Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I am a rotten sleeper. I can lie awake for hours on end. If you're an insomniac, you know exactly what I mean.

Last year I discovered an amazing device. It's a headband with speakers the size of a dime embedded in very soft fleece. My husband looks askance at this piece of lilac-coloured frippery, but what does he know? He's never had a sleepless night in his life

I love to read at night but even though I almost always fall asleep with the book on my nose, the moment I turn out the light, my eyes snap open and I'm staring at the ceiling again. With my new sleep phones, however, I simply trade the book for my headband and drift off while somebody else does the reading.

I've had to learn what kinds of audio books are relaxing enough to put me to sleep. Mysteries are too alarming. Spy stories and horror tales are even worse. Humour can be risky, as a fit of the giggles at midnight might keep me awake for the rest of the night. I've really got to have my wits about me to listen to Science Fiction or Fantasy or heaven forbid, the Massey Lectures. The best audio books for me are somewhat boring. But it's a fine line. If it's too much of a yawn then I'm likely to get frustrated and that's no sleep inducement.

The best seem to be Dickens, Austen, Thackeray and books of that age and ilk. Recently I've been listening to the PG Wodehouse books featuring Bertie Wooster and his amiable valet, Jeeves. These are ideal and luckily for me, he wrote a ton of them. Nothing startling ever happens to Bertie, or at least nothing Jeeves can't handle. Bertie's aunt Agatha, who "chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth", might make another attempt to get him to the alter, or someone might steal the Empress of Blandings, an improbably named pig, but that's about as scary as these stories get. Before I know it, I'm sound asleep and the reader is still droning on in the morning.

I download audio books free from the library. They arrive on my laptop and from there I send them to my Walkman. And because I belong to both the Ottawa Public Library and the Rideau Lakes Library, which is part of the Ontario Library System, I have two sources to draw on. How's that for a deal?

Sue Pike has published a couple of dozen stories and won several awards including an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story. Her latest, Where the Snow Lay Dinted appeared in the January issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Sue and her husband and an opinionated Australian Shepherd named Cooper spend the winter months in Ottawa and the rest of the time at a mysterious cottage on the Rideau Lakes.

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