Thursday, 5 May 2011



I suppose I am having a kind of honeymoon with myself – all this lovely weather, and the lovely name NED playing in my head - “no evidence of disease.” I am on a spree.

Yesterday I went to a service at St Martin’s in Ealing at 8am. There is a desire to give praise and thanks, and the memory of all the people I’ve met who are still suffering.

The church was locked and I began to wonder if it had been cancelled or Fr. Bill had overslept. At the vicarage there was no sign of life.

He appeared at one minute to, holding a heavy bunch of keys, which always seem symbolic of something; St. Peter, one of my former cat sitters who used to visit twenty cats a day, old fashioned gaolers.

The Lady Chapel, although being a low church they don’t call it that, was flooded with golden light. I was asked to read the Gospel which surprised me, as at my other church this is the preserve of the priest. Fr Bill gave me a short homily about what he calls, “democracy.”

I haven’t read anything out loud since I was about thirteen. In my early days at school I was regularly called on to read and relished it, then my confidence evaporated and I started to develop phobias, about all sorts of things, and that was one of them.

There were only four of us there but still the words started swimming before my eyes. I managed it OK though and it was a good chance to try it again.

Spent the day struggling with a piece I am writing about the UK’s ten most influential historians. I have six so far, David Starkey and Lucy Worsley gave me some brilliant quotes, the others are in the US and more difficult to reach.

In the evening I walked through Acton Park to the Rocket pub for a life-drawing class. I used to go to this class two winters ago now and was very friendly with some of the group including an Australian doctor who was involved, sadly, in vivisection.

He was giving me a lift home one night, after I’d had the diagnosis of cancer. He said, “It’s only a Stage 1, you’ll be OK.” I told him it was stage 4. He said, “Oh,” sounding really shocked, taken aback. I remember his bulging, glaucous eyes in the car mirror, their look of fear, as if I was as good as dead. I haven’t seen or heard anything of him since that night.

The class is now in a different pub with different people, apart from one elderly lady. She was surprised at how much I’d changed and wondered if I’d had my hair done like this deliberately. A lot of older people seem to like this bubble cut, it must remind them of something from long ago.

It was a good feeling to get to the class again, like a renewed strength. But I realise that I am not ambitious anymore, for my art, writing or anything, all that has gone.

The model was an exquisite Chinese girl, with perfect proportions, not an ounce of fat under her skin which was smooth as marble.

An elderly man in the group, who must once have been handsome, chatted her up relentlessly during the break telling her all about his former career with an oil company. He’d ordered a beef burger and chips but hardly had time from looking at her to eat it. I removed nearly all the chips. Being invisible can have its advantages.

Today, struggling on with the history men, and girls. trying to pin down Simon Schama. Before Easter I approached Columbia University, and publishers in the UK. They didn’t return my calls and today neither India nor Sophie, the plummy voiced gels in their publicity offices, had ever heard of him. I had to spell out his name v-e-r-y carefully.

While I was waiting for someone, anyone to call back, made some Yorkshire parkin for the first time. It seems to be a butch northern kind of gingerbread, for people who disapprove of the pleasure of cake.


  1. There is a wonderful phrase which is popular on the OCNA Inspire forum - " dancing with NED" - it really captures what it feels like!

  2. I only heard that acronym from "Palladas," who comments on this blog.
    It all helps to make it more human.