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Blood and Songs


I spent two days in Manchester last week with my friend Jackie Kay, happily getting on with some writing. Some people are really easy to write with, and Jack and I have had many happy weeks in houses and cottages all over England. We just get into a routine very quickly, interspersed with the odd tasty meal and chat, but on the whole we are both very hard working. We don’t watch TV, or drink, or even stay up late! So that was a very happy couple of days. Then I came back to Newcastle, feeling a bit weary, and the next day at my regular hospital drip of pamidromate I found out that my blood was at an all time low. In fact it’s amazing that I was still walking about at all. So they said I must spend the night in the dreaded Ward 37 and have three bags of blood. I’m afraid of Ward 37. It’s where I’ve met demons and been in terrible states of crisis. I managed to think positive thoughts about it, and got through the night without any grumbles. I didn’t sleep a wink though. I watched late night murder films on the new flashy telly above my bed. I ate an incredibly awful meal of yellow soup, followed by black brussel sprouts and a kind of mushroomy mess of sauce and herbs, then rice pudding. It made me want to laugh.

After the transfusion I felt so much better, pinker and bouncier. I am very grateful to the blood donor out there who gave me this boost. I even managed to go Christmas shopping! If I hadn’t had the blood I doubt if I would have had the energy to read last night at the Northern Rock Writers Prize Launch, standing at a lectern in the flouncy cinema, between Ann Stevenson and Tony Harrison, who are both Northern Rockers like me.

Then Bev and I scooted down to Live Theatre where Zoe Lambert and Dave Scott and Neil Blenkinsop and cellists and bassists and trumpeters were playing a song cycle from Sudden Collapses In Public Places. The theatre was lovely and full, and I found the event completely rivetting. There is something wonderful about having ones words interpreted by gifted musicians, and Zoe sang so magically, yet without over milking the pudding, which is so easy to do around cancer issues. It was, for me, just a lovely night, and I so hope that it can be repeated.