DIARY 71: April - September 2002

Tuesday 2 April 2002

On Eurostar heading to Brussels - but we’ve only just entered the Channel Tunnel and we’re already 55 minutes late - which means lots of waits on the metro, and then having to walk from Merode to Montgomery. Is it a coincidence than when the train is running behind schedule as today, it always manages to avoid being over one hour late, sometimes by a minute or so, thereby denying passengers a free compensatory trip.

Tunnels have been a subject for European politics in the last couple of weeks: two tunnel issues were raised at the 26 March Transport Council. Firstly, there was a heated discussion (supposedly in camera) about alpine transit, and especially the reopening of the Mont Blanc tunnel (it was closed three years ago because of a terrible fire, and was reopened on 9 March but only to light vehicles). The Italians claim that the continued prohibition on HGVs is damaging trade, but France says it hasn’t resolved all the safety problems yet (and with presidential elections forthcoming, both Chirac and Jospin are trying to outdo each other in the safety and environmental stakes). At the Council, there was an interesting spat between DG Tren’s Pol Pot (Francois Lamoureux) and Jean-Claude Gayssot (French transport minister). Lamoureux said, in the closed session, that there had to be a trade-off between safety considerations and the free circulation of goods. Gayssot expressed utter astonishment at such a claim, and asked the Commission to write to him stating as much. But this was all posturing because Gayssot got together with his counterpart after the meeting and did a deal on the phased opening of the tunnel. Poor Italians, they claim they’ve lost Eur2.5bn as a result of Mont Blanc’s closure.

And the Channel Tunnel also came up in any other business. The UK’s Freight Transport Association has been making a big fuss of late about the impact that asylum seekers in France are having on the Channel Tunnel rail freight service. So many trains are cancelled or delayed because of the persistent efforts by immigrants to stowaway on the trains (can you stowaway on a train, or is the term exclusively for ships?) that shippers are switching in their droves back to road freight. This obviously concerns the European Commission because the trend is agin the Common Transport Policy. But, at the Council, France and the UK insisted (as far as I can tell) that they wanted to deal with the issue bilaterally and not in a European context. According to various reports I hear and read, the issue could be resolved if the French were to apply more manpower in the form of guards and police, and build better fencing for the asylum seeker camp which is near the rail line. For some reason, though, they seem reluctant to spend the money. Anyone would think they want the immigrants to go to the UK.

I have not written in the diary much about work issues of late (it seems a bit silly when my newsletters are full of the stuff), but the Barcelona summit was quite exciting: a biggish deal was done on energy (I don’t recall any summit focusing so much on energy), and Galileo was given the thumbs up.

It was a deadly dull Easter - always is isn’t it unless we go to the Sierra Nevada. I finally got out in the garden, started clearing a few of the beds, dug and fertilised the vegetable plots, repotted the bonsai plants (which should have been done a few weeks earlier probably), and planted a few seeds. It was more of an effort this year than any year previously - I’m more disillusioned with the garden now than before - the water level is still high, so there is no point in planting potatoes, and the deer have done more damage this winter than previously. But the quinces and kerias are blossoming well, as is the ribes - and the amelenchiers are about to bloom. The Clematis montana overhanging the kitchen window is replete with buds, and the mauve clematis in the blue bed at the side of the house is flourishing. Somehow, I have managed to let the ivy get out of hand on one of the amelenchier trees - so I’ve been hacking and chopping at the thick ivy stems - it will look a mess when all the bunched leaves on high start dying back. The fences, at the side and at the front, are leaning ominously (as they have been for a year or two), and it won’t be long before one or both of them go, and then I’ll have to do something about them. And the drive is a real mess, with the concrete being broken up by the silver birch roots.

3 April

Warm weather and a very relaxed trip to Brussels - even though it’s my second trip and I go to press next week, because of Easter there is very little to follow up. Which is just as well because I have two volleyball matches, one on Sunday and one on Tuesday evening, and on Monday evening, I have to take Adam over to Bracknell for the first of his harmonica classes.

I’ve been thinking about tongue-tiedness. I don’ t recall noticing, about myself in the past, that I’m not very good at talking!!! But I have noticed lately that if I’m trying to explain a slightly complicated idea to someone - it might be a friend (there was something I was talking to Judy about last week), Adam, or, as at lunchtime, Gilles, I go round in circles, and I’m not very clear, and I repeat myself. Have I always been like this, and does this explain why I’ve not been very good at group socialising or dinner parties or conference meetings, why I feel so comfortable in the written medium where I can consider what I am saying and correct it if necessary. Perhaps it’s normal, and I only notice it when I’m trying to talk about something of which I don’t have the facts clear in my head - so a partial exposition seems confused and improperly explained. But I’ve always assumed I simply don’t like competing in groups, and I prefer more personal more intimate socialising - but perhaps this is simply because I’m no good at it. I do know that I have a tendency to say things which I don’t mean - words come out of my head which I regret. (There is one famous incident - famous in my own memory, but long gone dead and buried anywhere else - when B and I were out to dinner with Sally Kington and her husband in a restaurant in Soho years ago. We were talking about Henry James, and someone was saying how difficult he is to read. I piped up that I thought he was quite easy - but, afterwards I realised I had confused James with Scott-Fitzgerald. I notice, by the way, in my Diary 29 - one of the Brazil diaries - which I’m typing up at the moment, a comment about how I chose to read Bertrand Russel’s a ‘History of Western Philosophy’ as a lighter read than a Henry James novel. And so often, when I come away from a social engagement, I am unhappy at the things I’ve said. This is an insecurity that has plagued me all my life.

4 April

‘Gosford Park’ - a film by Robert Altman. This film’s cast list reads like a who’s who of British acting: Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Clive Owen, Alan Bates, Richard E Grant, Stephen Fry to name just a few that I can remember in no particular order. It’s set at a country house over the weekend of a shooting party. Although a murder takes place, the film is a long way from being a murder mystery. Rather it is an exquisite examination of the lives and inter-relations between the lords themselves and the servants themselves and between the lords and servants. I came away wondering what it was really about - and not being able to answer my own question - one is left with a witty clever script, a fairly neat story well told, and some glorious acting performances (although Fry wasn’t very good, and Owen was mis-cast). I also thought the breakdown that Helen Mirren was given to act at the end was unacceptable - a woman like that simply wouldn’t behave in that way. (Emma Thompson’s character in the film of Ishiguro’s famous novel was more realistic to my mind - and, while I’m on the comparison, I thought Anthony Hopkins did his butler better than Alan Bates did the one in Gosford Park - although this might stem more from a failing of the script and/or director - not sure.)

Last week, I saw a film called ‘In the Bedroom’, with Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek. Like Gosford Park, it has had very good reviews and was nominated for one or two oscars. This film was more confusing. I quite liked it but I couldn’t work out why it was called ‘In the Bedroom’. The student son of the parent characters played by Wilkinson and Spacek becomes involved with a separated woman with two kids, but her ex is violent and eventually kills the son (about half way through the film). The second half plots the silent breakdown in the Wilkinson/Spacek relationship (not very well actually - I thought there was far too big a jump between normal-but-slightly-cool relations and the one argument they eventually have). So ‘in the bedroom’ could refer to why the son fell so in love with an unsuitable older woman (although not much is made of this - and we never see them in the bedroom), and to the frosty turn in the Wilkinson/Spacek relationship (but almost nothing is said of what actually happens between them in the bedroom). Then, having stayed within the credible bounds, the film veers off in the last fifth by having the Wilkinson character and his brother or brother-in-law kill the man who murdered their son (for his trial is taking too long, and it becomes clear that he will only spend a few years in prison any way). Why does Wilkinson go this far? Are the film-makers suggesting by the title that he goes as far as murder because his wife is not sleeping with him? If so (which is the only way I can make sense of this title), then the director did far too little to make this connection apparent and real. Still, Wilkinson and Spacek made a tawdry story watchable.

Also last week, I went to the theatre - with B, with Judy, Rob and Sophie - to see ‘The Clearing’, a play written by Helen Edmundson. Edmundson has written several of the Shared Experience adaptations, not least being the brilliant ‘Mill on the Floss’. But ‘The Clearing’ is an original play written 10 years or so ago. It’s set in Ireland in the period when Cromwell is imposing his rule over the colony and exiling Irish sympathisers to uninhabited parts of the country. The play is beautifully written and crafted around an Englishman, his beautiful Irish wife, her childhood friend and companion, and a friend of them both who joins the resistance movement. ‘The Clearing’ refers to Cromwell’s ethnic cleansing of the country, and to a clearing in the forest where the climax of the play takes place. The force of politics and loyalties has split the Englishman and his wife apart. They meet again at the end, in the clearing, and the wife has to tell the man that his son has died. I was sure Edmundson would find a way to bring hope into the ending - but she doesn’t. With the child dead, the man and woman retreat from the clearing with their armed supporters on either side ready to do battle.

15 April

Time has slipped by and a few things have happened in the interim. But I must start with Anna, since today is the end of our friendship. Although a very different affair from that with Louise a year ago, this one has lasted almost exactly the same length of time. But, whereas I was certainly playing - at least to some extent (because she deserved it) - with Louise, I was not with Anna. I was hoping for the best. But the best was not to be. But, in essence, I took her seriously, we built up a significant friendship over three months writing nearly every day, and, on Friday, we finally met. What I knew about her beforehand - she’d lied about her age, she had messy unresolved relationships - had not been quite sufficient to crush my expectations. I had a photo of her, which she said was very recent, and in which she looks very attractive. I had the evidence of her letters that she was a clever cultured woman. I also knew that she had been and done more things in her life than almost any other woman I’ve known. Thus, I hoped she would be sharp, lively, sparky and young in spirit. But she was none of these.

We arranged to meet on Friday at 1pm in the Royal Festival Hall ticket office. The idea was to have lunch, and chill out (as Adam would say) somewhere on the South Bank. The arrangements were slightly complicated by my gammy knee, and the fact that I was still dependent on two crutches. When I hobbled into the ticket office area and sat down at a table, I saw a woman, who I thought might be Anna, across the way at the computer terminals, but because my eyes don’t see so well at a distance, I decided it would be simplest to allow her to recognise me and my crutches - but she didn’t! I sat for 10 minutes or more, then I went to the toilet, so as to parade my crutches around, and still she didn’t come over to me. After another five minutes, I looked at her again and waved a brochure and she waved back, and came over. I mean what was she playing at?

From there we walked/hopped to Gabriel’s Wharf to the pizza place, but it was too busy and noisy, so we ate at a place next to it (which ended up costing me £50!). After that we went back to the RFH where we sat and talked until about 5. And then she left.

First, and foremost, she was very stocky, if not fat. She wore a raincoat the whole day, which she must have kept on to disguise her unattractive figure. And although she is attractive in the photo, she is not attractive in real life - I’m not sure why that is (perhaps the photo is older than she says, or perhaps she’s wearing a lot of make-up in it). But, there was no way in a million years, I could see myself being attracted to her.

Secondly, I found it rather disturbing that all her close relationships are a mess, are unresolved. She hates one brother, her relationship with another brother broke down some years ago which she can’t or won’t even start to try and explain. She has a very uneasy relationship with her mother (and I didn’t even find out what strife happened around the time of her father’s death - she didn’t go to the funeral for some reason). She has a very unhealthy relationship with her agent, and, as for her relationship with Richard, the father of her daughter, well we spent most of the four hours talking about it.

Thirdly, I found it extraordinary that she showed so little interest in me. I had already noticed this through our email conversations, but, as there was never any shortage of things to write about, it didn’t seem to matter - and we each revealed things about ourselves in time and in our own way. But she spent so long talking about her problem with Richard, and she never switched the conversation round to asking something about me, about Adam, or my relationship with Barbara, or what I was doing in Brazil, or what I am planning to do next year. I began to realise this was none other than a spoilt little girl - and a very middle-aged one at that - who isn’t really very interested in anyone else, and who is quite prepared to lie and cheat if it suits her. At one point, I recall, she said she had given up smoking four years ago, which would have been three years after Cara was born - but she told me in a letter that she’d given up before Cara was born.

Fourthly, I found it depressing that she never owned up to her real age. She had herself down as 36, and said nothing when I owned up to being 49 and not 43. And, unfortunately, it is not as if she looked 36 at all, at all. I’m pretty sure that Anna is a long way from being a nice person (I sort of knew this just by extrapolating from the kind of people who are her friends), but, nevertheless, I had no reason not to be nice to her (as I was - with reason - to Louise). So, when she sent me an encouraging email on her return, I decided to be straightforward. She replied, saying she, too, saw the relationship going nowhere, and that, in fact, she’d been seeing someone else in London any way! So I don’t think I need to write again - it’s ended amicably.

And now to the sad story of my knee, and why I was on crutches. We were playing in Epsom against the Eagles. We only had six players (although, because Gary was very late, we’d put Adam, who I’d brought to watch, down as a seventh player on the score sheet). We lost the first two sets fairly decisively, but, in the third set, we were nearly 10 points up, and had begun to find our form. I’d even done a couple of decent hits. On a free ball, John came in to set, and I called for it behind. Unfortunately, I hadn’t swung around enough, and so when I went for the hit, I must have returned to earth at an odd angle, and my knee, my leg, my body just gave way - and I was writhing on the floor and screeching in pain. It was like something had come apart in my knee - it was the worst injury I’ve ever had, I think. Someone brought me a useless icepack, and I dragged myself off to the side. Adam stepped in so that the team could have six players (a rule), although he stepped off court the moment the ball was served. Storm then went on to lose the third set (which was just as well, because I was far from comfortable). As I tried to hop to the changing room, my knee seemed to come apart again, which was a bit scary. Fortunately, I’d given Steve a lift so he was able to drive me home. I sat in the back seat with my leg up, and two packs of frozen peas, which we’d bought on the way, wrapped around the knee.

Somewhat awkwardly Steve stayed for tea which meant I couldn’t simply go and lie around on the sofa. Adam went over to B’s. When Steve finally went I hopped to the loo, and was struck down by what felt like a terrible cramp down the back of my bad knee and in my calf. But I couldn’t put my foot down and exercise the calf because of the damaged knee. I rolled around on the shower room floor, desperately rubbing and massaging my calf, and screaming my head off in agony. I somehow rolled across the room to the phone and called B who came straight over. But, by the time she arrived, the cramp had gone. But it was very scary, and there was an after pain in the calf until later the next day.

I kept expecting the damaged knee itself to hurt, but it didn’t. Rather stupidly I think, in retrospect, I slept on the sofa (I thought it would be easier to keep my leg propped up). I didn’t sleep too badly, but, in the morning, I couldn’t straighten the knee at all, and it seemed so terribly fragile. I was in a dreadful state psychologically, crying quite deeply. I think this was because a) I was depressed about the short-term practical consequences of the injury; and b) because of the long-term impact the injury would have on my volleyball playing. The injury came apropos of nothing - obviously I landed badly with my left leg slightly twisted, but this was nothing unusual, nothing one might not do in the next game. How, in the future, can I play with any vigour if such an injury (with its pain, and trauma and short-term practical inconveniences) might occur at any time for any reason.

In any case, Barbara decided my physical distress warranted that I should go to the doctor; and, in my psychological distress, I agreed with her. She stayed home from work, and took me around 11. We waited nearly an hour, and the GP (who had once had a smashed up knee and knew all about it) explained what she thought might have happened, but said I needed to go A&E. So, after a quick stop at home, B took me into Guildford hospital (and then went on to work). This was a truly horrible experience. I managed to eek out ‘The Guardian’ for two hours, but my wait ended up being something like five hours. Apparently, I was on the ‘major’ list which takes longer than the ‘minor’ list, and I was labelled ‘green’ rather than ‘yellow’ (or presumably ‘red’) which meant I kept being pushed down the priority list. I watched so many people come and go before I was seen that I was a seething mixture of rage and frustration, and it was only the knowledge, I gained by chance, that there was one person (who looked to have no problems at all) who had arrived before me, and who was further down the list than me that gave me any relief at all. I suspect she might have been a plant!

When I was finally seen, by a doctor who I had seen personally call in several people from the waiting room who had arrived after me, and who did not seem particularly injured, I was treated and x-rayed fairly quickly. The doctor thought a cyst in the back of my knee might have been an aggravating circumstance, but, having lanced it, there was nothing particular she could do. The x-rays showed nothing broken, so I was given a bandage, crutches, and an appointment at the fracture clinic 10 days hence. B, who had arrived back from work and then gone on home, came to pick me up. I was relieved to have had the knee checked, but I was mightily weary from the A&E experience.

16 April 2002

The frames I bought at John Lewis a couple of weekends ago arrived today, and I’ve duly framed up the nine Elstead photos as planned: three of heather, three of grasses, and three self-portraits (shadows by oak trees). The next step will be to drill nails into the hall wall to hang them - getting them straight will be the tricky bit.

No rain for nearly three weeks, and sun all day today - but I can’t even think of going for a walk with my knee. However, I am getting around the house perfectly well at the moment without crutches. The knee is tender and fragile, and a slight twist or bang hurts it, and I can’t straighten it properly without difficulty. Tomorrow I go to the fracture clinic.

I’ve just watched, with Adam, a programme about hippies in the 1960s-70s. Joni, San Francisco, the Doors, Easy Rider, LSD, Woodstock, Carnaby Street, Katmandu - they’re all there in a daze of light and colour and nudity and psychedelic images. It’s strange to think it was all so long ago, that it’s History now. I tell Adam that I was never really part of the hippy movement, but that I took on some of the trappings of the hippy culture (the long hair, the bare feet, the travelling) without really identifying myself as a hippy. I try to explain that very few people actually were at the centre of the whole hippy movement, and that many millions more, like me, were affected by it in years to come. Also I find it a little disturbing that the programme (well, history really) sets the hippy movement in concrete so easily, as if everyone involved in it dressed in the same way and behaved in the same way. But, to my mind, we were all trying to be different from everyone else. The programme shows hippies together, but when they weren’t at Woodstock or at a love-in, they were being out-and-out individuals in their own street, family, college or wherever. The programme used a recent interview with Joni Mitchell (who does not look good in age - so contrasting against her beauty and naturalness at the time of Woodstock).

Sunday 21 April 2002

I am depressed about my knee. It is two weeks today since I twisted it, ripped something apart inside, and lay on the floor screaming in agony. Last Wednesday, I drove into Guildford hospital for my appointment at the fracture clinic. I saw an orthopaedic surgeon called Mr Paremain. By this time I was confidently wandering around the house without my crutches, but with a pronounced limp. The doctor pulled and bent my knee a few times, and compared it with the right knee. He said he didn’t know what had happened, but he decided I should undergo a couple of weeks of physiotherapy before considering the need for an arthroscopy. He said there was no point in booking me in for a scan, because by the time I had had one, he would already have the results of an arthroscopy if that’s the way things went. I asked him if the ligament did repair itself would it be weaker in the future and he said yes, probably.

Oddly, it was only after this appointment that I began to realise that I really couldn’t straighten my leg properly and that this was the main problem. During my A&E examination, I had said it felt very tight at the back (which led to the doctor finding and piercing a cyst), but I was still under the impression that the knee was generally damaged, and was bound to hurt and be stiff. But after 10 days, and having left the crutches behind at the hospital, I realised that I was not worrying about whether I’d ever play volleyball again, but whether I’d ever manage to walk properly again.

I hobbled round to the physiotherapy department, and was given an appointment on Friday. It was quite a pain to find somewhere to park on the Wednesday, so I endeavoured to drive in by motorbike on Friday (I figured I would be able to park near the entrance which would mean far less of a walk). I managed to drive the bike reasonably well, and limp through to physiotherapy. A cute young physiotherapist called Alison filled out a long form

27 April

She asked me lots of questions even before looking at my knee. When I asked her why there should be no pain, she admitted that, although a torn ligament hurts, sometimes when the cruciate ligament is completely ruptured it doesn’t hurt. Which depressed me. Then she pressed and pulled, pushed and manhandled my leg and knee for 10 or more minutes while asking me more questions. (Once, when she was lifting my leg from one side of her body to the other, my foot brushed one of her slight breasts - which cheered me up). After about 45 minutes, she concluded that it might not be my ligament at all, but that I might have a bit of cartilage stuck in my joint which was preventing me from straightening it. It is possible, she said, that with exercise the bit might move or dislodge itself. The purpose of the physiotherapy, she said, was to see if it would be possible to avoid surgery. She gave me four exercises, relating to the knee joint, to do three times a day, and fixed me up for an appointment a week hence.

The exercises proved quite difficult. I have done them rigorously every day. (I’m in Brussels now, but at home I do them in the lounge with the TV teletext on, because it’s the only way I can be sure of counting the 20 seconds that I need to be holding each muscle exercise 10 times.) But over the six days so far, nothing has improved. I limp very badly because my knee won’t go straight, not because it hurts (although it does feel very fragile, which stops me doing very much at all); and when I do the exercises I feel a blunt pain in the back of my knee as if there’s a lump there.

And so I remain deeply depressed - with the realisation that I will almost certainly have to have surgery at some point. (I chatted briefly to Nick about my knee while we were scoring for the Tornadoes match on Sunday. He said that he had seen on ‘Tomorrow’s World’ a technique for performing some micro-surgery at the same time as doing a diagnostic arthroscopy. He says it involves using very small scissors for chomping up the mis-placed cartilage which enables the body to deal with it easier - thus obviating the need for a second operation to deal with the problem diagnosed by the arthroscopy.) I really need to do some research on this.

It has been a very unfruitful trip to Brussels - there is very little new material since Easter; and neither will there be much new next week or the week after. Indeed, I am due to travel out on Tuesday night to arrive just in time for May Day all day Wednesday - which is a holiday here (I did this once before - it makes for a frustrating empty day). The week after, the Commission is on holiday for three days I think, so I have no idea how I am going to fill up my newsletters. At least I don’t care so much these days.

I saw a job advertised in the ‘Official Journal’, and surprised myself by filling out the application form. It’s for Editor-in-Chief for a Community Agency in Dublin - it deals with living and working conditions. I was quite excited by the idea of the job (I think I would find it very hard to do PR for business or industry, but I could probably manage it, psychologically speaking, for a goodish cause.) It was only when I looked at the website, and at a six-page brochure newsletter produced by the Agency that I realised quite how tedious the job might prove to be - it’s not as if this Agency is setting the Community alight - I’ve never even heard of it. On the other hand there are not many Community Agency’s in English-speaking countries, and fluent French did not appear to be mandatory for the job. Moreover, whereas I’ve no interest in working in Brussels, the thought of living in or near Dublin seemed quite attractive.

When I told Adam, he got quite angry, and protested because I hadn’t discussed the idea with him. Isn’t it funny how, if you give a child so much of your life that, when a day comes that you suggest you might go away because you need to do something for yourself, all you get back is anger not thanks; and how, when you’ve made a habit of discussing small and big things with your child to help him understand and mature, that, when a day comes that you need to make a decision for yourself without discussion, the child condemns you rather than thanks you for having discussed everything else with him. No, what IS funny is that I should have expected Adam to have any different reaction - why, without explanation, should he not be angry. Of course he was angry. I did reassure him that I had no chance of getting the job, and that this was only a preliminary application - the time for discussion would be when and if I were to be short-listed.

Adam and I went to see ‘Ghosts’ at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre last week. This was an English Touring Theatre (I think) production with Diana Quick in the starring role. Some years ago, I’d taken Ads to see ‘An Enemy of the People’, and, although he found it tough in parts, he really liked it. But he was less enamoured of ‘Ghosts’. It’s true it doesn’t have any action, and is very wordy. (I thought the director tried to over-compensate for this by having the actors keep moving around the stage rather unnecessarily.) But, nevertheless, it was a top-notch production, with top-class acting. It was not a play I remember ever seeing or reading. The theatre was packed - the production has received heaps of publicity - but I was underwhelmed overall.

My party invitations finally went out last week - and Mum is coming down to Elstead on Saturday so I can discuss food and stuff with her and Barbara. I do feel, though, that my two Barbaras are not exactly the most creative party collaborators - I feel the need to find/do something a bit out of the ordinary for my party, but they are not the ones to help me find what that thing might be - and nor, I’m sure, will either of them feel confident enough to develop any surprises on the day for me - but that’s the bed I’ve made these past 15 years, and I must lie in it. This will not be a young man’s wild party, but a mild gathering of a middle-aged man’s few friends.

I somehow managed to fritter away the whole of last week, one of my valuable free weeks. I really don’t know how. It’s true my knee problems did not help my mood, but the knee doesn’t hurt or pain me when I sit at the desk, so there’s no physical reason why I couldn’t have done something constructive. I did not even attempt to tackle Kip Fenn since I learnt last month that one week is simply too little time to get into it. I did spend half a day or so revising bits of BLR and preparing three more letters to agents, although with a heavy heart knowing they will come back sooner or later.

I’ve also started work on the Elstead Paper Boat Race Jubilee year 2002 posters.

The most creative thing I’ve done for ages though is to have hung my triple triptych of Elstead photos. This has been a long business. First I had to choose the photos, which takes a lot of time; then I had to get them printed; then I had to find frames for them; then I had to decide what to call each of them (all my framed photos now have names, thanks to B’s labelling machine); then I had to decide where and how to hang them; and then I had to hang them - which I did at the w/e, with Adam’s help. I planned to hang them in a three square rectangle on the hall wall, where there has been a big gap for ever, but, as I was trying to measure them out on the floor, to see how far apart they should be, I had a brainwave to put them together as if fitting together like a jigsaw piece into one huge picture. Since they looked excellent together (they had originally been chosen to be a set, rather than individual photos, particular because of the colours) and since the space on the wall was crying out for one large picture rather than lots of little ones, this worked beautifully. They did take a long time to hang, though, because the measuring and drilling had to be as precise as possible, so that they would fit together as well hanging vertically as they did lying flat on the floor! After a fair amount of jiggery pokery (hammering the hanging screws this way and that), I did manage it - and they look great: three pictures of purple heather (Hither, Thither and Wither), three pictures of grasses (In red, In blue, In green), and three pictures of oaks with shadows of me taking the photograph (Thin and Twisted, Old and Gnarled, Small and Fallen).

Sunday 28 April 2002

The saga of my knee goes on and on and on. Is this what my journals are going to be like: the chronicles of old age, endless descriptions of sore joints, aching muscles, dysfunctional organs, croaky throats, dusty lungs, fuzzy eyesight, inattentive doctors, flippant nurses, crowded waiting rooms - how tedious, how very tedious. To read; but not to write: I need a patient listener, a personal confidante, an uncomplaining confessor.

I rigorously did all the exercises given me by the physiotherapist even though they were difficult, and hurt the back of my knee. I believed what she had told me, that it might be possible to dislodge the stray bit of cartilage she thought might be preventing my knee from straightening. But, when I went back to see her on Friday, after a week, she was concerned about the lump in the back of my knee - a cyst. She said it hadn’t been there a week ago, but it was now quite noticeable. I had to see the doctor again before she could go on with any physiotherapy. She went off to try and get me an appointment earlier than the one I already had - in 10 days time. But she couldn’t get one. So that was it. I asked her whether I should carry on with the exercises, and she didn’t seem to know. She suggested I could do the ones that didn’t hurt, but she didn’t seem to care.

So the cyst is back, the one the doctor in A&E found and bled. I realise now that the orthopaedic surgeon should have paid more attention to the cyst problem. I think the physiotherapy has actually brought the cyst to life - after all I’ve been pressing and pressing and pressing on the back of my knee to the exercises, and that’s where the bloody thing is. It will be over a month by the time I go back to see Mr Paremain, and it will be as though I’m not a whit further forward than when I first went to casualty because I couldn’t straighten my leg. I’ve tried to find Mr Paremain on the internet, but there seems to be no trace of him. I’ve also tried to find out something about cysts in the knee, and there does seem to be a kind which can be associated with a meniscus tear - and one paper I read appeared to suggest that an MRI scan is more useful than arthroscopy. But I shall try and do more research before I get back to see Mr Par - bloody - main.

May 2002

Paul K Lyons


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