Sleep and Tiredness

I have a love-hate relationship with sleep and tiredness.  I love sleep and hate tiredness.  Unfortunately, although I love sleep, it doesn’t always love me, hence the tiredness.  And I am not the only one.   According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in five people feels “unusually tired,” and one in ten has “prolonged fatigue.”  Women tend to feel more tired than men.  I’m not sure how they define prolonged fatigue, but I am sure that I have this.

Research into sleep has been going on for a long time, I remember reading about it when I was studying brain and behaviour.  It seems that the experts are still not sure why we need to sleep – to reorganise memories, to restore our bodies (cats sleep for about 16 hours per day, but not all in one go), maybe other things as well.  Haven’t we all had those times when we’ve started a new job and fall asleep on the train going home for the first few weeks?  Days when we’ve worked really hard in the garden/decorating/similar physical work and fallen asleep dog tired but knowing our bodies feel better for the exercise?  Or times when we have worked hard mentally and felt exhausted but our bodies didn’t feel it because we had done no physical work?


I started to look into sleep because I’ve been falling asleep on the sofa and waking in the early hours of the morning and by the time I’ve cleaned my teeth and washed, I’m wide awake and don’t want to sleep (I’m typing this at 02:11).  It also featured in a book I’m reading by one of my favourite non-fiction writers, Linda Formichelli (How to Do It All).

The NHS website says that there are psychological, physical and lifestyle causes of tiredness.  Anaemia, an underactive thyroid, diabetes, being overweight or underweight and sleep apnoea can all cause tiredness.  None of these is the cause of my tiredness (well, maybe being overweight.  That’s something to ponder on and deal with.)


If you’ve ruled all of these out, what about anxiety, too much alcohol or poor diet?  Or working shifts.  That was what started my poor sleeping habits, and it took a long time to get over that.  Apparently, too much alcohol tends to wake us in the middle of the night.  That’s interesting, tonight I had a couple of glasses of wine (and am having one as I type) but I’ve drunk much more and not had disturbed sleep.  I have a reasonably good diet (I don’t eat wheat, refined sugar only comes from cured meat and wine, I eat lots of fresh vegetables, most days way more than my five a day) and I am not anxious or depressed.  I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from anxiety (I’ve been scared to death on occasions, but not long-term anxiety).  I’ve been depressed in the past so I know that there is none of that going on.

Body temperature is important.  I cannot be the only person who sticks their feet out of the bed some nights or craves socks others?  (When I was in India early in the year, we turned the air-con and the helicopter – overhead fan off at night because they were too noisy, but I didn’t have one night of undisturbed sleep because I was too hot, so threw the bedclothes off, and then got too cold so I pulled them back on.  And so it went on.)

What I found most fascinating though, was, according to, if you wake up and don’t fall back to sleep again within 20 minutes, get up.  Frequently, if I wake, I just need to go to the loo (half asleep) and then I drop off again straight away.   Other nights, not so.  Apparently, according to buzzfeed, pre-industrial times, humans had two sleeps.  They’d sleep for shorter periods over a longer period, and some of them got up and went visiting in between.  I don’t feel so bad about the nights I get up and write for a couple of hours after reading that.  Maybe all I need to do is chill out about my poor sleep nights.



There are lots of things you can do if you sleep badly – take a look at this buzzfeed link:

And if you are interested about how some more information  about how our ancestors slept:

Post Script

I ended up staying up for about four hours that night, having woken up on the sofa after about four at the start.  I slept for another three hours when I finally went back to bed.  When I awoke, I felt a bit groggy but I managed to get quite a lot done that day, certainly as much as I usually do on my one day off.  I crashed and burned at about 16:00, in a really deep sleep and was woken up after about an hour.  (Who knows how long I’d have gone on for if I hadn’t been woken?)  I’m not sure I’d go for that long a break in  my sleep again – I’ve done it for one or two hours before and it hasn’t been too bad but maybe four hours was just too long.  Nite nite.


© Susan Shirley 2016




Latimer House

The Coaching Academy, with whom I am studying for my coaching diplomas, holds its London-based Accelerator Days (guided study) at Latimer House in Buckinghamshire.

Latimer House, once a stately home,  is now part of the De Vere group of hotels and conference centres, with new buildings built to enlarge it for the conference side of the business.  The house itself though stands quite imposing as you look up at it  on a hill in the countryside, on the edge of the village of Latimer.
The original house was Elizabethan, but sadly destroyed by fire in the 1800s.  Sadly for me, anyway, I like old building.  I read somewhere that Charles I was imprisoned in the original Elizabethan house when he had his spot of trouble back in 1647 but I haven’t been able to verify that.  He was banged up in a few different places, so maybe this one has just been missed off the list of the places I’ve looked at.  Apparently, Charles II also stopped off here when he was on his way fleeing to France during the Civil War.

The current house was designed by Edward Blore and was completed in 1838.  I doubt it bears much resemblance to the original house, from what I’ve seen of them, most Elizabethan houses were smaller and were structurally quite different.


Latimer House was used to house German prisoners of war prior to them being sent to traditional POW camps.  That sounds a bit off key, doesn’t it?  To keep prisoners of war in a fabulous place like Latimer House.  Especially when you realise that they were allowed to have servants and probably had better food than the rest of the food-rationed UK.  Latimer House was one of three stately homes where German POWs lived, but what they didn’t know was that the British government let them live like this so that they could listen in on everything with a view to getting an insight into the inner workings of the German military.  The Brits bugged every room in the houses and used German refugees to listen in.  It’s always better to use a native speaker with any translations, because of the nuances that second language speakers don’t always understand.  Apparently, the government acquired some amazingly useful information like this, instrumental in winning the war.  I could probably write a book about this subject, let alone just a blog post, so suffice it to say that the prisoners were moved to a traditional camp after a few weeks.


After the war, Latimer House became home to the Combined Staff College (which went onto become the National Defence College), a training centre for Britain’s armed forces.  In 1974, the IRA placed a bomb in the grounds, near to be of the buildings.  Fortunately there were no fatalities although a number of people were injured.

I checked the prices of the rooms at Latimer House, just in case I decide to stay there one night, rather than getting up at the crack of dawn to go there – they are reasonably priced so I won’t discount that out of hand.  Meanwhile, back to the studies.


© Susan Shirley 2016





Chelsea Harbour

My new day job contract has me working at Chelsea Harbour. It’s not an area that I know well, and not what I pictured in my mind when I thought about Chelsea, before working here.

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On the first day, I went through the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre to get to the office I was going to be working in – I didn’t even know that there was a design centre in Chelsea! It houses 116 showrooms, focussing on interior design. Vogue describes it as, “The interior design world’s Mecca.” With over 600 different brands on sale here, it’s probably an accurate description. It’s quite lovely to walk through there, but there is a quicker way in and out of the office, so that often takes precedence…

The surrounding area is quite a mixture of new and old, private and public. A few hundred yards one way, down towards Lots Road, is what I would call “Old Chelsea,” with residential terraced houses, schools, pubs and all the normal day-to-day life you would expect to find in a city. The other way is a private estate, where there are barriers across the road and modern office blocks and flats. (Are they called apartments because it’s Chelsea, I wonder?). Apart from the local Tesco Express, I haven’t ventured down there yet; only because of time, not because I think I might get thrown out on my ear.

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The harbour itself is different again. It was built on the site of an old coal yard and dock. The whole site was derelict when planning permission was granted back in 1986. There were contaminated materials that had to be cleared out before any building work could take place.

In the year from April 1986 when work started, there were some impressive activities taking place, if you get excited about building works: three new bridges were completed onsite, 55 acres of floor space were built to name but two.

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The 18-storey high Belvedere Tower in Chelsea Harbour itself has what looks like a little ball shaped weather-vain on the top, I’ve looked at it often when standing on the station waiting for my train. I’ve since discovered that it’s not a weather-vain at all, it’s a hollow sphere connected to a tide gauge by the lock gate by the Thames that indicates lock availability. Apparently, and I must look out for this next time I happen to be aboard a boat or the banks of that part of the river, the tower is visible for quite some distance in both directions.

Chelsea Harbour is an interesting place to work. I don’t mean just the job (although that is interesting) but the whole area. Our office is in part of the harbour development but there is a lot of glass – good because it lets in lots of natural light, but bad because it’s hot now, and will be a nightmare in the summer. Hey ho. I will have to try out some of the local amenities, although there hasn’t been time for that yet. I’ll keep you posted.

© Susan Shirley 2016

Rabot 1745

I met my friend Dorothy for lunch last weekend.  Dorothy has been to Rabot 1745 previously, but it was my first visit, although I had heard about it from an email I’d received from Hotel Chocolat.   I’d heard good things about this restaurant and was quite fascinated by the chocolate theme so was very happy when Dorothy suggested going there.


The first thing for me was that the restaurant is in Borough Market.  I haven’t been down there for years, and it is much changed since my last visit.  The market’s website (which is worth a visit in itself, describes the market as “London’s most renowned food market,” and I can certainly see why, with it’s featured recipes and featured traders.  What an excellent way to get people to know what’s going on and to engender customer loyalty.  We didn’t have a good look around the market on this visit but I think we may have to meet earlier next time, just so that we can do that.  Another blog post methinks.

When we arrived at the restaurant we received a hearty welcome from the maitre d’ as we walked up the stairs.  It was a lovely day and we were given the choice of sitting inside or out of the terrace.  We chose the terrace.  They initially seated us under an outdoor heater but it was way too hot for me so we moved down a bit, to a corner table, overlooking the market.  It was really a lovely place to sit, better than the first table as the market was really buzzy on a Saturday lunchtime and I could get a good view of what was going on.


We had a delicious meal topped off with a rather lovely South African Chenin Blanc, although I have to confess to not being able to finish my main course (as it was just chicken that I  left, it made a little treat for my girls when I got home).  I didn’t even consider dessert.  Our waiter was very charming and somehow, we ended up talking about cats and showing him photographs of them (Dorothy is also a cat slave).

All in all, a very civilised way to spend a lunch time.  I’d very happily go back there again. It wasn’t overly expensive either.  How come a company that makes luxury chocolates went into the restaurant business?

The idea for the restaurants started back in 2010 when the founders of Hotel Chocolat had finished restoring the Rabot Estate Cocoa Plantation in St Lucia, and whilst having a little tipple of the local rum, they decided they would build a hotel and restaurant in the grounds of the estate.

Two years, and no doubt several rums later, the first restaurant, Boucan, opened in St Lucia.  Although some of the dishes do contain chocolate (in Rabot 1745, they do a white chocolate mash, which I wish I could have justified trying but my main course had sweet potato) the founders are very keen to say that the food is not all about chocolate, it is about cacao.

Rabot 1745  opened in 2013, around the same time as they opened their flagship  restaurant in Leeds.  Hmm, two more restaurants for me to try then.


© Susan Shirley 2016

Yoghurt and Cheese

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey

Along came a spider and sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away



So goes the nursery rhyme I learned as a child.  I had no clue what curds and whey were back then, although it’s fairly obvious now – the curds are the curdled part of the milk, and the whey is the liquid part.

You can make your own curds by boiling milk and adding something to curdle it – either by using yoghurt, vinegar  or lemon juice.  The resulting curds give you the Indian cheese paneer (lovely) although if you use skimmed milk and mash up the curds, you end up with cottage cheese.  I make this quite regularly.


You make yoghurt in a similar way.  I used to have a yoghurt maker years ago (until I put it in boiling water and warped it out of shape), so when I saw a non-electric one the other day, I bought it.

I adore cheese, almost all kinds.  (I think I’ve only found one that I really didn’t like.  I’m happy to keep searching though.). And yoghurt, very fond of that too.


Cheese and yoghurt go back before recorded history, and both seem to be ways of preserving milk, particularly in hot countries, which makes sense, in the days before refrigerators.  If you think about it, mankind has always looked for ways to get food as easily as possible, and once they decided that goats and cattle could be used to obtain a nutritious liquid (let’s not go into the issues about it being meant for baby goats and cattle and not for other mammals.  Not right now.) it made sense to find other ways to make use of it.

Although the origin of cheese is not known for certain, there is a legend that an Arabian merchant put his day’s milk supply in a pouch that he had made from a sheep’s stomach (so not Versace then?) whilst he went off on his travels across the dessert.  The heat of the son and the rennet in the lining of the (clearly not very well cleaned out pouch) caused the milk to separate into curds and whey.  The merchant drank the whey and ate the curds and jolly pleased with himself he was too.


The rest, as they say, is history.  The Arabs brought the art of cheese making around the world and to Europe.  In St Alban’s market, there is a cheese stall where they sell all weird and wonderful kinds of cheese, including some of the ancient Roman recipes (I think it was one of these that I didn’t like.  I do know that my brother and his wife keep them outside when they buy them because some of them stink like sweaty socks, although they taste delicious.)

I think what makes the difference between the resulting product being yoghurt or cheese is the rennet.  You don’t use rennet in yoghurt making, although the rest of the process is pretty much the same.  Yoghurt requires bacteria to ferment it.  It dates back to at least 6000 years BC – Genghis Khan is reputed to have been a devotee of it.

Cheese and yoghurt making are big businesses now, apparently a third of all milk produced in the US is used in cheese-making.  Me, I’m going back to my new yoghurt maker to try to get the perfect product.  Wish me luck!


© Susan Shirley 2016