Monday, 4 October 2010

A Way Out of the Wood

October 4th 2010

That's hopefully the worst night over, with its wild chemo dreams. In the best of them I had borrowed £250 from Ann Widdecombe to buy a skirt and blouse, but I lost them, or couldn’t remember where they were, the garments had vanished and I was very worried. The Blairs were mixed up in that one too. Then I was invited to go on Woman’s Hour on R4 to speak about the govt’s plan to cut Child Benefit. When I got there I thought that two women producers were making fun of me with sinister nods and winks, verbal abuse took place. Then I couldn’t remember the name of the presenter, Jenni Murray, and no one would tell me. I woke up thinking, “Well, they will never ask me back, what a mess I made of that!”

An email from the redoubtable Loretta Oliver, Chief Exec of Ovarian Cancer Action.

She says she has spent the weekend walking through a dark tunnel after her last chemo. She had forgotten how bad it is. I was in that same tunnel – I am sorry we didn’t meet!

I spent the weekend feeling so lonely and neglected. London is a going out place. I had a lot of invites to go out, from Friday night when I was waiting for the nurse, onwards, but if you can’t go out you feel you are finished as a human being.

I was shut in thinking of that doctor of doom with his two percents and his “highly unlikely,” saying I had no chance. Facing this alone, with just the radio and the cat for company, I ended up thinking that even in the condemned cell at Newgate prison they sent someone to sit with you.

On Sunday night I suddenly started hearing from friends, messages came towards me like a flurry of birds and I immediately felt better.

This morning I know I am almost through it. My feet are very numb, can hardly walk, but feel that I can keep going out of this, and as an example of forward going, I am off to Italy this week, my first break since I visited the Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabruck in the rain last October. I’d just broken up with someone and was going down with flu.

Among the Christmas catalogues arriving on the mat I found a parcel from Fiona Kenworthy, containing a beautiful black and white headscarf. She sent me my turbans a couple of months ago when I turned into Joan Collins, and keeps in touch. Such a kind person. I recommend her.

Cathal, who lives in Luxembourg and sometimes buys my paintings, has also sent me a £50 Amazon token. If he was one of the Medici he couldn’t be a better patron. Kind acts actually do help one to stay alive.

For lunch try a recipe from the River Cottage, never bothered with Hugh Fernly Whatsit before. It’s a Sardine Bake, but replace the sardine with salmon as that’s what I’ve got in the fridge and it’s about to go off.

This turns out to be a truly delicious marriage of softly fried onions, potato, fish, butter and milk. Absolutely yummy – one of the best meals I’ve ever had and it makes me think about the character in the Tin Drum, late in the novel, when the war has just ended, everything has been blown to smithereens, but he meets a friend and they eat a sausage together. All the food that went before doesn’t count because this meal marks the start of something new and different. They’ve survived and there was a future, even if it was east Berlin.


  1. Jane - You're writing appears to be so effortless, so entertaining, even on a 3rd, 4th or 5th reading it looses none of its appeal and originality.

  2. Thank you!
    I have just updated that last one.
    Hope you and your friend are well?