So, you are an advertising creative asked to evoke the glamour and liberation of air travel. Would you suggest a shot of the Indian Ocean? Some fabulous skyscrapers in Shanghai? A moment of cricket tourism in St Lucia? British Airways drilled deep into the traveller’s psyche and came up with a businessman in various locations obliviously asleep in his bed.
Our quest for sleep far outstrips our appetite for adventure. The perfect night’s rest has become life’s greatest luxury. Anyone can travel, few can boast quality of repose. The implication is that people with exciting lives will always choose an early night. Did you notice that the platinum guests at the post-Oscars Vanity Fair party all said that they would rather be at home in bed? Nights out are for losers.
Of course, going to bed is just the start of it. The bed is the basic. The type of bed and, more important, mattress is as individual as your perfume. The notion of sharing a bed becomes increasingly implausible. How could you ever reconcile your personal bed requirements with those of your partner? One of the very many recent advances in beds has been the split mattress, hard on one side, soft on the other — beds that are designed for the resolutely married. There can be no spontaneity about which side you decide to sleep on.
A zealous interest in mattresses is a coming of age. When I heard Emma Thompson discussing them in earnest, I knew that the gallivanting round Hollywood would not last. She is clearly much happier in north London discussing the merits of the Tempurpedic — promotes stillness, discourages ‘restless legs syndrome’ — versus the demerits. Mattress internet chatrooms are full of complaints that the Tempurpedic makes you too hot.
We are all Goldilocks where beds are concerned. Not too hard, not too soft, not too hot, not too cold, not too bulky, not too flimsy, not too high, not too low, not too bouncy, not too flat. The permutations are infinite and one wrong detail can throw the sleeper off-balance. And we know what that means. Staring at the ceiling, your mind full of scorpions; padding round the house with a mug of disgusting herbal tea, trying not to panic at the prospect of a haggard and slow-witted performance at tomorrow’s board meeting. As Groucho Marx put it: ‘Middle age is when you go to bed at night and hope you feel better in the morning.’ Insomnia guarantees that you will feel worse.
It is therefore unsurprising that people who have found the perfect bed arrangement, the correct mix of Hungarian goose-feather pillows and duvet on top of a horsehair and felt mattress with a light merino covering, the exact degree of spring and level of sink, then those people are not going to abandon their beds lightly.
The bed obsession can cause social mayhem. I know people who refuse to visit country friends and even turn down holidays unless there is a guarantee of a Duxiana mattress. The Duxiana is the Goldman Sachs of mattresses — private, unostentatious, the result of mountains of work and money.
The bed cognoscenti have a database of hotels with Duxiana mattresses and are far more interested in the hard/soft debate than the location of a pool or variations on world cuisine. Who eats anyway?
The beauty of bed snobbery is that is has a quasi-medical dimension rather than being merely cosmetic. To those with bad backs — one of the most common physical afflictions — the right mattress is what stands between rest and agony.
You don’t have to feel embarrassed asking poncey questions of your host about the engineering of the mattress, although it is impolite to introduce the issue of bugs.
For those without an orthopaedic excuse, the requirements of beds are pretty uniform. As Nigella Lawson (who says she would willingly spend all day in bed if she could) puts it: ‘I went to the bed shop Savoir — actually, as a result of an ad in The Spectator. I think mattresses must be quite firm, with a lot of very soft pillows (White Company do fabulous ones) and also big firm ones for maximum proppage when simply lounging. I also have my gay man’s cream cashmere Ralph Lauren blankets, an enormous extravagance but such a pleasure.’
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.