Getting better

My Golden Rule when I am ill is to do as little as possible. I try to sleep. Obviously, if you need to see a doctor for a diagnosis or go to hospital, this isn’t what to do but often the body just needs quiet and rest to heal itself. A gastric flu or infection. I drank water and sucked ice cubes and lay empty-headed on pillows with curtains drawn. The housemate came home early and took care of the dogs, offered hot-water bottles, mugs of tea, disprin. I just lay and waited fro my system to slow down and get better.


And last night I was able to sit up for a little. The horrible pain had eased and I wasn’t nauseous or feverish. Sat up smiling and patting dogs, blankheaded and feeble, then crawled back into bed at 8pm and slept until morning. The pain gone.


Making myself a vegan soup of pea and potato for lunch, very light and silky. Easily digested, no fats or oils or spices, just chunks of peeled potato, a little carrot, a little minced onion, all simmered in plain water until soft. Then I add a handful of frozen peas and blend — a lovely spring-like green. Season lightly and that is it. Vegan food is so often pure unadorned comfort food for those unable to face complex fatty spicy proteins or carbohydrates or any of life’s finer excesses. When it’s all too much, you don’t want Black Forest Gâteau with steeped maraschino cherries, chocolate shavings and layers of sugary whipped cream; you want a clear gentle vegetable broth.


Little by little, step by step.



Mayday, again

Suddenly developed a belting gut-ache, inexplicable and shockingly painful. All night I’ve been throwing up and dragging myself back and forth from the bathroom. Only able to sip flat Coca Cola, something I never usually touch but ginger teas or oolong revolt me right now. Can’t face fizzy water or dry toast.


Housemate concerned, dashing off to work on a public holiday, bracing herself for drunken drivers and paralytic pedestrians staggering across lonely country roads. She tells me to go back to bed and stay there. Dogs sitting around and enjoying my lack of authority, general feebleness. I try not to think about having to see a doctor or go to hospital.


Facebook spam request: “A steamy hot fuckbuddy is waiting to  show you his”. His what? Capabilities as a devoted male nurse? Ability to tolerate high temperatures and fever? Blipped into Internet limbo.


Desultory efforts to read Henry James and even a little light Tolstoy. The kind of reading I only attempt when I am either feeling smart or hopelessly unwell and incapable of  holding two consecutive thoughts together in the same paragraph. With luck they will send me to sleep. The 19th-century novel must have helped many invalids who couldn’t get any laudanum or sleep-inducing draughts of opium.


The dogs are all snoring and the house shakes in a wet winter wind. Leaves are stuck like brown handshakes to the window panes. The chimney groans and wheezes. My stomach goes on hurting.  I’m hoping the housemate will come back early and take my temperature, tell me I’m getting better. Right now I’m all alone in a bed at the end of the universe, sorrier for myself than I’ve been in years. This in itself is worth noticing..






First of May

Before dawn on Sunday morning and the housemate has left to drive through the mountains for an early nursing shift. The house is warm and quiet, I am finishing coffee and catching up with news.


I can’t shake this flu. Getting in more fresh ginger, more lemons. Sitting up at the kitchen table in an old dressing gown rereading Jenny Diski’s Skating to Antarctica. Jenny Diski died of cancer a few days ago. When she was given a terminal diagnosis, she began writing a memoir and  her descriptions of being ‘adopted’ and mentored by Doris Lessing are wonderfully acerbic and honest, no sentimentality. Wry appreciation of a difficult woman who saved her life and helped her become a writer.

From Kate Kellaway’s obituary of Diski: “She was the least deceived writer imaginable, and she was never complacent. She once said she wrote each new book out of a feeling that the one before had been a failure.”

A call to say the housemate has arrived safely. Looking through the uncurtained window I can just see tree branches against the sky. The birds tuning up.


Time for work, to sit and draft out a non-fiction article, another chapter of a draft.  Slow patient work because the energy keeps flagging. Sometimes writing is like pain management, working out what is bearable and can be put down naked on the page and what cannot as yet be said.


And it’s always about the liminal, the crossing of borders, in defienace of binaries and dichotomies. Staying with the in-between states of awareness. Like the plane journeys from Africa to Europe I have endured all my life, as far back as I can remember: now we are leaving the small African city below us on grassy plains; now we are turning left, the wing dips so we can see the snows of Kilimanjaro; now we have the Sahara’s rippled sand flow below us endlessly; there in the distance is the spreading loop of the brown Congo River; there is Gibraltar with its rock; now there is the Mediterranean under cloud; and now the silver or blue squiggle of the Thames in early morning sunshine. We were there; we are not quite here. The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf. Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind. Crosses the brown land, unheard.


The English writer M John Harrison:

Scene after scene in which writers try to squeeze life into affects they aren’t really interested in, to prop up characterisations the only purpose of which is to support the plot. In these passages of desperate over-writing, what you hear is the voice of an editor demanding motivation & relatability. But that’s not really what’s missing. What the editors don’t even really know that they want (because they have been coaching the modern game for so long they’ve lost, by erosion &/or denial, any knowledge of what makes character different from characterisation) is neither motivation nor relatability. It’s something–indeed anything–that bears the actual stamp of the human.