Tuesday, June 24, 2008

but I didn't mean to write about the turkeys

I have been busy. A simple statement like this carries baggage, as regular readers will understand. First of all, being busy, for PWME, does not particularly look like busyness to the casual observer. And then, every item of activity is clocked up by the invisible Chief of Police and appropriate fatigue penalties imposed. I have the electricity-in-the-body thing which feels just like, well, electricity in the body, but not as in “I Sing the Body Electric.” It necessitates much lying down and taking of analgesics. Well what did I expect, bombing (well walking) up Lewes High Street on Sunday after a fine gathering of writers reading their stuff, and lunch at beautiful Bill’s?

Son of Signs touched down for a brief visit before going back to Oxford for a singing rehearsal, and today he is off to Israel for a “birthright” holiday that is offered free of charge to young people who can prove they have at least one Jewish grandparent. He has purchased a pair of Birkenstock sandals and I inwardly smirk because for years he and his sister swore that they would never be seen dead in a pair of those – understandably, I suppose, seeing as their mother lived in them. I am picturing him going to all the places I went to: Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada, Galilee.

I was there for about ten months, working on a couple of kibbutzim, picking oranges and inseminating turkeys (artificially, you understand). Picking oranges was ok at first – plenty of time to talk to people or just think your thoughts as you went around clipping the fruit from their green stems and filling up the big wooden crates that waited to take them to the small factory that made canned orange juice. It did become boring though, and the turkey shifts seemed to promise a certain romance and excitement as one had to do the work at night, the turkeys being more amenable at that time. I wasn’t going to tell you about this, but now I’m here I feel it’s only right: to inseminate a turkey you first had to grab your male turkey and get the necessary substance. This involved one person holding him upside down and massaging the appropriate area while another stood at the ready with a pipette and rubber tube which had to be sucked in order to direct the substance into the pipette. When enough was gathered from the males one had then to go round all the hutches and grab the females in order to insert the stuff with a syringe, being careful to choose the correct orifice. Are you still here? No, it was not my favourite occupation. And sitting in the wooden hut at break time, brewing up the coarse black coffee we drank to keep us going, watching the sky turn from black to blue, was not enough to compensate for disrupted sleep rhythms and the sense that this was all, somehow, wrong. I couldn’t eat Christmas dinner for years after. But still, happy days.

One of the “busynesses” of my life are the various writing and workshopping activities that I engage in, and I hang onto these for dear life, so it is rare that I miss one, whatever my condition. I had to last week though, because my mother has been unusually fragile and needing my help with a number of things. But at the Sunday gathering, when a number of us spoke about the various things we did, I mentioned that I wrote a blog where I talked about M.E. and creativity. As it’s not something I have been in the habit of putting about much, I surprised myself. A writer there, someone I’ve come to know over the past year, asked me for the link to pass on to a friend of hers who has M.E. The idea that people who have it might find something in these posts that resonates touches me more than I can say.


Anna MR said...

I, however, am really pleased you did. Write about the turkeys, that is, Signs sees. And, as I'm sure you (ought to) know, much of what you write resonates with me.

Although I'm not going to say if and how the turkeys resonate.

Mwahs, as ever.

Reading the Signs said...

Anna dearest, now I feel as though I have been fishing for compliments. But I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so thank you, and the fact of your not going into the if and the why of the turkey resonance is mysterious. Not to say suspicious. Well, I don't say it but some might. Just saying.

Anna MR said...

I really rather like the idea of cultivating a mysterious air. Suspicious will do, too. And let some say what they might - only one thing worse and all that.

There was something about that tube issue that I felt needed clarifying - you say, and I quote, "...rubber tube which had to be sucked in order to direct the substance into the pipette..." (emboldening mine)

- no, actually, come to think of it, I think I don't want that clarifying after all. Yes, definitely, I'm quite sure of it.

But it does make for a brilliant, brilliant story. Does Son of Signs know? And what will he get to do for his "birthright" holiday, I wonder? I bet he does too, if he does know about his mum and the turkeys.

Nicola said...

Hello Signs,
I love the turkey story, too, even though it made me feel slightly faint - the sucking bit the most. You mean like when you have to get petrol from one car into another?
I don't suffer from ME, but have been feeling fatigued for months (not a little to do with a tendency to depression, I suspect), but your writing is always, to me, enlivening.
(Hello, Anna, too.)

Reading the Signs said...

Anna, if you're sure you don't want details then I'll hold back, but Nicola has the right idea. And you had to be very careful not to tilt your head the wrong way when sucking because the substance would then be directed somewhere else. No.

Nicola, shall I say more? I think you get the general idea. At least I feel I've lived - been to the coalface, as it were, confronted life's challenges.

Sorry you've been feeling so low.

trousers said...

I didn't think you were fishing for compliments with that last part, it really is quite something when someone does find resonance in what you've written.

Having read about the turkeys, I feel as though I've never lived - but that a sheltered, turkeyless life (except for Christmas and the occasional sandwich) isn't such a bad thing.Or to put it another way - I enjoyed reading about it, thankful that that's all I had to do as regards such matters :)

cusp said...

Really interesting that you 'came out' about the blog. There seems to be some kind of opening up on that front all round.

Not sure about the turkey story --- what a *fowl* job ! Glad we can just let our chickens get on with things on their own

Reading the Signs said...

Trousers, it's true that it really is quite something because one is then in the unusual position of boundaries between giver and receiver being blurred - which in this case is a good thing, and everyone wins.

I firmly believe that you can live a turkeyless life that is rich and fulfilling. Or, to look at it another way - I did it (the thing I wrote about) so you don't have to. Keep enjoying the sandwich and Christmas dinner. They do things differently now and you can buy from happy turkey farms.

Cusp - a *fowl* job groan!!, yes indeed. And it doesn't do much for the CV, I can tell you, to put down "turkey inseminator".

You reckon people are 'coming out' more about blogs? Actually, there has been such mixed press about this, it's hard to know what to think. One's fear is that 'serious' writing people are going to think it's a pretty naff thing to be doing. But do I care? Not enough to keep my mouth shut, obviously.

cusp said...

....not so much about blogging but about trying to maintain a creative practice whilst managing and chronic health condition.

nmj said...

hey signs, yes, our idea of being busy is another person's 'lazy' day, a day off, even...

sorry about the electricity, i used to get that a lot, it is rather vile, now it's more my hands & feet won't heat up & feel numb even when it's not cold...

... for the rest of the day i will be worrying about the 'substance' goin in the wrong orifice. but i love the coarse black coffee and the black/blue sky.

hope your son has fun in his birkenstocks. x

asiwalkedout said...

what is it about canned orange juice eh? The kibbutz turkeys i remember well. love your spirit - love the openness to write what you didn't mean to write
me dear

Anonymous said...

Oh Signs, I love that as a title for your autobiography, "But I Didn't Mean to Write About Turkeys."

I hope you feel a sense of pride at how your blog touches people. Your writing, your words, your good sense, as well as being an informative branch reaching out to those of us unfamiliar with ME.

Hope your mum is feeling better, stronger. And I hope you well.

Reading the Signs said...

Cusp, yes that's true - amongst bloggers at any rate. I've yet to meet someone in RL who comes out with that kind of revelation.

hello NMJ - I guess the hands and feet thing is part of that picture - another manifestation of wiring that is malfunctioning. My electricity really is that - I once had a wristwatch whose hands began whizzing round during one of my attacks and I felt the electricity discharging through my wrist. Since then I've heard it's not at all uncommon for PWME.

Re orifices: believe me, I never made a wrong move. Hypervigilance ruled!

Ms walkabout, we really need to talk about shared kibbutz experiences. Damn, I never knew you did a stint in the turkey quartier!

David, how lovely to see your 'face' here again. Yes, you are right, it would be a fabulous title - for anyone's autobiography actually, but I think I should claim it right now. Thank you. I am ok, my ma too, but she's getting older and increasingly needing my help.

Kahless said...

Personally I think the Turkeys deserved to beat the Germans last night.

Reading the Signs said...

Kahless groan!!!
(but I'm sure you're right).

Kahless said...

Signs, I didn't know there was going to e a new doctor!
Oh no. I was dead surprised.
Do you know who?

Reading the Signs said...

Kahless, I am gobsmacked. I knew nothing about this. But perhaps (see latest post) I kind of picked something up in the ether.

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