By Richard O Smith

I appear to be in a meaningful relationship with the actress and supermodel Lily Cole. Such is her commitment to our coup de foudre that she has opted to have my name tattooed on her foot. This I find slightly perturbing, so we argue about the appropriateness of her tattoo decision. After all, I worry that – should I find someone better and move on – Lily will be unnecessarily limited in her choice of future fish in the sea to ones called “Richard”.

Oh, I should probably explain that this occurred exactly as I’ve described. Albeit in a dream. Then, just before I wake, Lily becomes agitated and yells: “I can’t stand this banging any more.”

Meanwhile, back in reality, it’s aggressively early on a Sunday morning. I open my eyes at 4.55am to two intense sensations. My bed is seemingly bouncing up and down like a space hopper to an accompanying banging sound. And my wife is giving me a look of contemptuous curiosity, wearing the same expression she’d reserve for analysing a newly appeared stain on her favourite outfit.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

“I said, I can’t stand this banging any more,” says my wife.

I snap into consciousness. My chances of escaping back into my dream and seeing if supermodel Lily and I can make up after our tattoo-based spat is not going to happen. “It’s not even 5am,” says my wife. “This has been going on for several minutes already. I think it’s nearby.”

My part of Oxford is reverberating to what sounds like an industrial steam hammer so close it’s likely coming from inside my bedside cabinet. Next door’s dog is doing the sort of whimpering he normally reserves for Guy Fawkes Night.

It’s intrusively loud. A return to sleep is simply not an option. Everywhere is booming relentlessly with metronomic regularity. “Have they started fracking in our kitchen?” I ask.

“We need [bang] to ring [bang] the police [bang].” My wife dials the non-emergency number 101 and reports the incessant thunderous thumping. It’s the sort of sound that results from workmen making a serious attempt to crack the Earth into two halves.

The police agree that at 4.55am this constitutes anti-social behaviour. Especially given it’s a Sunday. When my wife holds the phone outside the front door to demonstrate the noise levels, they concur it’s sufficiently loud to justify immediate investigation. My wife is surprised to discover that she’s reached a police call centre not in Oxford but Milton Keynes. She’s also surprised they can’t hear it in MK.

Apparently this innovation is “more efficient” to access police services. In the same way that moving our fridge from the kitchen in Oxford to Milton Keynes would be “more efficient” whenever we wanted to access some milk.

Wearing the minimum of clothes you can get away with in public – usually reserved for fetching in milk, newspapers or going clubbing – I head off on my bike in full investigative mode to try to source the epicentre of the invasive pounding.

Living where I do in high-density housing renders the tumult hard to track, as it reverberates, rebounds and echoes like a squash court. Eventually I trace the cause of the commotion to a south-westerly direction. I spot someone I know. She’s wearing an inadequate pink dressing gown and picking up a cat. As she bends down I hastily avert my gaze fractionally too late – I can confirm she has no tattoos – and conduct a conversation whilst staring stubbornly at her wheelie bins. “We’ve reported the noise to the police,” I inform her. “Good. It woke me up,” she says, before adding bizarrely, “Is it someone walking along the street bashing a big drum?”

My mobile rings. It’s my wife to inform me that the police have rung back and traced the noise. Apparently the railway has permission to embed huge stanchions trackside on consecutive Sunday mornings when the line is closed for engineering work.

That evening we go to bed exceptionally early to try to compensate for our lost sleep. I sink deep into the beckoning softness of the mattress and anticipate a lovely five-star vacation in the Land of Nod. “By the way,” says my wife with startled urgency: “Who’s Lily?”

“Who?” I poker bluff. “You were saying her name this morning during the intense banging.”

Lily’s starring role in my dream can be explained. I’d seen the “flamed-haired beauty ®” in a theatre play two days earlier in London. My front row seat enabled me to spot a tattooed name on the end of one of her (about four feet long) model legs. I decide to tell my wife the truth: that Lily had appeared uninvited in my dream – finally proving that Oxford people don’t just dream about spires.

“Ha! You and supermodel Lily Cole!?” chortles my wife. “In your dreams!” Er, exactly.

l Richard O Smith is the author of Oxford Examined: Town & Clown (£7.99, Signal Books)