When I was much younger, there was fire in my belly and words in my head, and I had half an idea I could write for a living. The recurring advice from established authors and journalists was, “keep a diary”. In a letter I still have, from Jilly Cooper, the emphasis is very much placed on making notes. Sadly, I’m not a natural diarist or note-maker. Throughout eight years of various academic studies, I barely wrote a single word more than was necessary to get me a pass mark. As for remembering events from the past, I rely solely on my memory, although despite best efforts, my powers of recall can sometimes result in the original monochrome being remade in glorious Technicolor. On the flip side, traumatic episodes may be softened, even obscured.
I’ve had to sharpen up my record keeping act of late, though. Some things must be logged with pinpoint accuracy. You really can’t keep a cancer diary for someone in a half-hearted manner. Every symptom and side effect must be recorded ahead of the nurse-led review that comes two days before each new cycle of chemo. I have to practice words like Metoclopramide and Dexamethasone so that I can quote them with confidence. Missing an entry or omitting a detail is not an option. There’s too much at stake. This is heavy duty treatment, and the rapidly filling ‘sharps’ bucket in our utility room proves it. Amongst its contents are symbols of modern medical science and brutal reminders of less enlightened times – spent Baxter’s bottles, tubes, syringes and other prescribed paraphernalia.
In this neck of the woods we get by on a daily dose of pure, distilled, wishful thinking, and as strange as life is right now, thankfully, the view we have of the outside world is largely seen through the lens of our own bubble. Distortion is the new clarity.
There are moments of magic though. A neighbour phoned to let us know when the window cleaner is coming next. She went on to tell of a mother and two baby hedgehogs she’s been feeding each evening. Apparently, as darkness falls, the patch of grass where the spiky visitors take their food, is subtly lit by a solar powered light … in the form of a cow. Something worth noting down, I thought, because it made us smile.