Just revisiting this post… I didn’t realise that ‘Up with the Lark’ was a 1943 film, set during the war; Ethel and Gracie pretended to be Land Girls, to find out about a black market operation run by a local hotel owner. After a lot of hilarious escapades they do indeed expose the villain. The two women were played by radio actors Ethel Revnell and Gracie West – it must have caused even more of a laugh in my family where there were two sisters-in-law called Ethel and Gracie. I can’t find the first use of the phrase, but it probably goes back to the sixteenth century if not before
As for being a night-owl, I’m sure the phrase or something similar has always been used, but of course, Shakespeare might claim the first time it was written down in 1594 in his poem The Rape of Lucrece:
This said, his guilty hand pluck’d up the latch,
And with his knee the door he opens wide.
The dove sleeps fast that this night-owl will catch:
Thus treason works ere traitors be espied.
and in Richard II, 1593:
for nightowles shreeke, where mounting larkes should sing.
I am still a nightowle, but definitely no longer a larke!
Some people are larks, some are owls… some people can leap from their beds as fresh as daisies… or as larks, whereas others struggle to creep out in time to do whatever it is they have to do. Some people stay up late into the early hours or not so early hours of the next day, bright and alive and active, others are yawning and nodding off not long after dinner.
I am definitely an owl… and I always have been. When I was little I was never ready for bed, although bedtime was strict when I was young. I would lie wide awake for hours, hearing my parents go to bed themselves. My mum used to take me out for walks in the evening, we would walk into Cambridge, or along the river in either direction and I’d come home, and being a good child would go to bed as I was told, and lie awake, telling myself stories in the dark. When I was a little older – and perhaps when my younger sister was older too, we had a radio in the bedroom and listen way into the night… well I did!
I don’t remember having difficulty getting up once I was woken. From the age of fourteen I did a paper round, up at six every day without a problem. Through my working life, it has never been a problem getting up early after a late night, but I wouldn’t really say I actually was a lark. I wake early with the alarm not naturally – although now I no longer have an actual day job, we don’t bother with the alarm!
My dad was an owl and a lark, he only needed four or five hours of sleep and would wake as soon as it was light. In the summer he would go out and do the gardening while the rest of the household slept, and when the milkman came round delivering milk from the horse and little cart, dad would invite him in for a cuppa. My son has inherited the owl aspect, but is not at all like a lark… even now he has to be virtually dragged from his bed!
At night I feel very alert and write here way after everyone else is in bed. I usually watch something on catch-up before I go to bed, and then I read before I settle down, and even then it sometimes takes a while to drop off. I think I need more hours – my day could be about twenty hours long, or a bit longer and then my night could be about six – allowing for a leisurely get up now I’m my own boss… so maybe a planet which has a twenty-eight hour ‘day’… which I’m not going to get in our solar system – Mars has 25 hours and after that it’s 5,832 hours on Venus… too long even for a larkish owl like me!