I had a phone call from Outer Mongolia the other evening. It was so faint it certainly sounded as though it was from the furthest corner of the planet but I did decipher someone closer to home. Did I want to meet for coffee, asked the distant voice from another world? By now I’d figured it was one of my occasional running friends. I’m sure we all have friends who we meet in one context but rarely in others, so this invite was slightly unusual but very welcome. I work at home, you see, so I’m always up for being disturbed by not-to-be-missed social events. Call in for coffee any time you’re passing, I say to people, but they rarely do. “I wouldn’t want to disturb you if you’re working”.
Anyhow, we arranged to meet for lunch today, midday, in a local bookshop cum cafe. But I work at home, and the phone rang just before I left with a call I had to take. So I was late, about 7 minutes in my estimation. I looked round the cafe: noone I recognised. I browsed in the bookshop. Still noone I recognised. I ordered coffee and sat with the newspaper. The place was still full of strangers. Had she been and gone, I wondered, because I was late? But I wasn’t really that late. So eventually I phoned her. “I’m in the kitchen” she said. “But we arranged to meet for lunch!” I said. “Didn’t we? 12 at the cafe?”. Continue reading →
I’m sure we all have friends hovering on the periphery of our consciousness. Friends who have been important in a particular stage of our life but with whom we may have lost touch. Even so, we think about them often and know that if we were to meet up, we would pick up just where we left off all those years ago. Julia was one of those friends. We were at University together in Durham, mainstays of the diving club. Every weekend we all piled into the university minibus and headed off up the old A1 to St Abbs where we dived off the shore, either at Petticowick or outside the Harbour. Petticowick was a slog; a steep, grassy slope down with the gear and, of course, back up at the end of the dive.
My first dive in Britain was at Petticowick, after learning to dive during a gap year in Jamaica. I vividly remember my introduction to the cold, greenish murk of a November kelp forest, shivering in a too big borrowed wetsuit with a piece of orange canvas that purported to be a life jacket around my neck. “Wasn’t that wonderful!” proclaimed my buddy, Tim, later of Eden Project fame, as we staggered out of the water. “Drifting down through the kelp, in that beautiful clear water!” He clearly hadn’t been on the same dive as me. Still, I perservered and learned to like, if not love, kelp forests. The following year Julia and Chas arrived in Durham and joined me in the diving club while I switched subjects and joined them in Zoology lectures. We became firm friends within a wider group Continue reading →
It is almost a year since a friend of mine, a fellow member of the local triathlon club, died from a brain tumour which she had battled for several years with remarkable good spirit. I found I couldn’t write about this at the time as it was not long since I had started chemotherapy myself and the emotions were very raw. I have been reminded of Trish constantly in the last couple of weeks since the news emerged of Seve Ballasteros’ illness. I have now just heard that another friend and colleague, someone I have known for many years – in fact she was once a girlfriend of my husband – is in the final stages of breast cancer. This news, although it was expected, has filled me with a huge sadness. Mixed with the sadness is a large element of guilt, which I know I shouldn’t feel but I do. It has made talking to Dale about cancer very hard over the past year, since she has been growing iller as I have improved. It is guilt that I seem to be alright, I seem to have got away with it while these friends have not. It is guilt that it has been hard to talk to her at a time when she has probably needed it most. Why me? Or why them? There is nothing fair or just about the way cancer strikes a family.
Of course, it will be several years before I know for sure that my cancer is not coming back but at the moment all the indications are good. I have been trying to write a post for sometime, for my own benefit, to encompass my experiences of the past year, but it has been proving difficult. Today, though, I’m remembering Trish and thinking of Dale, sending as many positive thoughts in her direction as I can muster. And I shall try not to feel guilty but to feel hopeful and grateful that it seems as though I am going to be a cancer survivor.
I’ve discovered a wonderful support group of friends. You know deep down they’re there all the time and it really doesn’t take much of a crisis for them all to rally round. G and I sat and chatted not long after the cancer was confirmed and decided my hair had to go. Not completely – its demise would come in its own time, maybe three weeks into the chemo – but as its days were definitely numbered, it would be easiest to start with it short. Smaller handfuls when it goes, you see. And maybe less of a shock. So the girls came round with the tools of the trade and cut my hair by good humoured committee. I now have a stylish new look which shows off all my earrings; it’s just a shame it’s not going to last too long.