Friday, 27 March 2020


Over the course of this week, beginning Monday 23rd March, I have had a swathe of texts from the NHS Coronavirus service. The very first one instructed me to stay home for 12 weeks and this morning’s told me to make sure I phone a friend or relative everyday. I’m phoning in this way, through my blog and vlog.

The willow and cherry trees sandwich our home and I try to keep my mind steady. In some ways life is unchanged for me, and in other ways everything is new because everyone else is experiencing it for the first time - this global disorder to the sense your life made to you. I have experienced a microcosm of this disorder every single day for the past twenty years... and still make little sense of it.

So I walk on ... as you do... taking one step at a time.... que sera sera ... except we don’t really believe that, or adhere to it. We don’t want it to be what it will be. We want to make it what we want it to be. Who wins this? The men in power keep speaking in war analogies. No room for softness and gentleness even in this time of great vulnerability. My walks with Dad can only be described as gentle and vulnerable. Especially now that I can’t manage them anymore. I have a heavy cold, cough and sore throat, have re-started antibiotics on the recommendation of my immunologists and need to stay away to protect him, and Mum, for a while.  I’m glad we walked when we could.

Saturday, 21 March 2020


Am I naive to call it that? Probably. But I would rather be naively hopeful during a global pandemic than be destroyed by fear of a thing I exist with daily, hourly. And that is extinction by infection. Talk about unromantic language. Some English consonants are not the prettiest sounding.

There are cars whizzing past, still. And the sound of conversation, laughter and once, a child crying next door. My mother is chopping vegetables for soup tonight. And my father is doing his floor exercises. On Friday, schools closed their gates around Britain, following suit behind most of Europe. The supermarkets are buckling under the strain but community morale and practical solutions are being invented by a world used to being superhuman, charged by motivation and productivity and consumption. Oh dear. More of those consonants.

Let’s steer towards the sea. And Venice’s clear waters.

On Monday, I had my six monthly dose of Rituximab, which depletes my B cells, and takes me on a briefly intense chemotherapy journey. Then it passes. But the meeting place of a new virus, further immunosuppressive drug therapy and continuing chronic illness is... interesting. This slow paced, enforced self-isolation life? This is my jam. This is where I dwell as a matter of course. This place is never quite comfortable in a world of motion and forward full speed ahead-ness, but it is home, for me. Am I better prepared than you for the quiet life? Perhaps. Well, except for the extinction by infection part.

The post and delivery men come and go. Retired NHS staff are returning with sleeves rolled up in solidarity. The birds were riotous earlier this week, but sounded a little subdued today. Humans, eh? they roll their eyes at each other. Just can’t tell what they’ll be up to next.

Are you coping alright? Is the quieter pace of life easy for you to adapt to? Or are you among the population who are busy doing at home work-outs, creating community cohesion networks, magazines, reading groups? I feel tired just thinking of the ways in which people are stopping, slowing down and finding ways to ‘do things’ in a time of government mandated no-doing. Perhaps this is because I have had a winter of respiratory infections already, and I have almost no energy to worry about a virus that seems to be making most people very considerate. But I gathered just enough to upload a vlog to my ancient channel, in case you want a little glimpse into my life! My skills are desperate, but there's always a chance I'll get better :)

Thursday, 6 February 2020


From June to June I don't know who I am,
though I walk the old familiar paths, 
tracing and retracing into muscle and sinew

Who are you?
Who are you?
Who are you?

I am a Pokemon hunter
with chronic illness and no car, no invisibility 
cloak to protect me. 

I am a daughter, but not a mother.
I am a Queen of this, 
but not that.

I am a traveller who stays still for so long
she forgets she once walked 
among Inukshuk, and between redwoods. 

I am a reader who ceased to read.

Instead, I watch a bright screen move me
while my eyes and brain exchange 
the same, tired greeting

Here again?
Here again.
Here. Again.

A muntjac looked across the field 
at me, not trusting the scent of me.

We share this earth so cautiously. 

(c) Shaista Tayabali, 2020
prompt from Dverse Poets, ('What day is it anyway?'); image from Wildlife Watch: Forest of Dean
inspiration: my friend Helena, who walked in the garden with me, sunshine on our faces, muntjac footprints beneath our feet, and the wild world of hope blinking in the possibilities (Helena reminds me... I keep forgetting, am too tired, too sick, gripped by infections and fibromyalgia.) 

Friday, 17 January 2020


It’s 2020! Which matches neatly for anyone who likes their numbers mirrored or believes in numerical significance. I think I belong to that crowd ... like when I glance at my watch and see the time is 17:17 or 23:23. It happens so often I take it in my stride as one of those natural oddities. So far so good, or so meaningful.

But does anyone really experience a seismic change for the prosperous? And it usually is prosperity (or a pleasant change in the fate of one’s circumstance) that we are hoping the clock will provide on the twelfth beat of the midnight hour. Luck be a lady tonight. Lady, be lucky tonight. Be mine, lucky lady. Be mine, luck. And somehow sandwiched between one year end and one year start, we hold faith on an inbreath and release, eventually, into the real, once again.

What was real for you? For me, it was the influenza virus. How do you know you have the flu, asked the infectious diseases registrar in the emergency department. How did you know you had the flu, asked the immunology consultant on the ward, the next day. I can taste it, I said. It has a certain flavour, an aroma, a texture known to the memory of my cells. (They were listening to me, thinking, ‘Mm-hmm. Sure, kid, gal, woman. Whatever you say.’) Of course, I knew I had the flu because my nephew brought it on a plane from Singapore. I’m going to call you the NOD, I told him. The Nephew of Doom. Dang it Shai, thanks a lot, said the nephew of doom, taking it on his small chin. He made up for it by reading me several pages of Eva Ibbotson’s ‘Journey to the River Sea’. He read most of the book by himself, which pleased his aunt enormously. He knows about Eva. That she had The Lupus. He's not happy she died of it. But he understands she matters to me. I haven't introduced him to Flannery O'Connor yet... I'm not completely merciless.

One month has caterpillared across the seemingly endless bouts of coughing, fever, vomiting (oh, you know about the 'flu? I shall desist from further details)... my immunology consultant wants to see me again on Monday. Yesterday I had a heart monitor fitted to check on its speedy action (we in the biz call it tachycardia) and a few days ago, I had a ghastly paralysing attack of fibromyalgia. 

Dang it, 2020! To quote my precious nephew of delight. See, Raf? That works too. NOD. Nephew of Delight. Also, Nieces of Delight. All four of my delights are just that. 'Don't eat me!' they say. 'Cook me!' they say. 'Are you listening to me?' they demand. 'Copy me!' they command. Alright, 2020, if that's all you have in store for me, along with this writing m'larky, I'll take it.