Jayne Dawson: What an eye-opener

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg...gosh, it still sounds all wrong saying that, doesn't it?

Anyway, try again. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, has come up with a new phrase recently and this one doesn't involve the words "university" "fees" "abolish" and "oops".

Instead, it focuses on alarm clocks.

This may be because Mr Clegg has had a bit of a wake-up call himself in recent months, going from Saint Nick to Nasty Nick, in the estimation of some, in a remarkably short space of time.

So now the Lib-Dem leader wants to stand up for "alarm-clock Britain", meaning, presumably, we ordinary people who have to get up early and go to work each morning.

Maybe, by choosing this particular phrase, he is also hoping to get away from students, who don't use alarm clocks much.

Whatever the reason, I find I am rather taken with this alarm clock idea. I think that, among the many ways in which we label and identify other people – because we never label ourselves – it's an interesting one.

Much better than labelling someone a cat person or a dog person, an X Factor watcher or a Strictly Come Dancing fan, a Morrisons or a Sainsbury's shopper, and all the rest.

But more than that I like it because it has made me think of alarm clocks in general, and realise what a completely redundant piece of kit the traditional alarm clock has become, and how its demise has slipped under the radar.

It's true, isn't it? If watches are hard to sell these days, now that everyone has time-telling available to them on their phone, the sales of traditional alarm clocks must have all but disappeared, but it's been a silent loss of a noisy bit of equipment.

Technology has overwhelmed us during the last decade and we are all aware that smart phones exist that can do everything bar cook us an evening meal, and that day is probably not far off.

We all know that CDs are fast disappearing, that tapes went a long time ago and that vinyl records are museum pieces, but the old-fashioned alarm clock, the one with the bell on top that looked like Mickey Mouse ears, the one that in cartoons always rings so furiously it lifts off the bedside table and up into the air, that one has died without a funeral, only ever seen at Christmas as a novelty gift.

Actually, when I was growing up, in lieu of an alarm clock we had mum – ours being a house where, for a long period, there was no working clock at all and the only reliable way to know the time was to train a pair of binoculars on the church clock some miles away.

Over the years mum had trained herself to wake in the morning before six and then go downstairs to clear out the ashes before persuading her eldest daughter to rise, coaxing her middle daughter to go to school and then dressing the baby, before going off to work for the day. What do you mean, "Not an ideal existence?"

Anyway, mum clattering about, dad clomping around in his workboots, the shouts of "now there's mud everywhere" was all the alarm call we needed.

Eventually I graduated to my own real travel alarm clock which sat beside my bed in its own beige leatherette case with gold-effect metal edging during the entire 1970s.

It was a fiddly thing with levers to push into the right position and a tiny handle to wind every evening.

But it was a bit of kit to treat with respect and to be ignored at your peril, since there was no snooze button to allow an exhausted person to sleep on, safe in the knowledge that all was not irrevocably lost.

Eventually, newly married and flush with wedding presents, I became the owner of a clock radio, which I kept for the next hundred years or so, waking every morning to the tinny, not-quite-tuned-in sound of successive radio presenters.

In the end it became an archive of all the colours ever used on the walls, since every decorating stint ended with it somehow covered in splodges of paint.

Inevitably, the clock radio went the way of all old gadgets – into the garage for a bit and then to the tip – and now I rely on my phone alarm. It's reliable, it's easy to set, I've found a ringtone sufficiently annoying to irritate me out of sleep but, you know, it's missing a bit of the magic.

There's no wind-up bell, no tinny radio voice to weave into my dreams, just a rather boring bit of kit.

What I really long for is one of those alarms that wakes you up with birdsong or even one of those that gradually introduces light into the room, in imitation of the sun rising.

I'd like that a lot, so much so that I might even put it on my Christmas list for next year. Maybe Nick could do with one too – he seems to be having a few dark days.

"Sales of traditional alarm clocks must have all but disappeared, but it's been a silent loss of a noisy bit of equipment"

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