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 :)


ds said...

What an enchanting (if one can use the word 'enchanting' in such circumstances) way to spend such difficult hours! Cake sounds yummy, and as for meeting Clive Hope you are feeling better soon.

Yin said...

Bet he's very pleased to have passed a charming few hours in your company! :) How lovely for you both to have found a kindred spirit at such a time!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh I love your posts, Shaista. Where else can one find a drool-making chocolate cake, a beautiful radiant maiden, a lanky, interesting poet, and a tragic story of cruel abandonment, all in the same few paragraphs? Yes, this is the stuff of life. My heart aches for the girl with burned skin and her callous swain. As for the cake, I might require that recipe. Eating a slice of it is now on my Bucket List!!!!!!! Hope you feel much better after your treatment, kiddo. And that they saved you another slice of cake at home!

mermaid gallery said...

Marian Keyes in the title grabbed me...she can make me laugh like no other....Clive he is pretty sensational too....yummy cake makes the day!.....BE WELL!

Rakesh Biswas said...

Great to read this update.

best regards, rakesh

David McAlpine Cunningham said...

What a fascinating post. I wish you all the very best in battling your illness. I used to be more a fan of Clive's prose than his poetry, but I think he has hit a rich seam with the latter in recent years. There's an amazing one about his illness:

Ruth said...

My dear, you deserve to meet Clive James and ten more celebrities at the needles. And they you. But you and the celebrities do not deserve the needles. And so, life is such a mix of fair and unfair.


Jeanne-ming Brantingham said...

I am reading through your recent posts. I have this visual of you holding court in the needle room. It's like that is your throne. People wanting to approach you...they do...they share all their intimate fears and feel braver because you are brave. You are the Queen.

Kriti said...

That sounds like a book I should have - maybe it'll even inspire me to bake! Enjoyed reading about your encounter :)

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