I keep the alarm clock over the refrigerator. Years ago I developed the then rather satisfying ability to respond in the dead of sleep to the slight electronic blip that precedes the actual alarm. I could hit snooze before the obnoxious bleep, bleep, bleep crashed into my cosy, contented space. Setting the alarm at night was like having none at all. If you hit snooze before it beeps, or even after for that matter, for an entire hour, you've beaten the system, because the alarm resets itself for tomorrow. If you do absolutely nothing beyond hiding your head, it beeps for the entire hour and then gives up. I can hold out for ten or fifteen minutes tops. Alarm makers are proud of the obnoxious sound their products make. Imagine telling your friends that you got a raise or won an award for making a really obnoxious sound. A few trips to the kitchen and it's morning. You grow used to the idea. On the second to the last trip, I start the coffee. In other words, when I start to believe that I'm going to get up I make the partial commitment of starting the coffee. On the last trip it's at the loud gurgling stage when it's safe to steal cup and after that, you're up.

The challenge before that point is not just in making it back to bed, but in finding the exact angle, the magical body contour that matches the warm spot left behind. In summer it's a different problem. It's been light long enough that when the alarm goes off the subconscious has already had time to adjust. The problem then is in spreading myself out to find a cool spot, somewhere I haven't been. But in winter it's more a matter of life and death. It was freezing this morning. Rooftops were bright white and the coffee pot enshrouded in billowing clouds of steam as I managed my final pass. In the short time it took to hit the alarm and return to bed, I was covered in a frozen crust. The precious warmth had been lost. There was no welcoming trough until I shivered it back into memory.

Do people really wake up rearing to go, even in winter, or do they just say they do? There are lots of good things in life but, really, what could be better than a warm bed in winter?