Everything looks battered outside. We forgot to empty our wheelie bin and black plastic bags flap in the front garden. I stare out of the window at the long steep garden that I planted this summer, and it looks like a damp shivering wilderness, with slimy decks, and rotting deckchairs that no one has bothered to put inside. It doesn’t feel like the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, it feels like the season of rot and needling rains! But I am not down hearted. I am on a comfort cooking binge, which means I am very interested in ingredients, and the kitchen is full of things rising and thickening and reducing…big pans of bubbling herby soups, and apple pies stuffed with cloves, bread that spills over the sides of the baking tins, and drizzled lemon cakes. I think this craze often comes over me in Autumn. Season of conkers and wild children. Season of rotting pumpkin and porridge pans. Anyway, I think cancer is afraid of this sort of food. It makes it nervous, all the smells of nourishment and oily warmth. I eat alot of what they call super foods, like blueberries, and pineapple and pine nuts and any old nut, and raspberries and of course, god’s own food, porrdge (which you never sick up), but I am not at all vegan. I am afraid of thinness. Funny how I used to long to be gawky, but now I do everything I can not to fade away, not to waste and shrink, or speak in a quiet voice. Cancer also dislikes large hats, and luxurious bedspreads like the one I bought yesterday with vivid red flowers all over it. It doesn’t like loud singing either, and we had a great sing song on Thursday for my partners birthday. We sang all our old LPS, as we don’t have a record player anymore. I can imagine this ending up in a box in a toy department, sold as a party game. Most of the games I think I personally invented have ended up in boxes containing a pad , a few pencils, a dice, and a pack of badly designed cards!
Tonight I am reading a new story called The Dress for a short story festival here in Newcastle, inspired by the work of Chekhov and Carver. A bit nervewracking really! I am reading with Ali Smith, Andrew O Hagen and Margaret Wilkinson. I find reading short stories rather like swimming into the middle of a vast lake. Unless they are very good, it can be hard for the audience to concentrate. Last night I went to hear stories by Andrew Crumey, David Almond, and Russian writers Evegeny Popov and Natalia Smirnova…and they were all riveting. I was hanging on every word! I wonder if all this talk and festivals around short stories is working? Are more people reading them now?
I have a swollen foot, and I limp around like Igor, along the corridors of the English School. I am having some more radiotherapy on it next week, which doesn’t fill me with glee. Then I am going to Budapest to stay in a hotel that has red bath robes and very wide beds…then back again in time to launch Apology For Absence at the Hatton on the 10th. Send me your address if I don’t have it, and I will send you an invite. Numbers are limited, unfortunately. [Update: All the tickets have now gone.]