Monday 25 June 2012


I am remembering 
from different times;
Chiefs with golden crowns,
Deities, raising fire,
Bejewelled headdress
of wrought turquoise
and rose petals
to guide the way - 

I am seeing love
in all its forms
for the footsteps 
of my protectors.  

A few days ago,  among my Irish friends on twitter, a novena was begun. The name of the prayerful mammy is Fiona Martin - and the name of the Saint watching over me is Saint Teresa, the Little Flower, Saint of the Little Ways, my favourite Saint! I pocketed a handful of rose petals before the surgery, and clutched them through it. My surgeon, who just happens to be Irish too, and also bears the surname of Martin, had no problems at all with the novena petals accompanying him as he needled away. At the end of it all, he said I did beautifully... but really it was him that did beautifully. He is the kindest and best of surgeons and I hope he is smiling when he reads this! Home again beloveds, thank you so much for the magical connections. For the silver heart charm bracelet sent by Marian Keyes, and the ease with which fear can be utterly displaced by love.

image from Le Petit Prince, words by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

Friday 22 June 2012


When I was a little girl, I went riding, on holiday, with my brothers. We each had our 'own' horse - mine was a gentle beauty called Shani (of course I instantly felt a connection, same first syllable!). She was perfect.
Until the day she bolted. A cow lowed deep and something about the sound spooked Shani and off she pelted for what felt like miles; I held on for dear life until, eventually, the others caught up with us... I hope you don't think I am a wimp, but I have never been back on a horse since. The opportunity hasn't arisen anyway, we moved from India soon after, but I have a fear of spooking horses now. And, yes, I suppose, a fear of horses.
A few days ago, part of my extended family visited from Vancouver to celebrate my cousin Tushna's 21st birthday - after a cake orgy, Tushna and I went for a walk along the bridges of Little Shelford. We stopped at the fence and watched two horses for a while. The younger one, brown and perky, nuzzled the chocolate Easter egg out of my hand and proceeded to play football with it until it was smeared utterly into the ground. Job done, he waltzed off. Then arrived the older white beauty. A memory of Shani stirred. She was soft as velvet, huge dark eyes, and a peculiar lump over her eye. A tumour? Emboldened by fellow suffering, I held the long sloping face in my two hands and rested my forehead against hers. I talked of this and that. I apologised for my fear. And I asked for her good wishes for Monday when I shall be trolleyed into hospital for eye surgery. My Molteno tube implant is going to be needled because the pressure in my eye has been building. Is painful, dear readers. Am almost looking forward to the ease I hope the operation will bring.
All this week, another joy has also thrilled through me, and through so many others - the moment when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi finally received, in person, her Nobel Peace Prize of 1991. She is being honoured with awards and honorary degrees across Europe, and in every piece of footage, it seems to me, her feet barely touch the earth. Graceful and contained though Daw Suu has been in exile, it seems to me, given half a chance, she would run, she would fly. At every opportunity, she skips to the waiting crowds, momentarily breaking sombre lines, to accept a flower, a hug, tearful gratitude.
To see you free,
To see you free,
Aung San Suu Kyi,
Aung San Suu Kyi.

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Saturday 9 June 2012


The day before I shlepped back into hospital for my second round of monoclonals, I decided to bake a cake. Marian Keyes' brand new copy of Saved By Cake needed breaking in. I studied each recipe during the Jubilee weekend and finally decided on the most interesting and unconventional recipe - a combination of Guinness and molasses! Couldn't wait!
There's cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, brown sugar, butter, flour, eggs and some kind of magic because it turned out beautifully. I've almost always baked carrot cakes and Father's personal favourite is a good sponge cake (safe! safe!) so the parents were slightly taken aback by the flavours - but on the eve of a visit to the needles I can't bear to play it safe.

Armed with slices of cake, grapes for balance and a good book (Marian's recent gift), I settled into the armchair for a long infusion. Midway, I sent a jokey tweet to friends with a picture of my needled hand and thought nothing of it, until it appeared as tbough the man in the chair diagonally opposite was staring at me. Did he think I'd taken the photo of him? Slightly unnerved, I thought it was my eyes - maybe he was asleep and, perhaps, locked in that position? But then the tea lady came round and he asked, "D'ye have anymore of those nice buscits?" and something about that Australian accent stirred some kind of memory. I couldn't be sure. An infusion bay! Surely not. I decided to chance a meeting. Everyone else was asleep or lost in thought, so I wheeled my drip over and offered Guinness cake to accompany our cups of tea.

'Twas Clive James! He partook of the cake after I assured him it was a Marian Keyes cake, hence the alcohol content was nothing to be alarmed by; we talked of poetry and fame, form and metre, and the dispensing of both when snubbing imperialism; his long years of being a critic and the short tiring months of being ill. He has leukaemia but was being treated with my favourite drug of choice - Intravenous Immunoglobulins - so feel sure he is in the best of hands. He advised me to look him up, since I seemed to have no knowledge of his many books of poetry. Did you know Clive James was a poet? He was reading a selection of Robert Frost to pass the time...

His infusion ended hours before mine, and after we wished each other well, and he toddled off, a young woman came up to me and told me her husband had just left her because she has stage 4 nephritis and lupus has burned off her face and hair. I assured her she looked beautiful in her paisley headscarf. Shining eyes, gentle soul. Such is life in hospital mes amies... painfully tragic despite the cake and celebrities.

And yet, oh thank goodness, for cake and celebrities :)

Tuesday 5 June 2012


The street parties continue unabated up and down the country, and the Mall is flooded with the sea of Her Majesty's men and women and children, satisfied with the merest glimpse of the carriage, and the historical figure within.

As War Horse saluted the Queen and her family on Sunday, rain bucketed down on the Thames and Prince Philip has been taken ill with the chill of six hours of regimented standing. But the smile on his face through those hours as a thousand boats sailed past!

On an earlier occasion, 550 horses from across the Commonwealth danced and trilled their way into the watching Queen's heart, all in perfect symmetry from Chile to Oman except for one set of performers... the white beauties of Jean Francois Pignon, horse whisperer of France, who possessed a freedom and magic all their own. The Queen's love of horses is legendary, second only to her love of dogs,

and of course the other love of her life that has matched decade for decade, a consort who pledged and held his allegiance to a woman, his true love...
And one other love affair - that of a son for his mother - there is something so endearing about Prince Charles - he held the audience of 100,000 lightly, in the palm of his hand, as he urged a loud cheer for his father... "If you cheer loud enough, maybe he will hear you from his room in hospital and get better"...
And finally, the tribute song penned by Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber... made memorable by the sweetest of soloists... why do the English pretend to mutter about royalty? They love it!!