Monday 30 April 2018


Spring sprang, and took the daffodils with it.
Is sprang a word in that particular context? Lately words are becoming more of a challenge to recognise, what with the new social media cultures, shortening of words to letters and even the loss of words. Have any of you heard of, or bought Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris’ book ‘Lost for Words’? It is a beautifully annotated encyclopaedia of nature related words that are in danger of being ousted in favour of supposedly less grandiose words.
At the Cambridge Literary Festival, on the 14th of April, Jackie Morris live painted an otter, using Japanese ink and water drawn and bottled by MacFarlane from the chalk springs at Nine Wells in south Cambridge. A Cambridgeshire campaign to save these lost words by ensuring every primary school has a copy of the book has been very successful. I feel inclined to buy a copy for myself and the four children who meander in and out of my life. The walls of our front living room are covered by animal artwork anyway, although perhaps not using the sumi ink and gold leaf of Morris’ illustrations… her website is a treasure trove of her drawings.

Poetry was also a feature at the Cambridge Literary Spring Festival, with Wendy Cope talking about her latest collection. She was going to call it ‘Seventy’, the age she is now, thinking it would be an attractive selling point for the seventy year old market. But then she realised it might not appeal to every other age, so she changed the name to ‘Anecdotal Evidence’. She was as droll in person as she is in verse.

Mum has planted a very conservative tray of tulips after the muntjacs devoured hundreds in past years. But I have bought a variety of bright orange gerbera and a pot of vivid purple something or other from our local garden centre, Scotsdales, determined to have splashes of colour everywhere possible. We had one lonely Bird of Paradise come up in the conservatory, and with that we must suffice.

In wider British news, we have a new possible king! Well, hopefully Princess Charlotte stands a chance first (the first royal sister to hold her own place in the lineage) but still, welcome Prince Louis Arthur Charles! Nicely timed, out of the way of his Uncle Harry’s wedding in less than three weeks. I haven’t been sent an invitation but I might be in London on that day, all being well, for a theatrical outing I booked a year and a half ago, a thing I have never done in my life. More about that as and when, and if possible...

Meanwhile, onwards to May. Lilac wisteria is already garlanding our front door, and I have had two rounds of Rituximab monoclonal antibody therapy after a bleak nine months of waiting. So, as Olaf the Snowman would say, ‘All good things. All good things...’

Thursday 19 April 2018


Not a warrior. Just a woman.
There is nothing 'just' about being a woman.

You wore purple slippers while incarcerated
In the place without colour.

You noticed the small failures, and sought to
Correct the large ones.

You housed two tortoises for thirty years,
And built another home for those of us

Wandering in the bewildering wilderness
Of lupus. Systemic lupus, that uncontrollable beast

That ropes us into the pen of our lives,
Trying to tame us into submission.

Not a warrior. Just a woman.
Who wore her height stylishly.

Who ate her cake ravenously.
Who lived her truths wisely.

But not without humour. Never
Without humour.

Are you here now? Like I asked you to be?
Or have you already flown far, free

To conquer new lands, unite with old friends,
Your mother, who left you too soon.

As you have left us, too soon.

Shaista Tayabali
April 16, 2018

linked with dverse poets

Shelagh Cheesman was the Chair of the Cambridgeshire Lupus UK group, the champion of many, and my dear friend. Along with our friend Colette Barrere, we formed part of an informal club called The Chloe Club, wearing our shared necklaces, lunching at the Tickell Arms, breaking down our encounters with the medics into humorous morsels. 
I can't say words like 'I'll miss her' because they sound too banal. And anyway, she doesn't seem to have left me. Yet.
I recited the poem above at her funeral service on Monday 16th. It was a poem she commissioned herself two weeks before she died at Addenbrooke's. She unknowingly gave me the title of the poem with this quote: I don't like the word 'warrior'. But I like the word 'positivity'. 

The not-so-formal photo: Shelagh (L), me, Coco (R), post Tickell Arms lunch