The hamster and the owl

17 Dec 2015, 10:55 p.m.

My parents gave me my first pet for my sixth birthday: a golden hamster with a white belly and big black eyes. I named him Hammy, because it seemed to be what one should call one's first hamster. He was the most exciting part of the best present I'd ever received — it might still hold that rank, actually — a bedroom all to myself, with fresh paint on the walls, a bedside lamp and a proper desk for writing at.

"He's nocturnal," my mum explained, "so he'll keep you company when you're up late reading!" She was right. I remember many happy nights spent sitting up with a book, or a notebook filled with pencil scrawls, while Hammy the hamster raced and rattled in his wheel, until the parental demands that I go to sleep finally stuck.

This was probably quite annoying for them, but I didn't sleep through the night till I was four years old so it was an improvement of sorts. I once told my mum, "Do you know what my favourite thing in the world is? When everyone else is asleep and there's only you and me awake." She relates it now with a fondness tempered at the edges by horror. One of my main reasons for planning not to have children is that I don't think I could deal with a child as intense as I was.

I remained a night owl into my teenage years, partly through inclination and partly because it's much more romantic to gaze dramatically into the abyss in the middle of the night than over elevenses. In energetic poetry- and fiction-writing phases, I seemed to have more inspiration and stamina for creation late at night, when no one was making other demands on my attention. Otherwise, if I had a book or three to hand, the idea of sleep would barely occur to me at all.

Please imagine the look of disbelief on my stepfather's face one night during this period, when he pushed open my bedroom door at 2.30 a.m. to see me at my desk by candlelight, just as 'Territorial Pissings' began to play on my stereo.

Now that I'm in my thirties, and especially since various health issues have had their way with me, I'm a lot less nocturnal than I used to be. Don't mistake that to mean that I've become a lark. There's still at least an hour of sleep somehow missing from my day; I've just started to look for it at the start of the night rather than trying to steal it from the morning. I do enjoy the glow of possibility that radiates from every surface when I'm up and moving early in the day. However, I feel honour-bound to point out that it's an illusion born of a jet-lagged brain. Those who make a moral issue out of early or late sleeping, and award themselves the gold star because of their early rising, should be aware that the greatest advantage of the owl is avoiding their company.

Right now, it's gone half-past ten and I'm already thinking about getting some sleep. I'll probably even do it, too, because David is here to remind me and there's a clear path to the bed. When he's not here, I slide back to old habits with disorienting speed. The cats rise and slumber on a much shorter cycle than a human being and, like Hammy, they keep me company no matter what time it is.

Based on this prompt.