Have a lovely and relaxing time. Boll and I will be back online from January 5th 2010. Meanwhile, I will be tweeting, so do have a look at the Twitter column on the right if you want to follow our progress. Goodbye Noughties. See you in the next decade!
This week, I’ve spent a lot more time in bed than usual. And I’ve felt mildly agoraphobic and reclusive.
Am I experiencing some kind of hibernation instinct?
Some scientists argue humans do have the ability to hibernate. Professor Gerhard Heldmaier (Chairman of the International Hibernation Society) claims to have discovered two genes that are thought to trigger hibernation.
There’s also evidence that humans in cold rural areas used to sleep for most of the winter. Not hibernation as such, but near enough. After the French Revolution, when Paris bureaucrats strayed into the bosky countryside for the first time ever, they were shocked to find peasants slept from autumn through to spring.
In 1900, The BMJ reported that the sensible folk of Pskov in Russia adopted ‘the economical expedient of spending one half of the year in sleep’.
At the first fall of snow, the whole family gathers round the stove, lies down, ceases to wrestle with the problems of human existence, and quietly goes to sleep. Once a day every one wakes up to eat a piece of bread.
The members of the family take it in turn to watch and keep the fire alight. After six months of this reposeful existence the family wakes up, shakes itself and goes out to see if the grass is growing.
And ‘hibernation’ could be the answer to physical trauma. Recently a Japanese businesman, Mitsutaka Uchikoshi, strayed from an office party and fell down a snowy mountain. He lapsed into a frozen coma which lasted 24 days, until his apparently lifeless body was found and revived in hospital. He’s known in Japan as the ‘Bear Man’.
The European Space Agency is now researching induced human hibernation for astronauts who have to go on extended missions.
And Dr Hasan Alam, a Massachusetts surgeon, is trialling artificial human hibernation for severely injured patients en route to hospital.
Perhaps that all explains why I’d rather spend today in bed than do anything meaningful.
But no. It’s Christmas. So I’m about to spend the entire day careering round blizzard-blasted Hertford in an insane panic, before transporting a large cat and most of my worldly goods 400 miles to my parents tomorrow, on what could be the coldest day of the year.