Woof, woof. Bad dog. The black hound – let’s call him Winston for 1.9the sake of clarity – failed to appear this bright and sunny morning and what a relief that was. He’d been hanging around for a couple of days and hadn’t been at all welcome so it was something of a relief when I woke and found the beast not there. For now, anyway; perhaps – hiding in the shadows or locked in a cupboard somewhere – he is just waiting for his moment to growl behind my back or snap at my ankles. Strange thing is, when I turn to face his yellow eyes straight on, he’s never there. Never to be seen. So how do I know he’s not there? Believe me, I just do, and it’s a relief to discover when he’s not..

On the other hand, I had been a bit concerned before last weekend that I hadn’t been aware of the black dog at all over the past few weeks. Surely that couldn’t be right? Melancholy and measurable levels of glumness were to be expected, weren’t they? Surely it would have been unnatural to proceed in an unbroken, sunny and optimistic mood with no shadows cast and no dark canines snarling from Stygian recesses. In one sense, then, his unwelcome arrival was also something of a relief: a measure of normality and balanced mental health.

I’m normally very fond of dogs, to the point of being quite soft about them, really. I just haven’t learned to live with this one yet. He prevents me from concentrating, stops me from reading, listening, watching, planning; he trips me up when I try to do something positive in an effort to break the uninspiring drudge of the day and gets tangled up in my legs and once I’m down on the floor he drags my mind and my imagination to places I would rather they didn’t go. He wakes me in the middle of the night with his snuffling – which can barely be heard above the distant hooting of the tawny owl – and then keeps me awake by being maliciously silent as I wait in vain for his grumbling in the dark. I can feel his yellow eyes in the dark though I may never see them.

But today he is gone. Cavorting in some unlit meadow somewhere, no doubt. I know he will be back and I know I must prepare for his return. Perhaps I can teach him tricks? I don’t think he should learn to fetch sticks, though, as I fear he would use them to beat me. Perhaps I need, first, to teach him to sit and behave. Good dog. Sit. S-i-i-it. And then I might find the courage to pat his head and later to scratch behind his ears. I would work hard to get him to wag his tail with pleasure. First, though, I must learn to see him, not just feel him, and talk to him rather than be just commanded by him. Afterwards, I will learn to stare straight into his eyes and not be distracted by his teeth.

Day 7 of 25

Uncertain Socks at Daybreak

“The gunmetal mist of dawn leaks subversively into slate-veined dreams and for a while you are not certain if you are awake or asleep, or if you had ever been asleep or if you had ever been awake.

The clouds cling to your hillside eyrie with wraithlike tendrils drifting, prising the hygrometer on the wall from its summer torpor into the province of bone-aching moisture.

Rain bleeds from the earth-hugging clouds while trees, half hidden in the lesser light, leach gloom into the lake which forms under the window. Then, without warning, light breaks through; a patch of blue from above.  But you do not look up at the sky; oh no, you observe the reflection in the shimmering pool for you know that to look up would be to risk looking into infinity and beyond.”

These are timid socks – sad socks,even – but we will take all-comers.

Day 5 of 25

A Stark, Stripey Choice?25 aug

When does healthy reflection tip over the hazy, grey line and become maudlin wallowing? There is definitely a progressive path across this ill-defined border, one of the frontiers between useful deftness of intellect and experience and the egocentric whining of the self-indulgent.

In the first manifestation, we are able to make sense of what has happened and, by extension, what is happening and from this analysis we may even be able to construct signposts for the future, much like National Trust footpaths, each colour coded for severity. We are able to build, to plan, to design. It can also bring us a degree of comfort and strength that might otherwise elude us. The second way lets us revel in sentiment, wail at our misfortune and demand (from ourselves or from others) that our misery takes us into unchartered waters. Meeting demands for commiseration and sympathy come not as lifebelts but as further weights to drag us down. And we enjoy this self-destruction – a kind of personal, circular schadenfreude; an introspective gloating about one’s own misery.

A bit tough? Maybe so. Both forms of interaction can be prompted by a need to communicate with a wider community, directly or indirectly engaged. It might well be that the voice of those I am calling the self-indulgent is, after all, a voice which is rarely heard. Perhaps in ‘normal’ life, this voice struggles to be heard above the clamour of louder, more strident voices and the onset of some misfortune about which to genuinely complain is simply a step up the ladder towards a pulpit from which to shout. Maybe. Perhaps, even, the need for collective recognition is paramount and we use whatever means are at our disposal to be heard and, in the end, we don’t care what the reaction is as long as we are heard. Maybe (oh so many maybes) just having our voices heard is enough to help pull us from the mire through a mysterious collective spirit of awareness. After all, some people even use blogs …

Or, just maybe, we don’t know where we are in that hazy, blurred border region between constructive reflection and self-regarding whingeing or that while we think we know where we are, in reality we don’t and, like being lost in a forest, we mistake one direction for another.

Day 3 of 25

Wildly optimistic socks.23 August socks


I am distracted to a curiously distanced degree by the consequences of what might befall me in the months ahead.  I am quite fascinated by the fact that some others who, quite obviously, are far more distant from the machinations of this particular slice of fate seem to be more affected, more emotional and more dramatic about the possible outcomes than I think I could ever be.  Fate, especially one’s own, is something to be viewed dispassionately, through a lens.  Doing otherwise leads to wobbly vision and, in general, getting hot under the collar really helps no one at all.  I suppose it is easier to get agitated about the fate of those you love as opposed to your own as distance lends a different set of foci but it does seem to beg the question that those that flap their arms in dismay the most also seem to think they are doing something useful by their determined flustering.


I suppose I ought to be touched by the number of prayers being offered on my behalf but, to be absolutely honest, it affects me not an iota.  The act of prayer, I am sure, is simply a device to comfort the one who is praying.  It has no other effect on the workings of the universe; creates no ripples and offers no change.  Fine, if that makes people feel better then who am I to stop them (as long as I am not expected to join in myself)?  But it does seem to me that those who internalise whatever they are feeling in this way seem to concentrate, focus and exaggerate the issue – make it worse rather than make it easier.  Not for me, you understand – I shall sail on oblivious to other people’s pleadings to whatever incomprehensible belief system they subscribe to – but for them.  I shall continue in my unsullied belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster – well, perhaps not unsullied as I am also drawn to the Celestial Teapot as a viable alternative, I am so fickle.


So, in answer to those who look so earnestly into my eyes with such deep hurt and pain all I can say is I don’t share your suffering.  Perhaps I should, but I don’t.  There really is so much to do, so much everyday stuff to enjoy I really can’t see the point of long faces and self-inflicted torment.  Now, if you excuse me, I have some hot metal to bend.

Day 1/25

Day 1 of 25 to wait to hear latest pathology results … and today’s stripy sock raug21epresents the struggle to regain control of the bladder.  I believe it has been around 66 years since I learned the basic trick of choosing (within a bodily determined timeframe, of course) whether or not to go to the loo.  At the moment this choice is taken out of my hands (so to speak) and I am now presented with a sudden, urgent realisation of the need – sometimes too late to observe all the proper niceties.  It is as well that I can relearn this basic social technique within the safety of my own home and I shall not be venturing out into the great outside for a while, not while there is still the chance of me suddenly having to grab my crotch and rush, wet-legged, to the toilet like a caught-short toddler.


To be honest, this is a useful diversion.  I’m facing a few things with a new spirit and coming to terms with changes and subsequently my return home from hospital means that a slightly different person has returned from the one who left a few weeks ago (the one who had assumed that he’d be back within an couple of hours and had some things half done).  Learning to pee politely is a useful social skill which I am working hard on but it also reminds me quite frequently that things aren’t what they were and that I have a lot to learn or to relearn.  That’s a good thing.  Learning and relearning are never bad things (though the causal circumstances might be).  In this sense, everything has changed and nothing will be the same again.  That might scare some people but I rather welcome it; I have always welcomed change and I firmly believe that no experience is without value – eventually.


Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to … oops, too late.  Again.



Out of a hospital bed – 1

Outside of every hospital in the world there are a series of iron hooks hammered into the wall.  You probably haven’t noticed them.  Not many people do.  They are there so that you have somewhere to hang your dignity when you enter as a patient.  Anyone who attempts to keep their dignity with them is chancing grief.  There is likely to be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Leave your dignity on a hook and leave it there until you leave. It will be much reduced and will have changed shape but, you know what, its new shape will let to do things you didn’t think you could do before.


Being dignity-free in hospital can be fun.  The other day I was waiting on the operating table for the anaesthetist to choose the right colour dream  for me (she promised blue) while the nurses were buckling my feet in a suspending boot-like contraption and hoisting me up like a chicken on the killing rail while I was completely bare-arsed.  No time for any conceits concerning dignity there.  I mentioned, very casually, to the anaesthetist  that I had never found myself in such an elegant position before and surely this called for a rear end selfie. She shared this little jest with the rest of the team and their mirth delayed things for a good few moments. Then I was lunged into swirling blue dreams.


Now I have picked up my diminished dignity from the hospital hooks as I skipped and jumped out into the sunshine.  It’s a lot, lot smallee than it was when I went in and, do you know, I reckon it looks all the better for it.


In a couple of weeks I shall be back and I shall once again hang my tattered dignity on the iron hook and enter, once again, naked. It really is the only way to enjoy yourself.


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