Off to a spiritual social gathering tonight – Mass followed by a reflection and then wine and food with good company. Get a cab there as I’m bringing the wine and the dozens of scarlet tulips splashed along Park Lane make even eight lanes of traffic seem springlike and bearable.
I sit quietly in the chapel and become aware of the woman on the end of the row, who I don’t know, stage-whispering her prayers. Try to concentrate on my own prayers and not let her get to me, but she’s disturbing everyone.
She gets up to come past me, but then sits down next to me. ‘Would you like to come to a charismatic healing service in Birmingham in May?’ I stare at her in astonishment and then say thank you but that I’m not here in May, which is a pretty lame response, but all I could come up with. It’s delivered in the frosty tone that would freeze any British person at fifty yards. Not our whisperer though. She goes on to tell me about the website, where I can list my name for healing. Repeats the name of the website and then asks me if I know how to spell it. Another, frostier, thank you and she retreats back to her whispering.
Where to start? The patronising, ‘I know what’s best for you, even though I’ve never met you and don’t know what’s wrong, though I have spotted your stick.’ The interruption of my prayers and the refusal to take no for an answer. Meant kindly no doubt, but REALLY.
I’m as likely to go to a charismatic healing service in Birmingham as I am to fry my own eyeballs.
Other than that the evening was delightful.
Just spent a fruitful half hour wrestling with changing my sheets and duvet. I normally wait until a friend comes to dinner so we can share the challenge, but felt like changing them myself today. Odd how the tasks that used to take a few minutes now represent a small hill to climb.
I pick a duvet cover that has come from Mum’s; it has a cheerful seventies design and a zip rather than poppers. It’s lasted amazingly well, as have the red and white checked serviettes from my French grandmother, who bought them from a catalogue in the sixties. They’ve been in daily use ever since and show no signs of giving up the ghost.
Also went out to do a mega shop as I seemed to have no fruit or veg or anything much worth eating. On the way there, the wheels fell off my trolley. I know how you feel mate. Simple task to latch them back on again, but not quite so easy on a traffic island in the middle of the road, holding my stick for balance.
Since I’ve lost my appetite, I try and trick myself by buying anything that takes my fancy – so today included smoked salmon, ham and beef slices, Greek yoghurt, spinach, liver, potatoes, carrots, watercress and some seedy bread. I need to remind my self to eat and cook properly as my old appetite clock no longer works. One of the many sadnesses of the current life.
I have a pile of books to get through from the library and donated by passing friends and lots of radio to catch up with, so a delightful evening ahead. Including liver, carrot and potato mash and spinach.
Had a quiet day indoors today after a hectic (for me) ten days. Mostly slept and listened to the radio with a bit of reading thrown in. Felt liberating not to go outside and wrestle with the world, though I did stick my head out of the window for a bit of air at one point.
Feeling much better and realise that my Lenten resolve of extreme kindness to myself is as hard as anything I’ve ever given up. Even the memorable year when I gave up both tea and coffee and my friends were begging for mercy at the withdrawal symptoms.
Being extremely kind to myself means having the odd day of doing nothing and eating as well as possible.
I realise the very dark moments in the day may be connected with not eating; these days my appetite no longer works like clockwork, I have to remind myself to eat, particularly at lunchtime. Eating is rarely the great pleasure it used to be, I often can’t summon the energy or enthusiasm to cook interesting meals from scratch, though I can eat them when put in front of me.
So on Sunday I had breakfast and then didn’t eat until late in the evening, for various reasons. On the way home on the bus I was filled with darkness, the feeling that this is all just too hard. I got home and made a cheese omelette and felt much better. So I’m keeping an eye on the clock and trying to eat regularly through the day.
It turns out extreme kindness to self requires practice.
Since I’ve been seriously ill, my digestive system has taken on a volcanic mind of its own.
Those of a nervous disposition should look away now.
I have to take medication before I eat anything and be pretty careful about what I eat, nothing too spicy, no onions, not too many veg at one sitting. At home it’s easy to manage, the difficult thing is remembering to eat regularly as my appetite has mostly disappeared.
Control of social situations is more delicate; out with friends I can choose from the menu and push the onions to one side. But recently I was invited to lunch at home by a very old friend I hadn’t seen for ages and it didn’t occur to me to say anything. He served a wonderful pork stew, full of onions, mushrooms and quite spicy. I eat meat once or twice a week as it’s not easy to digest and I never eat pork apart from bacon. So what to do? Of course I ate it and enjoyed it and thought that I would face the consequences later.
Sure enough, on my way home on the tube several hours later, I could feel the orchestra tuning up. I managed to wait until I was in the open air and looked over my shoulder to make sure there wasn’t anyone too close and then, as my dear old Dad used to say, ‘let the wind sail free’. The full concerto.
I was suddenly reminded of my uncle who ran the village bakery in France. He used to make these delicious deep-fried choux pastries that were so light and sweet they were called ‘pets de nonne’ or nuns’ farts. You can still find the recipe online.
A trip on the tube to the other side of London. I’m astonished at the numbers of people hanging about outside Westminster station, taking selfies against the backdrop of Big Ben. Or just lurking about, deciding where to go.
When your mobility is compromised and you walk with a stick, crowds of people are difficult. I can no longer turn on a sixpence as I used to and am likely to fall if I’m unbalanced. So being faced with a crowd and trying to weave in and out of them is disturbing. I keep my eyes on their feet as that’s the best way of predicting which way they will move. Plus lots of ‘excuse me, excuse me.’
And then taking the lifts down to the platform, a delightful family crowd in and remind me that each person in that crowd is an individual, doing their best, trying to look after their children, finding their way in a foreign city.
People not a crowd.
We’re in that stage of life sandwiched between parents needing more care and children needing support as they fly the nest. Both my siblings have in-laws who are very seriously ill in hospital. They are part of our extended family and we remember happy times with them and how hard it is to get through this stage.
And then the news that Mum has had a fall in the nursing home; thankfully not serious, she somehow managed to slip out of her wheelchair and grazed her skin badly. That in itself is a cause for concern, as her skin is paper thin and takes weeks and weeks to knit together.
Long distance caring is hard, two of us don’t live near our parents. But even close proximity doesn’t really help at this time of life, it just means you can get there more quickly.
Text from my nephew and niece who are getting on with their lives – just as it should be. I’ve noticed that the young don’t answer emails anymore, but they will answer a text immediately, so although we don’t see each other very often, we manage to keep up with the highlights and difficulties.
Out shopping yesterday and had a surreal moment on the way home. The trolley was full and heavy and it was only when I got indoors that I noticed the bananas were missing. Looked out of the front door and they had fallen out further down the street. Two police officers were ahead of me and came to the bananas, looked down and carefully walked around them.
Nothing to see here, move along.
Been a while since my last blog as I’ve been busy. You might want to read that last word again. Busy doesn’t really appear in my vocabulary much anymore – since my illness, a busy day is when I get the paper and go to see a film.
But these last couple of weeks I’ve been helping to organise some Lenten talks in five different parishes, with five different speakers and chairing two lots of talks. I’ve enjoyed an echo of my old life immensely, but it is just an echo. Travelling to the other side of London now requires careful planning, trying to change via stations that have lifts, taking cabs when it’s pouring with rain, rather than making a dash for it.
I’ve met some great cab drivers, who are very helpful and chatty, ranged from quite profound theological (not instigated by me) discussions, to how best to souse fish.
And the talks themselves have been well-attended and given rise to great discussions.
Much as I love revisiting an echo of the old life when I was busy all the time with various projects, I don’t have the bounce anymore. A long, busy day with travelling means a lot of rest the next day. The stamina and resilience are increasing, slowly but surely. Just not to the same level as before.
But even an echo of the old life is very welcome.