Billy Connolly, insomnia and stress


Billy Connolly, insomnia and stress

KERNEELS BREYTENBACH lost sleep over the comedian's autobiography, a thriller with the theme of insomnia, and books offering tips for better rest and dealing with anxiety.


I SHOULD probably declare my interests. I'm an admirer of Billy Connolly. Is it because he married Pamela Stephenson? Because he is such a magnificent comedian? Because he told the joke about a short shrew on the bus who was confused with Snow White by a little girl?

And especially since he made a wonderful documentary about The Incredible String Band. He's in a skull space that I've always considered exotic. Someone who understands Puppies and Log Cabin Home in the Sky. Who can sing Job's Tears and Maya. I mean, how can you not like someone who was also in a band with Gerry Rafferty?

Wise man

Connolly lays bare his deepest being in Rambling Man. Like Jack Reacher, he is always prepared to hit the road. You don't have to be constantly travelling, he says, you just have to be ready for it. It's a state of mind. A future dream of the freedom of the road to somewhere. He longs intensely for the shedding of chains and the flight to one's real self.

You also need to be ready, with a receptive mind, so strangers can reveal their souls to you. And you should not hesitate to seize opportunities. He would know — he is one of the few people who has climbed the Sydney Opera House like a mountain. He has danced naked in the snow, slept in bus stops and talked to murderers in prisons and understood them, do you understand? If you are a wanderer, there are no boundaries between you and other people. You just need to be ready for the surprises that strangers bring you.

Rambling Man is the book of a wise man. Full of eternal truths. Such as: city walks are different from those in nature. You need to know where you are going to pee. His advice is to know which places serve the best coffee — and by implication, have toilets.

There was a time when Connolly captured the spirit of the hippies. He was once a welder turned folk singer because he realised that as a singer, he would see the world. He wasn't wrong. Rambling Man is a recollection of the funny things he experienced as a working flâneur.

But the book is also the manifestation of someone with Parkinson's disease. It is a collection of short musings and sketches. Connolly's mind wanders a lot and he tends to change course suddenly. But he does it as nonchalantly as he always did on stage. Straight and devoid of self-pity.

After reading this, I admire him even more. If a biography can make you feel this good, I get angry all over again about the Britney Spears book I had to wrestle through a few months ago.

Rambling Man by Billy Connolly was published by John Murray Press and costs R450 at Exclusive Books.

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Sleep world

Most people have done things in their dreams that they are ashamed of. This morning, I woke up from a dream in which I had to run to catch a flight — wearing a safari suit. A safari suit! Matthew Blake, in Anna O, uses the sleeping world as a hanger for a detective story. A promising young writer kills two people in her sleep. A forensic psychologist who specialises in murders related to sleep is the detective in this story. Anna's problem can be solved only if he can wake her. Blake's novel has a pleasant freshness and you know in your bones that this is the kind of story invented by someone struggling to get a good night's sleep.

Anna O by Matthew Blake was published by HarperCollins and costs R390 at Exclusive Books.


Yes, I looked up this book after reading Anna O. Perhaps this reflects well on the impression Blake's novel made on me. I can report that Dr Michael Mosley confirms what I suspected: Anna's problem is unique and unlikely. But also that insomnia and the powerlessness of people who struggle to nod off are, alas, more common and acute. Mosley had insomnia and he offers lots of ways to find relief. Note: relief. Complete recovery from insomnia is possible only if you can make, and stick to, enormous lifestyle changes. If man could do those things, we would all be super slim.

4 Weeks to Better Sleep by Dr Michael Mosley was published by Short Books Ltd and costs R430 at Exclusive Books.


Life is more complex than common sleep disorders. The one thing you can be sure of in modern life is that somewhere along the way you will become anxious about everything, that in all probability you will be depressed and eventually completely depressed. Your life is going to be full of doubts. You're going to stress about everything from toothpaste that doesn't want to wash away from the sink to what other people really think of you while smiling so beautifully at you. You're going to burn out in your career and you're going to have pangs of conscience about the way you raise your children. Dr Aditi Narurkar has the solution for you. Most of it is common sense but ultimately, she says, you have to forget about multitasking because it doesn't work, and you have to learn how to totally separate your private life and work life. Oh, and make sure you get some sleep at night.

The 5 Resets by Dr Aditi Nerurkar was published by HarperCollins and costs R613 at Exclusive Books.


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