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Birdsong, Poems, and Very Nice Ice Cream

11/06/2004

I am in the wing of a stately home, rented at the last minute as our house was full of builders and drilling. Actually, I was meant to go to London, to a Royal Literary Fund do, then to be welcomed as a Royal Society of Literature Fellow at a party in Somerset House. But I felt too weary to face the London underground. Although I feel generally well, I find I don’t really like being too far away from a sofa, a bath, and a kettle. It was the right decision, I think. I am all alone now with my old friends, bubble bath, tinned pears, the laptop, and various novels. They sell really amazing ice cream in the organic bakery down the road in little tubs. I have been there several times, and I feel I am getting a reputation in the village with my old green coat and unbrushed hair.

I’ve been working on poems mostly, putting together a new collection. At the moment this is called APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE, but this may change. For a while it was called PROBABLY SUNDAY, and before that INDELIBLE, MIRACULOUS.

On Tuesday I had a blood transfusion and I feel lovely and plump, like a cat full of cream. It was a funny day at the hospital though. I had a scan first, in the large white machine. BREATHE. DON’T BREATHE! They are seeing if the tamoxifen is working, and if I need to start chemotherapy. Then I went up to Ward 36, but they sent me off for a bone x ray, because I had said idly to a passing doctor that my leg hurt a bit. They are very attentive in Ward 36, very kind, but I almost wished that I hadn’t mentioned it, as my leg didn’t hurt that much. Actually, most of my aches and pains are transitory. I ended up waiting for hours in X.Ray. They said it was a new digital system and nothing was working properly. Then they put me in a box room and told me to take my clothes off and wait, which I did for ages. Then I had the xray, then I had to wait again. I got really impatient and decided to get dressed and get out of the box. I hate it when the hospital makes me feel vulnerable. They were a bit huffy with me, and that made me even crosser. But why should I wait in a cupboard with nothing on??

Anyway, eventually it was all right, and I got back to my favourite spot on the bed by the window, and got my new blood, and my friend Dominic Slowie came to visit with lucozade, and the jolly tea trolley came rattling round, and all was well.

It’s lovely being here. It’s very unspoilt and peaceful, surrounded by misty Cumbrian mountains. I wonder what goes on in these villages though. It feels very feudal. Infact this house was the squires place. When I got here the green was filled with gypsy caravans and horses, here for the Appleby Horse Fair. I kept on humming…Oh She’s Gone With The Raggle Taggle Gypsies Oh….I used to love that song when I was little. This morning I went ambling round the graveyard in the village church looking for inspiring gravestones, but they were mainly conventional ones, with dearly loved and much missed epitaphs. I want mine to be more characterful!

The sun comes out, then disappears, and it rains enthusiastically, and the sky turns deep grey. All can hear are rooks cawing, like a radio four play!

Tomorrow we are reading the new Taxi Driver scripts at Live Theatre, for the reading on 16th June. I think the paperback must be in the shops by now, with my first novel Crocodile Soup. They look like siblings, although the two books are so different.

Thankyou, Uncle Peter, for the article about the Tree of Shoes in the Nevada desert. Isn’t it fascinating how easy it is to start up a bit of magic!

I shall return to the floaty day. I think it might be time for a tub of ice cream. Perhaps I shall brush my hair.

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