By the time Marian belatedly sidled on the bandwagon it seemed like the world and his wife had been swept off their feet by the enigmatic Mr Power. Even Doris at the WI, who had celebrated her 90th birthday some years ago, was a card carrying advocate of his work. “You really must read it, my dear. Turns out that even this old dog isn’t beyond learning a few new tricks; whoever would have thought it?” Doris turned her gaze lovingly towards the side of the room where her fourth husband was loudly snoring; his nose hairs fluttering with each shallow breath like grass blowing in the wind
“Honestly; you wouldn’t believe how things are for me and Ernie in the bedroom these days; I only wish that that Mr Power had been around 70 years ago!”
Marian raised an eyebrow but kept her scepticism to herself. She’d learned by now that there was no point in so much as challenging the converted; better to let them evangelise away whilst diverting her thoughts to something else; say the latest plot twist in her favourite Scandinavian crime drama or what she needed to pick up in this week’s big shop. As a small trail of drool crept down Ernie’s chin and pooled in his jowls; Marian wondered exactly how much benefit he could really be obtaining from Mr Power’s teaching.
For months it had seemed as if she couldn’t turn on the TV or open a newspaper or magazine without that blasted book being mentioned. She’d always like to think herself something of an intellectual; certainly not the kind of person who was swept up by popular culture. Her daughter Penelope had on multiple occasions accused her of being a snob, but Marian herself hated that word, preferring the altogether more genteel ‘discerning’. In her experience if something was wholeheartedly embraced by the masses that wasn’t generally an indication of merit; more a suggestion that it was pitched at a level suitable for those with the most rudimentary level of education.
The main point she had grasped around the phenomenon was that although readers were encouraged to rhapsodise to their family and friends about how great the book was, it was strictly forbidden to speak of the nature of Mr Power’s philosophy or methods. There were a few key expressions that she’d heard time and time again, but little beyond what sounded like new age mumbo jumbo. Nonetheless as she went about her day to day business she found herself studying the expressions and body language of everyone in sight; trying to figure out who had ‘harnessed the power of their Sacred Spaces’. Julie in the Post Office certainly had, a well thumbed copy permanently sat on the counter so that she could ingest snippets in between dishing out pensions and renewing tax discs. Marian had only gone into the branch to buy a book of stamps, but it was a good fifteen minutes before she re-emerged into the sunlight after making the schoolboy error of asking Julie if she was enjoying the book. “Granted it’s dark;” Julie had whispered after ten minutes of effectively saying yes in as many different ways as possible; “but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I didn’t think it was for me but I was so wrong. I didn’t feel comfortable with all that ‘restraint’ business at first; and as for the blindfolds; well I’d only come across them at kids’ parties before. But once you’ve experienced that kind of pleasure, believe me you won’t be able to go back to your old ways.”
On the day on which the headlines proclaimed that Mr Power’s Bedroom Secrets was now the highest selling paperback of all time; Marian decided that she’d been biting the bullet for long enough. Even though she knew that she could obtain a copy for half the price in the supermarket; she made her way to the only local independent bookshop that had managed to weather both the recession and the exponential growth of certain internet retailers. She slowly browsed the store, marvelling in the fact that this small room contained more books than she would ever be able to read in her lifetime. It was a shame that most of these works would never reach a wide audience; alas these days it seemed that the majority of people preferred to pick up their reading material in the same basket as bananas and loo rolls. It wouldn’t be so bad if the mass merchants were peddling literary masterpieces; but a textbook for optimal bedroom performance becoming the nation’s favourite talking point? So much for traditional British reserve.
Eventually her path reached a small crowd of customers and in the middle of them a table piled high with the volume that was currently outselling everything else in the entire shop added together. Fingering the cover of the infamous tome she felt in spite of herself a frisson of excitement. She doubted that the eponymous Mr Power had been christened with that moniker; however the unmistakable red and yellow cover probably wouldn’t make the same impact if it were to bear the name of Smith, Jones or Brown.
“Go on, buy it;” urged a bearded man of undeterminable age, who seemed to take the very fact that she was holding the book as reason enough to lay his clammy hand on her arm. “It’ll change your life, honestly it will. Since I opened that book I’ve never looked back; my partner even says it’s taken 20 years off me! And it’s not just for the bedroom either; we’ve been at it in the sitting room, on a flight to Alicante; why, I’ve even given it a go in the office!”
Marian snatched her arm away. The man had exceptionally hairy arms that reminded her of a baboon; she wondered whether his partner actually liked the fact that he looked like he belonged in a zoo, or whether he had some other qualities which compensated for it. His endorsement was almost enough to make her flee the shop empty handed, but with the memory of her daughter’s words echoing around her mind – “Don’t be a snob, mother” she reluctantly walked to the sales counter and handed over her £8.99.
That night Marian retired early; carrying her brown paper shopping bag upstairs whilst her husband watched Match of the Day. She slipped into her best silk nightie and dimmed the lights, plumping up the pillows before slipping under the polyester duvet. Time to see what all the fuss was about.
“This book will teach you to harness the power of your most sacred space. Through a combination of techniques you will achieve the status of master practitioner and your bedroom will become a temple devoted to the most precious activity we can experience both as individuals or within a couple; pure, uninterrupted sleep.”
Sleep? SLEEP? Marian laughed out loud. She’d been hoping for athletics beneath the sheets, a few ideas to spice things up after a lifetime of the monotony of monogamy. She felt like she’d been had, conned, but she could hardly demand her money back for lack of sauce.
“John, are you coming up?” she shouted. “Fancy a cuddle?”
“Just watching the last match, love;” came the reply from downstairs. “I’ll be up in five.”
Five minutes turned to fifteen but John was sure that Marian wouldn’t mind; she could sit there in bed with a book for hours; reading had always been her favourite pastime.
“Alright love?” he called out as he checked the doors and turned off the sockets; but there was no response. Upon entering the bedroom he found Marian laid on her back with her eyes closed and a blissful smile on her face; and at her side was a copy of that book that everyone seemed to be reading these days. He carefully picked it up, trying his hardest not to disturb her, as Marian was a light sleeper at the best of times and it was most unusual her to drift off without tossing and turning for hours. He climbed in beside her and flicked off the light; a smile on his face. Cuddles could wait; after twenty years of marriage to a fidgety insomniac, sleep, blessed uninterrupted sleep, was the best bedroom activity in his book.