A couple of weeks ago I asked my doctor if I could have a lethal injection. He laughed merrily, and so did I, but a part of me feels exhausted at the prospect of more treatment. You have to really believe that the treatment will work, and increasingly, chemotherapy feels like slapping another coat of paint on a collapsing wall. But you also have to have things that you really want to do, like go up in a balloon (no thanks) or swim with dolphins (not that either). And of course we want to stay alive for everyone else, because goodbye is just too final.
Today I did something I have always wanted to do. I went to Charleston, where Vanessa Bell lived,
(and died of breast cancer). I am not very good at museums. I always want to do things quickly…and as my mother said recently, most things go on far too long (poetry readings, dinners, parties, boat trips, church services, plays, explanations…the list is endless). Today we had to go on a one hour guided tour of the house, and we weren’t allowed to touch anything either. I am not that bothered about ornaments and furnishings, so when the guide told us about the history of tables etc I went a bit blank. She wasn’t bad, as guides go. She told us quite a bit of anecdotal rumour, and although my sister and I agreed we would have liked to have known more about the sex and the cooking arrangements, she was very interesting about Vanessa Bell and her children, and I ended up feeling nothing but admiration for her (Bell, not the guide). Actually when we first got to the house I nearly got terrible giggles, as there are many Woolf/Bell lookalikes wandering around looking as if they have been schooled in vagueness. Also the shop, with it’s forty five pound battered felt hats, and loopy jewelery made me feel slightly hysterical. But I loved the house and the garden. I liked the way the Bloomsburys painted everything they could lay their paintbrushes upon….perhaps as a sort of displacement activity. I liked imagining the chaos of it all, and the poor servants trying to keep house. I loved Vanessa Bell’s bed, that looked out upon the garden, with a bath in the corner of the room. Here was a woman after my own heart. The house reminded me that we can live how we like, and attack our walls with potato patterns and make lampshades out of cooking utensils. It made me angry with IKEA!
Anyway, there have been several wonderful moments on this holiday, that make it worth having some more chemotherapy, as who knows what else might happen. Like, my daughter and I driving along the sea front from Brighton to Shoreham at sunset, past all the dirty boats, and rusty bridges and places selling fresh fish, and Janis Joplin singing ‘Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby,’ on the radio.
Or sitting all afternoon in the Duke of York Cinema in Brighton, eating pork scratchings, watching films, with no adverts in between.
Or waking up in my four poster bed to the sound of wood pigeons.
Or listening to the cd that arrived in the post this morning of some of my poems set to music by Tim Dalling.
Yes, there is still plenty left to delight in.