By Louise Ure
I don’t have a long history of being read to in bed, but I think that’s all going to change now.
Growing up, there were too many of us tucking in for my mother to have read us to sleep, and my father would have been too drunk to do it, even if he’d wished to. I was twenty-one before I even heard of “Good Night Moon.”
Instead, my sister would tell me stories about the bear in the ceiling – there was proof of his existence, you could see the crack angling from the doorway to halfway across the room – who would become restless and crash down on us if I kept talking and he heard me.
And I have no children of my own, so I’ve missed that part of the “reading to sleep” phenomenon as well, although I was once asked by friends in Sydney to read their little three-year to sleep. She never even closed her eyes, both awed and confused by the American accent intoning “One Woolly Wombat.”
And then there was the experience of those friends of mine in Alaska. Lovebirds, these two. They’d walk around holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes. They even put love notes inside the vegan sandwiches they packed for each other’s lunch.
And they set aside time to read to each other every night just before bed. Not a bedtime story, to be sure. And not a different book each night. But whatever they were reading, they did it together, and took turns reading aloud before they went to sleep. Poetry, classics, maybe a biography or two.
Perhaps you think the idea is charming and thoughtful. At the time I thought it was just plain silly, because I knew the only publication that would meet with my husband’s approval would be a car repair manual and that would have put me to sleep even before I started.
So that means the only reading-to-fall-asleep I’ve ever known is the reading that I do myself, eyeglasses pushed low on the nose to accommodate the angle of the pillow and the book. Two pages worth usually, unless I’ve had coffee to keep me awake.
But then I heard about Damian Barr.
Starting this week, Damian will be the Reader-in-Residence at the new Andaz hotel in London, and will be available to read you to sleep in your room.
In real life, Damian is a freelance playwright, author and journalist in London, but said he was interested in this Reader-In-Residence program as a way to avoid writing. (Yes, Mr. Barr, I know just what you mean. I call it blogging.)
Instead of doing his own creative work, Damian will be on call at the hotel throughout the day and night, to share the joy of books with others.
“In the mornings, guests will be able to consult Barr for a dose of bibliotherapy in which he’ll diagnose their literary needs and prescribe appropriate texts—whether it’s ‘a sumptuous Georgette Heyer, a classy giggle with Nancy Mitford or some glamorous gangsters with Jake Arnott,’ Barr explains. Hotel guests will also be able to book him for a private literary lunch or dinner in one of the hotel’s five restaurants and bars, as well as requesting Barr’s in-room read-aloud services from a specially devised Book Menu.”
Ah yes, those in room services. Damian Barr will come to your room, pajama-clad, sit at the end of your bed, and read to you until you fall asleep. You have his word that the minute you fall asleep, he will immediately show himself out.
Now we’re talking.
It may take Bruce a little time to get used to the idea of a pajama-wearing Brit at the end of the bed, but I want one. Now. I’ve got a lot of read-me-to-sleep nights to make up for. And you know I’m not going to last more than two pages anyway.
So, my ‘Rati friends, tell me your bedtime stories. What did you love reading or having read to you? Do you, like me, want a Reader-in-Residence of your own? And what would you ask him to read you?