Friends have a five storey Regency house in Ramsgate – bought when this corner of the island was considered beyond the edge of the world. On the entire planet, the place I sleep best is in the room squeezed between the rafters right at the top of the many flights of steps. A small window at each end from which you can just see the sea. The cry of seagulls on the gutter, the wind rattling the old windows – all of this reminds me of being on the Antarctic Ocean.
When I wake there is a fresh pot of tea, a china cup with saucer and a tiny jug of milk, all resting on a delicate silver tray. Simon was immaculately raised and is irrepressibly proud of his domain. He has many enthusiasms – dogs, birds, self-help books, smoking – but one of his strongest addictions is to the exquisite china that he trawls from Ramsgate’s charity shops.
Eventually I leave my cabin and make my way down to the kitchen five floors below. My eyes are still gluey and my body is not yet properly organized On the last flight I trip over the end of my sock. I manage not to fall headlong down myself, but the tray crashes to the landing at the bottom. There is a moment’s pause and then two heads appear above each other around the door jam. Underneath, a worried dog looks nervously up the stairs, above, Simon’s face executes a perfect smile.