Tuesday, 25 September 2012


It was pouring rain yesterday when I left for surgery. The pink roses were bowed in head and spirit. "Buck up!" I urged, "we've a long day ahead." It wasn't a long procedure, although might have been nicer if the Blue Eyed Surgeon had indulged me in a wee song. No such luck. I wearily warbled "It's a long way to Tipperary..." to encourage the Irish in him to join in, but he grimly persisted in needling, draining, anaesthetising...  This was me all day yesterday...
I howled a lot, silently and sometimes, loudly, dramatically, but mostly I felt as an animal would, unable to scratch or lick the wound clean of pain. My kindhearted neighbour Victoria stopped by with a cold eye mask and on Twitter, the Girls were endlessly comforting and funny. As I approached sleep, I dreaded waking to more burning. But it does feel easier today, and this afternoon I answered a knock at the door to behold...
Thank you Kathy from Twitter, thank you for my cup of tea-roses. They are perched just beside my bed and with the sun pouring in, today is so much better than yesterday. Gli esperti dei fiori - you are the flower expert. Indeed you all are, expert at arranging flowers and cards and love to be sent to a place and a person who is deeply appreciative of every heartfelt, healing gesture.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


The movement a golf player makes with his/her club to hit the ball. A golf swing is made up of a series of complex mechanical body movements. A perfect golf swing is regarded as the "holy grail" of the sport, and there are many approaches as to how to achieve "perfection" - Wikipedia

On a rainy day in September, the last of the summer colours bleach away. It has been quite a difficult summer and after many hospital admissions I am more than a trifle worn out. But this past week, one bright burst of energy appeared in the form of my younger brother. He spent the week infusing us with his usual brand of good humoured, careless love in between bouts of giving me golf lessons. He didn't entirely despise my first attempts so I am hopeful I shan't embarrass myself in front of The Nephew who no doubt, at 18 months, is already perfecting the art of swing.  

The Brother accompanied me to hospital a few days ago, ducking out only when the Needle Lady came by, all smiles and jokes. (The Needle Lady that is, not The Brother... she really was the chirpiest phlebotomist I have ever met! Unnerving, but nice!). And then, with a hug and admonitions to visit him soon, in his part of the world, he was gone. Tomorrow I have eye surgery - unless the surgeon decides against it... and today I am as dull as the grey stone sky. Recently, I watched choirmaster Gareth Malone gather together a disparate group of surgeons and therapists to create a perfect harmony - I found the programme fascinating. The thought that someday, in an alternate universe perhaps, I could be sung to by NHS staff, cheers me no end! NHS trust hospitals work "as a series of little villages" with very little communication, if any, between consultants and kitchen porters, so to witness the coming together of the complex combination of individuals that make up my own hospital experience, was a thrill. The full appreciation of the unique talents of all members of staff is something I learned from my father who was loved by medics and technicians from all departments. Humour, gentleness and a song on the lips of my surgeon - is that too much to ask for? 
"Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down... in the most delightful way!" 
Now that's my idea of 'swing'!

Sunday, 16 September 2012


As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
- Psalms 104.3
This weekend there were four weddings I was invited to. FOUR! What is it about the second week of September? As it turns out, everything! The most beautiful, balmy weather... all sunshine and summer. But you know how it is with weddings - numbers! And a guest like myself is hopeless. I never know how I'll be nearer the date, so I am always amazed and flattered to be invited, and then horribly woebegone because I cannot RSVP with any confidence. In Grenobles, Letchworth, Cornwall and Manchester, confetti has been flung and vows exchanged. In Cambridge, a little tired from hospital shenanigans, I received a card from Teresa, a Twitter friend, which made me laugh and the words inside energised me so much, that instead of bemoaning my fate, I decided to have a Day Out.
Chocolate ice-cream in my paw, I trotted along, avoiding the patter of the punt sales, stopping to listen to Besame Mucho crooned by a busker, taking in the glorious sights of The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China at the Fitz (the jade! the dancing clay figurines! the wickedly nifty museum guards who watched me like a hawk so I couldn't take a single sneaky picture!) and then, would you believe, I saw a newly married couple! You do have to peer through the gates of Peterhouse, and down to the archway, but still! A sighting!
Buoyed up, I spent the loveliest time in Little St Mary's Church (my father's favourite church) and the chapel at Pembroke. 
Psalm 104 was open at St Mary's and Mum read a passage aloud while the sun poured through the stained glass... 
and really, it felt as though I was at each September wedding, at the important part, the vow to remember that although we commit to love each other truly, this day too, like all others, shall pass like the wind over grass, and so we must treasure each other until the wind knows us no more.
Which is really what the Dear Parents do... they know how to treasure each other. Tonight they have swanned off to a wedding reception, sari and suit bedecked, while I, Cinders, tug my forelock and sweep and clean and cook... ah! 'tis a weary life I lead... (er... well... or I might just watch the new episode of Downton Abbey snuggled up with a mug of tea!).

Saturday, 8 September 2012

KUNG FU WARRIOR PRINCESS (Inner Peace, Inner Peace...)

When I was a child at school in India, I discovered I shared my name with a Mughal warrior called Shaista Khan. A male warrior, who, being Muslim, was the enemy of the Indian nation at the time. It got worse. In a battle with the Indian hero Shivaji, Shaista Khan fled, but not before losing three fingers to the hero's sword. Children can be cruel... "How come you still have all your fingers, Shaista Khan?" Ha. Ha.
But a funny thing happened (a pattern set to this day) - I became perversely proud of my connection to the beleaguered anti-hero. I quite liked the idea of a shadowy warrior balancing the prettier meanings of my name. Warriors can be graceful too.
So when a Karate Sensei came to our school and proposed classes, I signed up with my brothers. We were not to know that our teacher was a violent man, with an inclination to psychotic bursts of physical rage, which we numbly witnessed, paralysed by their suddenness. I seemed to be protected by my ability to recite. In a clear voice, from memory, I would dutifully recite the Dojo poem-prayers. Poetry has been my protector in unexpected ways. (Most likely, my brothers and I were protected by the fact that Sensei seemed quite afeared of our mother)...
During my week in hospital I discovered Kung Fu Panda on the little tv, and gloried in the lightheartedness of it all. I have decided perhaps it is time to make a return to some form of martial art, even if only T'ai Chi. What do you think?
While home from hospital, I had an unexpected and wonderful visit from Fiona, one of my Irish friends on Twitter
and she was so full of energy that I felt very strong myself, and during my monoclonal infusion two days ago, I asked my nurse Annama to take a picture of me, kung fu style...
Of course I was laughing my head off too much for that first picture to be serious - Annama thought I was CRAZY! "Are you mad?" she asked. "What is this picture for?"
But how about this?? Do I look fierce? Or do I?!! Don't mess. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012


I was going to name this post 'Goodbye Cruel Ward!' just to be dramatic, but it wasn't a cruel ward at all.
Hepatology patients are often in-patients for so long that they become very familiar and friendly with the staff... but I was soon moved to my own side room...
where I could display my gorgeous birthday cards and my I Love Dublin sweatshirt picked up from one of my brothers' travels... and the green chair from which I could view my own rather dubious view...
and smugly enjoy a patch of sun...
From here..
to here, outside my front door, where the butterfly lavender were waiting for me..
as well as two cards from Niamh, my extraordinary new friend on twitter, a book from my dearest friend Mary, and my birthday present from Malaysia, where Riz and Angel made me a photo collection of their favourite travel images from Kyoto, Japan to Angkor Wat, Cambodia and Lake Manyara, Tanzania. "Dear Shaista," their inscription reads "A magic carpet for your imagination."

Paddington returns to find it is still her birthday :)