John Sandilands


In bed with John Sandilands plus Jilly Cooper, Zandra Rhodes and Peter Cook

Date published: 1984
Publisher: Over21 Magazine

For this issue of Over21 magazine, John appeared on the cover with the above celebrities. It is one of his most intimate and revealing pieces.

I think so highly of my bed, and so possessively, that I can foresee a day when I’ll do my best to stop anybody else getting into it. I’ll be quite old and finally free of the fiery passions that have often made the thing like Euston Station down the years but, a lifelong habit being hard to break, I’ll still be dropping the odd saucy innuendo.

The Meals-on-Wheels lady, bored and fed up with trundling spinach round the borough, will mistake this lingering quirk for a genuine flicker. Not averse to a clean old man, she’ll dash aside her bottle-green, nylon wrapper and, clad only in her slip and corsets and avoiding my bad leg, she’ll clamber aboard.

I’ll have one of those National Health walking sticks with three legs for when I have to go to the lavatory, and I’ll fend her off with it, looking a bit like King Neptune if he had those big rubber blobs on the end of his trident. She’ll be mortally offended and mark me down for pork and gummy gravy for months ahead but I shan’t care. I shall keep my bed impregnable, like a fortress, but stocked with everything I need for a satisfactory dotage. All the stuff, in short, that busybodies in the past have chucked out, much against my wishes.

There’ll be newspapers, some dating back to 1946, in, around and under the bed. Simply by diving down the covers I’ll be able to lay my hands on a woolly vest or a pair of socks, for when I’m chilly. I’ll have a packet of fags and a box of matches under the pillow, for lighting up first thing and for once there’ll be an ashtray handy with a comforting depth of dog-ends, instead of having to watch it whisked grumblingly out of the door at nights, as if it were a bed-pan.

There’ll be accommodation for a bit of snack and odd things that I may need in the night: a bottle of Guinness, various medicaments like cough mixture and Disprin and kaolin-and-morphine and all that other stuff you have to get up for or else lie there suffering, There’ll be a bank of electronic gadgetry all jumbled together and with the flex comfortably snarled; my reading lamp, the thing for the electric blanket, my Teasmade and record-player.

I’m not saying it’ll look a picture, or be all that hygienic but it’ll be mine and that, as far as beds are concerned, is what I can now see matters,

“Get your bed right,” I’ll tell the Public Health Inspector, who will have come round to see me, acting on a vindictive tip-off from the Meals-on-Wheels lady, “and everything else falls into place.”

“Including the Meals-on-Wheels lady” the Inspector may privately think, as he roots out my woolly vest and packs it in a plastic bag to be taken away for analysis, but there’ll be some good sense in what I say, as is often the case with us oldies.

Looking back I can see that the bad times, the fights and infidelities, career setbacks, disease and similar distress, have all coincided with unsatisfactory sleeping arrangements. Not only dismal living quarters with beds too narrow or lumpy, or low, mean-faced, rejective beds encouraging you to stop out at nights, but also sleeping partners with many of the same characteristics. Obsessional sheet-straighteners and coverlet-smoothers and pillow-plumpers with a ridiculous aversion to old newspapers and a tendency to snarl when discovering a sock down at the bottom where the fluff collects.

It’s no accident, I say, that all unlikeable institutions, nicks and workhouses and hospitals, refuges for tramps and the worst type of seaside boarding houses, make a point of having particularly nasty beds and make the maintenance of them in a state of ghastly clinical cleanliness and order a particular fetish. As I’ll tell the Inspector, distracting his attention while I retrieve my vest, I might have become an old soldier instead of a health hazard if the military hadn’t made such a fuss about beds.

When I was in the Army you had to strip your bed every morning, right down to its meagre mattress, then fold the blankets in a special tight pattern, squared off with psychotic neatness and laid out for inspection, along with your webbing equipment and second best boots, for heavens sake. If the Sergeant Major wasn’t pleased with this peculiar display he would take his parade-stick and knock it all on the floor for you while you stood rigidly to attention doing your best not to weep.

“Well, I can tell you son (quaver, quaver), if that was to ‘appen today I’d know what to do. . .” My claw-like fist will fasten round the rubber handle on my three-legged stick and spite will flash from my rheumy eye but the Sanitary Man will have fled and I shall have my bed to myself. At last. •


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List of John Sandilands articles

John Sandilands

John Sandilands Articles

  1. Obituary, March 2004 >>
  2. Introduction to Articles >>
  3. Article2 >>
  4. When the cure is sun, sea and mud >>
  5. Interview with Ava Gardner >>
  6. Interview with Dustin Hoffman, Los Angeles Times, 1968 >>
  7. Fiji >>
  8. Patrick Moore >>
  9. Mr Pastry >>
  10. Interview with Jane Fonda >>
  11. letters to and from John to editors >>
  12. Ballooning >>
  13. The Toad Cross Code >>
  14. Peter Sellers; that is the problem >>
  15. In bed with John Sandilands plus Jilly Cooper, Zandra Rhodes and Peter Cook >>
  16. Know the Type >>
  17. Animal poems >>
  18. The Toad Cross Code >>
  19. Albert and the Jaguars >>
  20. Herogram >>