Country Mouse on early starts and freezing fog

Like most families over the past weeks, the men have had ’flu and the women colds and, after a series of nights broken by sneezing and spluttering children, I resorted to Night Nurse, as much for its soporific qualities as its curing properties.

Soon, I was in the deepest of deep sleeps. I know this because the phone rang and I could barely move to answer it. It was a researcher from the BBC’s Today programme who wanted me to go on air next morning ‘to discuss the demise of Viyella’. ‘Of course’, I replied, desperately trying to picture what Viyella looked like, and realising it was too late to ring my mother.

The Night Nurse kicked in again. Then the phone rang a second time. Could I be in the Westminster studio much earlier than first planned? Well, I could if I could talk, but fluent speech wasn’t available, so I conferred with the researcher via a series of grunts, as Mrs Hedges readjusted the alarm clock.

Leaving my home in Hampshire in a dazzling hoar frost shortly after 5am, I caught the early train and had time to walk from Waterloo to the Westminster studio. As the cold woke me, I couldn’t help but think that we’ve all sleep walked into this latest crisis.