Posted on April 26, 2017
I ordered a dress for young Philomena* but it was far too big. Either they make clothes bigger these days or she is a wee slip of a thing – but she got lost in it. I am used to sewing tucks and stitches into her clothes to make them fit better, but this dress didn’t suit that treatment, so back it had to go. And sometimes, you just want something to fit without your Mummy having to doctor it. We both agreed. I’d thought that one of the boys might run into Kingston and drop it back for me, but this morning, I was so bored of resting or trying to work with my injured leg up on the desk (!), so I decided to take it back myself.
*Don’t tell anyone*.
Wow – it was exciting! What started it was I had tried on my skinny jeans and they actually went on my leg. This is progress. I’m not sure they use this as a measure of recovery in the NHS, but they should. I was triumphant. I dared to dream about feeling normal again, and that was that. I was decided.
I did feel a little like I was going on an expedition to the moon though! I pulled a sock onto my still slightly swollen ankle (can you buy socks without elastic? that might be easier, going forward), strapped on a trainer, loosely tied, and hobbled off to the bus stop like an escapee. I took some Kendall Mint Cake** in case I ran into difficulties, and wore dark glasses. My friends*** get everywhere, and they wouldn’t be too impressed by this adventure.
Well, it seems I have totally missed Spring, as the shops are full of Summer. I returned the dress and allowed myself a quick look at all the new colours and patterns and designs. I love clothes, and I’m a marketer’s dream; just as they were no doubt planning, I got very excited about holidays and sunshine and weddings (though I have missed two we were invited to, being incapacitated for the last month). I love visual merchandising though, and the displays in shops always give me new ideas. There are cardboard cacti this season, for goodness sake. It’s wonderful. I’d like to work in that world. Anyway, I drank it all in and came away happy.
I didn’t range all over town as usual. I didn’t go for a cup of tea. The buses were kind to me and came straight away, both there and back. I was home within the hour. See? Not too bad! And good for me in so many ways.
*Philomena won third prize in the Young Writers’ Festival! We went to the awards ceremony at the weekend.
**Kendall Mint Cake is good for any sort of eventuality, dramatic or not. Elevenses will do if you can’t think of anything else, but it does taste better if you are waiting for the emergency services.
***Call themselves friends?! They still won’t let me do anything. Apparently it’s for my own good. 🙂
Posted on April 24, 2017
A wise friend told us that you need broad shoulders to carry the black box – the record of what went wrong; the final moments of calm, the warning signs (if any) and the start of the rapid spiral downwards from what felt like a steady, pleasant course.
Holding that is hard work. It weighs heavy in dark responsibility, especially if you never asked for it.
Sometimes the black box is lost in the ashes, and no one ever knows what really happened. People will speculate endlessly, forever.
But sometimes the black box is intact, smoking and hot to the touch, and it’s dense with meaning and hard to look inside. You drag it home and stand around it, wondering how on earth to deal with this. All you need is to show the black box to someone experienced in these things, investigate it with them and be told in the end that yes, you are the one who has to carry it now, whether that’s fair or not.
And that you can do it. You have broad shoulders.
Posted on April 18, 2017
Hello again! I am getting much better every day (though the Doctor this morning, discharging me, said it might take months to fully recover, my leg might always be a funny colour, and the swelling *might* linger forever, since the damage in the tissues was so deep, and extensive). Gloomy, but realistic. Oh well, think happy thoughts. I could make a fortune on eBay by selling all my lovely shoes that no longer go on my feet. And I always wanted to be a barefoot hippy anyway, so perhaps it is simply my destiny calling.
Following on in the happy thoughts theme, so many of you helped me in my plight, and I am so grateful, and am going to list you here to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Alex – for taking me to hospital so quickly in the first place, worrying even though you never worry, and catching me every time I fainted at the sight of a needle. Especially for driving all the way back down to Kingston with a coffee on the roof of the car. 🙂
Felix – for looking after your sister in the hospital and revising for your A-levels on a bench. I hope you still pass.
Philomena and Lucas – for becoming such a good cooking team, so quickly!
Emma – for carting me back to the hospital for yet more drugs and for sending encouraging texts, and making me laugh, and being so amazing all the time.
Holger – for calling me ‘hobbles’ – I hope that sticks!
Hugh and Isabel – for bringing food and feeding it to me, and calmly restoring us to order that day right at the start. And for everything else!
Everyone at St Mary’s – for loving me so much and praying for me throughout.
Anyone who texted – thank you! My phone was red hot!
Anyone who commented here – you all amaze me with your support and friendship. I am very grateful for you!
Alison – my online buddy. Your encouragement is so welcome and astonishing! Thank you.
This is becoming like an Oscars speech! I don’t care. It’s necessary. I never knew how loved I am. To you all, thank you.
PS: I’m back to work, on half measures, sort of. Perhaps not at rocket speed as usual 🙂
Posted on April 10, 2017
There has to be a funny side, or what else is there? I can only manage photos of scribbles, as the scanner is upstairs in the Promised land of the loft (two flights of stairs! Not yet). But you get the idea!
Posted on April 5, 2017
It’s been quite a week, since Saturday, and it’s only Wednesday. Today is the first day I feel even vaguely like myself.
I’m typing this in hospital on my phone with one finger of my left hand, as my right arm is receiving elephant strength intravenous antibiotics for a weird infection that came on suddenly late on Saturday night.
What a drama! I won’t bore you with the details, but make sure that if you romp around the park and have a tiny cut on the back of your ankle, you stay away from nasty germs that might get in, call some friends and start having a party deep in your leg’s skin tissue.
The result: a hot, swollen, nauseous, confused and feverish mess – getting worse by the hour – the primary stages of a quite scary situation that without these drugs can easily escalate.
Thank the Lord for being able to rush to the hospital.
It’s been pretty full on – a bit chaotic and unusual. And I don’t like needles AT ALL and there have been plenty.
The worst, most distressing thing for me though has been feeling so dis-abled. My Mum had 3 diseases the calibre of which you’d be unlucky to encounter once in your life, never mind in triplicate. She was very disabled and it broke my heart to watch. So many stories, but hearts so broken into pieces must be carefully handled and I haven’t got my white gloves to hand right now so I can’t tell you them. I’ll just say that not being able to move, being in such pain, feeling so out of control… it opened up the vault where I keep those broken bits of my heart and in shock, I was forced to look in. They still beat, and the sad song they sing is still the same.
Still, the door to that vault is closing a little bit more each day as the infection in my leg is receding. I’ll be glad when it’s finally tight shut again. I don’t know any other way to go through this life. I can walk past that vault but I can’t go in. I know it will never go away. Just having it there is enough.
I’d rather move on, and romp around the park in the Spring sunshine. Or maybe not! Is there really danger everywhere?!
PS: if you read my cheery Facebook update it was the drugs talking! And thank you to everyone who has looked after me so well. What would I do without you?
PPS: today I have crutches! Bring your snails round. I will race them.
Posted on March 31, 2017
I went into London on Monday, portfolio and work bag in hand. It felt really great, though my aim was quite nerve-wracking. I had an appointment with a professional illustration critic, to review my portfolio and discuss ideas around
running with wolves getting lots of lovely new work in the illustration market.
Pretty scary stuff. There was a guy on the train who came over and started chatting to me quite near the end of the ride. He turned out to be a sculptor, and his artsy conversation distracted me a little from my mission, which was good, as the nerves were seriously beginning to bite at my ankles by the time we reached Waterloo.
I had a nice walk over the bridge to Somerset House, knocked back a very quick, very strong, very sweet coffee, was encouraged by the receptionist ladies – ‘You look fabulous!’ * / ‘Good Luck!’ and then it was happening.
I’ve always been a little worried that my age, and the fact I’ve been at home with the kids for so many years, would be a stumbling block in getting into the world of work again / taking on a new direction. No such thing! I was encouraged to find out that I could probably eat all my juicy worries for breakfast, spit the bones out and still have room for lunch.
Perhaps rearing my own little pack of cubs has given me sharper teeth and quicker wit than I imagine.
Anyway, my work was well received – apparently I speak wolf, instinctively. And even better, this from a critic who added succinctly, ‘I don’t mess around, if it’s not right, I’ll tell you.’ Gulp. And, good. You need frank advice and clear direction when preparing to join the wolf pack.
So, I scribbled down all her thoughts and ideas, and we discussed how to focus my portfolio to get the most work, and much more importantly, the work I want. I promised to come back to let her know my progress, ticked off my checklist of questions to ask, gathered up my iPad, notebook, portfolio and reading glasses, and ambled out onto Embankment, blinking in the pretty Spring sunshine.
On the train, on the way home, I met my husband, and we giggled at the novelty of being there together.
I’ve been hard at work, structuring and planning new websites and making decisions all week. It will take a little while. But soon I hope to be howling** with the best of them.
*People, I did! It was deliberate. Clothes are power.
** Possibly at the moon.
Posted on March 29, 2017
If you’re a regular reader of this blog (thank you!), you might know by now I’m a bit of a nutcase. In turns intense and unyielding in concentration, then goofy, silly and liberated.
I know it makes me a really good artist. The combination of the two – fierce focus and an unusual freedom – make for some interesting results.
I am not the Queen of letting go, even though this blog title suggests it. Painting like this is a wrangle; a fight. It’s so hard, even though it looks fairly simple. Just blobs of colour, right?
Wrong. It’s surrender, it’s turning off the brain and working with the heart, the imagination. It’s feeling. It’s *knowing* what colour where, yes, but it’s not listening to what you know, or a pre-ordained colour palette. It’s letting your instinct rule, and your hand mix the colour before your mind has told you to. Long hours of practice helps, for sure. Many paintings and much cursing must occur before it gets even slightly automatic, I’ll admit it. And even then, automatic is so deeply the wrong word, as that suggests easy, and existing within the building knife edge tension of a painting like this is anything but.
Is it like sex? Yes, maybe, a little. And I would be lying if I said it wasn’t (almost) as good.