Some days the phrase ‘you’re just not good enough’ is all pervasive. It’s the shape accrued frustration takes, a crust, or coat, too tight to wriggle out of. Doubt thrives on silence (the chronic, polyester kind); when radio is the only voice you pluck the air for adjuration. And there she waits, your girdled guide, smacks bloodless lips and drools disdain: your art, your writing; your sleep, your rising; your ability to connect, converse, consider; your quests for energy and cure; upswing of any sort – whatever you try is veined with lack.
Red letter days are those with room for conversation. You gush in half-remembered, rampant tongues; hush falls before the need is gone. Just time to carve an ear into the ground, and while fatigue declares she’s won another round, the joys you stumbled on fan out in quiet jubilation.
As often as mind has room I fume a failproof lookalike who strolls about town. Oh, the places she has seen! Priceless when fancy factualises for a wisp of time. A caper on my scooter – first in a year, or two. Almost called out – look at me! – like a child riding her bike without stabilisers on. Hung a while on armchair at the bookshop twenty doors from mine, tried a little conversation. Turns out a semblance of normality is quite a strain.
In a matter of minutes home and supine again. Slept in clothes that night, entwined with spectre. Days later the idea of a repeat seems preposterous, but: elsewhere was achieved, momentarily. Blue plaque please?
In bed (not on) long before evening falls; still bright outside, not nearly night. Like most, or all, I waited for the light of spring, green shoots, raw splendour to refute earth’s plight, yours, mine. Yet now that days step up their game, I find that spring does not reside in me, take hold, drive buds and blossoms. Or not the kind I hope for.
A roll call by the weathervane finds selfsames skittered out the door. Just words now: artist, maker, reader, earner, sleeper, walker, failed lover, lucky friend… One with steady hands, one who remembered, one who talked a mile a minute hours on end and savoured silence. So earnest, so keen to do things right, with a propensity for shame. I wish I’d worried less, been bolder.
At sunrise: Take me to the warden, for a slice of day, a pound of night!
Last Tuesday I was out, for pleasure. First time since the book launch in November; already dreaming of more… Went with friends to Dulwich Picture Gallery – Vanessa Bell’s paintings called out to me. Favourite jeans on (flared), and riding a grin; or else a wheelchair pushed by stronger arms than mine. No coffee afterwards, no sideways glances; all energy assigned and labelled ‘art’. Beautiful portraits there, abstraction too, collages; vibrant, discerning work. Always learning, I think, trying out. Books feature – people read, which I loved especially (long to myself, so much). Good to know: DPG is well-equipped for rest, and dotted with divans. Very comfy indeed (says one who often lies on floors), in dark emerald green – most becoming with my orange blanket. No protests when I lay. Soles did not touch, I swear.
The painting I wish home with me gives an intimate glimpse of Virginia Woolf (Bell’s younger sister), looking worn, held in an armchair’s warm embrace. She’s got a piece of knitting in her lap, red as the flesh of water melon. Her hands seem caught in hesitation. I’d like to look at her every day.
I am lnely.
I am lnely, and I am struggling.
I am nt k.
I cannt say it withut shame.
N petry. N metaphr.
Third illness thumped through the door and wedged my lungs with thistledown. This one a thoroughbred of a disease, cultured, in prime conditions curable. A period of quarantine at home, same old. A jamboree of drugs to take at dawn: count out in fur-lined cup with whiskered edges! A dedicated nurse-team gives the word. Each dose is filled with best intent. First though, a ferry in a storm. Occasionally a day’s relief, a breather. Signs saying: that way, please! Strapped in. Pillar to post. One and two look on, astounded.
46 days left. Anguish and hope are falling into step. A better week! Nausea: moderate to good.
Pure pleasure trip one morning, to café down the road. Crept out through crack in clock face. Wheelchair pushed by bubbly befriender; trundling from pothole to pothole. Forgot to touch peeling bark of silver birch on former totter fringe, let garden views flit by. Beeline while upright… Made outside corner mine, head propped on purple cushion. Fleeting acquaintance with strawberry tart, crumbs licked off finger-tip, custard trickle. In no time at all talk travelled far and further, salut, dommage, güle güle. Homeward bound stopped to chat with neighbour only ever waved at when bundled into car on way to hospital. A few minutes of banter, laughter. Bed after.