This is the life – literally: writing, workshopping and shrinking. I have carried on walking since building up a bit of muscle at the Edinburgh Festival and try to do half an hour of this at least three times a week, though sometimes it isn’t possible. I have been waiting for the crunch to come in the form of relapse plus usual symptoms but so far I have kept going. This is all relative, obviously. Sometimes I feel like the drunk who tries to prove he is sober by walking a straight line from A to B. I wobble and I fall on my face unless I keep focussed on the next task, and even then progress is not steady. But I am, it has to be said, better, and I think I have hit on the reason why, which has nothing to do with treatments or processes that try and teach you to positively think yourself better. It is simply that I am a woman of a certain age and suddenly I don’t have to deal with the monthly hormonal fluctuations. For many women this is significant. For me, it is potentially huge: even before M.E. it was found that my immune system was behaving oddly and that I was (in my first pregnancy) actually allergic to the hormones my body produced. Since then, the switch from one hormonal state to another would often be accompanied by a feeling of electricity in the body, and this always heralded the onset of another nasty relapse.
I am keeping my fingers crossed and can only say hallelujah to the end of one stage of life and the beginning of another, hormonally stable one. I am trying not to think about it too much for fear of crashing again, but still. I feel oddly as though I’m about to step back, or sideways, into a younger state of being, a great load sloughed off my back.
Tomorrow is a workshopping afternoon with three writing friends I usually meet with in Lewes. This time we will meet at Signs Cottage and have cake – stage one of my birthday (though cake at any time is a good thing). On Saturday there will be as many women as can fit around two tables wedged together in my kitchen for lunch – and another cake, made by a friend to whom I gave the recipe and now she probably makes it better than I can because she is a born cake-maker. It’s a Claudia Roden one, made with oranges, ground almonds and eggs, no flour, so you can eat it any time and feel you are doing something healthy, and it is lovely. Sunday, stage three, the Signs family will go to Brighton for oysters and a meet-up with sister, brother-in-law and niece.
Everything changes. In blog world too. I miss some of the blogging people I used to see round and about more often and remember how I once thought that blogging was time out, not real life, but people come and go, one has a sense of presence, connection, things happen (or not), it feels just like life. And we keep moving on, eating cake.
Orange and Almond Cake
2 large oranges
250 g (8 oz) ground almonds
250 g (8 oz) caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Butter and flour, for cake tin
Wash and boil the oranges (unpeeled) in a little water for nearly 2 hours (or 1⁄2 hour in a pressure cooker). Let them cool, then cut them open and remove the pips. Turn the oranges into a pulp by rubbing them through a sieve or by putting them in an electric blender.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients, mix thoroughly and pour into a buttered and floured cake tin with a removable base if possible. Bake in a preheated moderately hot oven (190C/375F/Mark 5) for about 1 hour. If it is still very wet, leave it in the oven for a little longer. Cool in the tin before turning out.