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Bodies are weird things aren’t they?  And brains are even weirder.

In early May I developed a symptom of breast cancer.  The night I discover it, I lie awake for hours imagining all kinds of scenarios, none of them happy.  In the morning, I tell myself I am just being silly and try, extremely unsuccessfully, to forget about it for a few days.  But I know I’m not just being silly, so I go to the GP.  He says it is probably nothing to worry about but he’ll refer me to a consultant just in case.  I try to focus on the nothing to worry about part of that sentence, but it’s almost impossible.

It takes less than two weeks to see the consultant.  The NHS provides a truly outstanding service.  But two weeks when you probably don’t but might have breast cancer is pretty much like two years of normal life.  Overlaid with a constant unshakeable anxiety, which makes everything in your body so tight it’s like you’re a cashmere jumper that’s been boil washed.

On a biblical flood of a day, I see the consultant. She’s about the same age as my mother and very kind.  She sends me down the corridor to have a mammogram.  It hurts a lot.  I say ow out loud, and the mammogram lady says sorry.  I want to tell her that I’m not a wimp, that I’ve done childbirth without even gas and air, but I don’t.

There’s something there.  I’m sent to have an ultrasound, which shows up two things.  They might be nothing.  But we’d better check, just in case.

So I have a biopsy.  It’s horrible.  Really horrible.  But I feel an odd kind of relief.  I’m going to find out what’s wrong and knowing is better than not knowing.  Because I’m sure something IS wrong.

Back to the consultant who says I’m brave and there’s no point worrying.  I drive home through the torrential rain and cry.

Another week to wait. Another week of imagining unhappy scenarios at three in the morning.  There’s no point imagining the worst until it’s happened, I tell a friend who is worrying about something. Ha.

Back again to see the consultant on a warm sunny morning.  A month to the day since I discovered the symptom and she tells me it’s good news before we’ve even made it into the consulting room.  Whatever it was doesn’t require treatment or follow up.  I can go.

I expect to feel flooded with relief but instead I’m numb and my scalp still feels like boiled wool.  It’s as if my brain has got so used to worry that it can’t loosen it’s vice like grip.  Intellectually I’m happy, but it’s hard to actually feel it.  I know I’m lucky.  Really lucky.

Life moves on but I’ve still got a headache.  Brains are funny things.

I tend to glaze over when people as for votes in blogging awards to be honest, so I wouldn’t blame you if you clicked away now. But if you could see your way to voting for me I’d be everso grateful.  I might even see my way to buying you a drink or something*

My other blog, It’s a small world after all, has been shortlisted for a Brilliance in Blogging Award in category seven, Go!. It’s really easy to vote for me and I think I can win a fairly spiffy prize.  You are most kind.

It’s also that time of year when nominations are open for the MADs Awards.  A couple of years ago I was a finalist with my other blog.  This year there’s a new travel category I’ve got my eye on for It’s a small world after all.  And I might also point out that this blog is less than a year old.

Anyway, as you were.

 

 

*terms and conditions apply

The smoke from the campfire is swirling around us in billowing clouds and stinging our eyes.  Our hair will smell of it for days afterwards.  The late summer dusk means it’s light until long past her bedtime, but we tell ghost stories anyway, taking it in turns to hold the torch for maximum ghostly effect.  Finally, night falls, and we crawl muddily into our sleeping bags, drifting off to the sound of water rushing over stones and the cooing of wood pigeons.

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This post is part of The Gallery at Sticky Fingers. This week’s prompt is ‘light’.

Dickens was an insomniac.  By night, he pounded the pavements of London, walking his characters into being as the rest of the city slept.  He and his stories are as much a part of London as red buses and Big Ben.

In this anniversary year, I want to get to know him better.  I’d like to say I’m going to read all his books, but we know that’s a lie.  As well as reading the odd bit, I am going to re-watch my favourite BBC adaptations, and enjoy the atmospheric sets and fabulous costumes.  I’ve already visited the fantastic exhibition at the Museum of London, which maps out the big themes of Dickens’ stories and life and how they intersect with the city: home and hearth, progress, childhood and death. I’d like to go back with the nine year old, who has already been captivated by his magical stories.

But my biggest project will be to follow in his footsteps.  I want to see the city, our city, how he saw it, by walking the streets, visiting the places he visited, finding the places he wrote about.  I shall take photos, drink coffee and imagine his characters into being.  Want to join me?

As a certain Dorothy once said, “There’s no place like home!”  I spent the best part of last year travelling the world, from Hawaii, to New Zealand and Australia to Japan.  I saw some truly astounding sights and stayed in some beautiful places, but never once did I consider not returning home.  I’ve lived in London all of my life, and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Partly this is because I have set down roots.  I have friends and family here, I have a lovely house in a mostly riot-free neighbourhood, I am settled.  Yes, it’s noisy and crowded, as are all large cities, but it’s also full of verve and endless possibilities.

But it’s not just that.

I’m pretty sure that cities are living breathing creatures, as much about their inhabitants as their buildings.  That everyone who ever lived in a place becomes part of it’s very fabric.  That if you listen very carefully, every street echoes with the footsteps of all the people who have ever walked down it.  I am a rational, logical sort of person, but when I walk through the dank, cobbled, back streets of Southwark on a frosty night, it’s hard not to believe in the existence of ghosts.

So if everyone who ever lived here has become part of the soul of the city, that means I am part of it too, and it is part of me.

 

New Year's Eve

Travel changes you. Or so people say.  I’m not sure that’s necessarily true.  I don’t really think that travel has the power to change you any more than staying at home and listening to the radio would.

But travel, particularly the kind that we did, slowly and over a long period, gives you lots of time to think.  Add in an impending fortieth birthday and a sparkly new year, and you’ve got a recipe for some clean sweeping.

So while I can’t claim to be spiritually enlightened, I have made a few changes.  Since we got home from our nine month journey, I’ve taken up running and knitting, become a dog owner and started to write a book.  Before I move on to world peace, I thought I’d better get started on a new blog.  So here we are, I hope you like it.

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This post is part of The Gallery at Sticky Fingers. The theme this week is Phone Pictures. The photo of my youngest child holding a sparkler is an Instagram job and the masthead was taken using Hipstamatic.