I suffer from intermittent insomnia. I’ve never had a problem getting to sleep, but I sometimes wake up in the small hours and I can’t get back to sleep. Or at least, that used to be true until I discovered that if I put ear plugs in the moment I wake up, it somehow serves to switch me back off, and I can sleep peacefully again until the alarm wakes the beloved and he nudges me to tell me it’s time to resume consciousness.
So that’s good. But I can’t go to the loo with ear plugs in – it’s like going indoors with sunglasses on: I feel impaired. So when I got up and went to the loo last night I took my ear plugs out, and promptly dropped one of them on the floor. Hmm, I thought as I padded to the bathroom and back. I won’t get back to sleep without that, but I’ve no idea where it went. What I need is a torch.
And as I sleepily thought about where I might find a torch, I remembered that in July we went to the Hop Farm Festival. We had day tickets, but it was the men’s final at Wimbledon and we didn’t leave the house until around 6pm, so we only caught the end of Tinie Tempah, followed by Prince, who was the reason we were there in the first place, so it was all fine. Except that at around 10pm I decided to go to the loo (sorry, I know this is a more than usually lavatorial post. I can only apologise and assure you that it’s entirely pertinent to the story), and it was night time, and I realised I was going to have to pee in a portaloo in the dark. That doesn’t sound like fun, I thought, and then I thought a bit more, took out my phone, found the apps market and searched for “torch”.
If you search the apps market for “torch” you get 801 results. The one I chose is called “Brightest Flashlight Free”, and it is all of those things. It takes what I assume is the flash function of the camera inside my phone and turns it into a beam of white light, which lasts for as long as you keep the app open. I was so surprised that I flashed it into my eyes, momentarily blinding myself.
It was only last night, thinking about where I could find a torch, that I realised that at 10pm on a Sunday night in a field in Kent, by pressing a few times on a piece of glass, I had summoned up a torch where none had existed before.
Well, I mean, really that’s almost witchcraft, isn’t it?
By that time I had found the rogue ear plug without the aid of a torch, but I was so struck by the realisation that my smartphone had made it possible for me to magic up a physical tool which I didn’t have prior to that point that I stayed awake for another hour thinking about it. What a weird and fantastic, in every sense, world we have made for ourselves. And how lucky to be alive now, when everything changes so quickly that my grandmothers would only recognise about half of the things I spend my time doing.
(I never used the torch that night at the Hop Farm Festival, by the way. It turned out the portaloos had little lights of their own on the inside. But still.)