Monday, 21 February 2011

Turning Woolly

Sunday 20/2/11

I am turning woolly. My hair is coming back in soft, bushy little curls, a cross between Col. Gaddafi and an OAP. It is also slate grey rather than the red-brown it used to be.

After church, in the vestry this morning, an old lady with a tight little grey perm came over and said, “My Dear, your hair is looking lovely.” In other words, it’s just like hers.

Some people say it looks gamine and cute, quite trendy. I call this new person in the mirror, “Kim O’Therapy.” She has an Irish pixie look about her.

At church we are gearing up for Lent. In his sermon our gorgeous young curate suggested that the people of Chiswick might like to forego their foie gras, pate d’canard and fine wines for awhile. He said one friend was even going to reduce his time on Facebook to a mere one hour a day.

We are going on lots of lovely Lenten outings as part of our aim of “making Lent meaningful,” and “delighting in God,” none of your old misery and privation. Trips will include a guided tour behind the scenes at the English National Opera, and afternoon tea at Chiswick House and Gardens. We will at all times be keeping our minds on higher things and the transitoriness of this mortal life of course.

I started last week feeling as if my head was full of wet soggy wool. I dreamed that my watch had turned digital and I saw strange numbers on its face. My mother in her usual matter-of-fact way said it meant I was due for a recurrence of the illness and could expect to be recalled to the hospital shortly. I was then looking at exhibits in a museum and saw my own decapitated head, painted in bright colours, perhaps because of the self-portraits I’ve been working on.

I woke with my nightdress soaking in sweat and immediately thought the cancer was coming back. I went off to my “stress management course” at Maggie’s but felt too stressed to go in. Instead I sat with a mug of coffee in a quiet alcove with a self-help book and wept. I couldn’t face the possibility of breaking down in front of the group, or even seeing them face to face. Our nice teacher came out and was very understanding. She told me to go home and listen to the class relaxation CD.

I went off on a bleak day into Kensington to visit the Cass art shop and bought some canvasses at half price.

I went home and started a portrait of Otto Hampel, who is the basis for the novel, Alone in Berlin, by Hans Falluda. At the moment I am blissfully absorbed in reading it. It’s as vivid as watching a film.

Otto and his wife Elise put post cards all over Berlin decrying the Nazis. There are mug-shots of them at the back of the book and you can see clearly in the picture that Otto is not afraid. Some how he faces death head on with a defiant smile.

Making this portrait and cutting it into post-card shapes really helps me to feel stronger and I hope he knows somehow that his example is valued, even if his little cards with their spiky writing did no good at the time.

I perked up later in the week, thanks to painting, rapid swimming, tumble-turns and summersaults under water. I wish I could do these on land. How wonderful the next time I go to the clinic, to do a back summersault in at the door. I also used the sun-lamp at the my health club. Nothing like a burst of sunshine in a long, cold winter like this.

Today, before church I had a mobile chat with my mother. She said she'd met an old man in Codsall where she lives, he was only 80, "just a boy," she said. They had reminisced about the village.

He asked her if she remembered the time years ago when a bear got off the train at Codsall Station? She didn't. Apparently it left the train and ambled into the local woods. Later it climbed a tree and sadly was shot. I was disgusted by the ending to the story.

“It’s no good worrying about it now!” She said with her usual common sense. But I thought of the bear, for what ever reason making its journey to Codsall via Wolverhampton, little knowing what a fateful day it would be.

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