; discharge at night. Frozen bed socks? Plastic coated pillow ice cubes?
Or, we’re just going to have to get to grips with global warming. I started saving for an electric car some time ago and plan to keep my petrol car going as long as it takes, because nothing ruins the lovely long-anticipated summer like a string of sleepless nights.
*Are you kidding? In bed with eleven potential gropers, thieves or infections and they actually sold the places.**
**Four hundred and thirty years before anyone had invented Marketing Degrees.