Many nights, there's only one man I think of as I drift into slumber, and it is not the man who lies beside me.
This man (the man I think of) is powerful and calm, authoritative but open: he's wise, curious, humble and generous and his level voice whispers me to sleep every night. His name is Kevin Stroud and he hosts The History of English podcast.
I've tried literally hundreds of podcasts to find the perfect sleep companion: it must be interesting, but not so interesting that you are too interested to sleep; it must be mundane, but not so mundane as to let your mind wander to all the reasons you can't sleep. I've listened to accounts of Rome, Byzanatium, Westeros.
I've dabbled in true crime - one, which spent a long time at the beginning setting out the unremarkable lives of the people involved, worked for a while. It would send me to sleep before the murder happened. But you only need to be woken up once by graphic descriptions of mutilated bodies before you never do it again.
I have spent literal weeks listening to Kevin. I don't think I've ever listened to any man talk for more than an hour before becoming agitated and a bit fighty. But not Kevin; Kevin's the healthiest, most enduring relationship I've ever had. He never patronises or mansplains; he doesn't assume knowledge.
Kevin has made me a better person, the meticulous rendering of linguistic history makes it difficult to maintain speech and grammar snobbery. Sometimes he speaks through me, throwing out nuggets of etymological trivia. No one is more surprised by this than me: I can't access this information myself, whispered in that vulnerable hour when I'm neither conscious nor unconscious, embedding itself unobtrusively in those high-up brain crevices.
Did you know that in Old English, the possessive 's' could be used either side of the noun: 'the king's law' and 'the law king's' were just as common? Try not to both yawn and be strangely fascinated.
Goodnight and you're welcome.
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