Monday, May 11, 2009

Sick Potato

I would like to put up a post for ME/CFS International Awareness Day, but guess what? I am having a bad patch. Last year’s post still stands, I reckon, and I am wondering what else there is to say – perhaps this: that you can have the illness for a long time and still fuck up, as I have done over the last year, by overdoing or refusing to listen to myself because there was something I wanted too much. Thus far I have refused to face up to the fact that regular driving trips of any length make me ill. I have now been given conclusive proof that this is so. Mea maxima stupidissima. The previous post was a cheat, I had it in reserve, but the cupboard is bare now. I have notebooks full of words but sometimes reading through them feels like looking at a blueprint of loss. Other times the words are a stream that becomes river and the river overflows, is always in danger of overflowing and there is no defence, you just have to carry on building and planning, living as though there were no catastrophe imminent, as though you were not hearing the rumble of thunder that warned of a torrential downpour, believing in the spaces of sky, the clarity that burns everything back to blue. I echo myself and the many others, sounds trickling into the stream. Our voices are legion.

I will just have to give you a snippet from everyday life on the Edge where there is a shop that sells biodynamic vegetables and fruit. It also sells hand-dyed silk scarves, soaps made from olive and hemp seed oil, skin creams made with essential oil of rose and lavender and books about how to grow your vegetables according to the rhythms of the moon. I always meet Patrick there. He is an imaginary character who has materialised off and on for several years and I have grown quite fond of him. He rifles through the discounted fruit that is bruised or over-ripe, examines the black marks on a golden pear, weighing up the consequences of spending less money but risking a mouthful of disappointment where there should be juice. The apples are perhaps a safer bet, but even with those you can never be sure once they are past their best.
“It’s a nightmare,” he says, “a bloody nightmare.” His pessimism reassures me and is constant. We are living in the last days and there is a sense of companionship, of us both being in it together. Never mind the rumblings, the catastrophe is here and we are in it. This brings its own kind of illumination which gives a sense of purpose to the day. It is, as he says, a bloody nightmare, and our task therefore is simply to get through it heroically and with a bit of panache. Everything that happens to Patrick is a sign of the imminence of the end of the world as we know it, he is a sign-reader after my own heart. There is only one thing he will not pronounce on, and that is his illness, my illness, the Condition. If you ask him how he is, referring to his state of health, he will smile ironically and say, “musn’t grumble,” then turn his attention to a pock-marked potato as though apprehending a culprit.
“You see what’s happening? The seasons are fucked, there’s too much rain or none at all, and nothing can grow any more. Look at the size of that! Ever seen a sick potato? You have now.” He pushes his metal-rimmed glasses back up to the ridge on his nose, from where they keep slipping.
“And you?” he enquires. “How you?”
“Same,” I reply, “musn’t grumble.” He nods vigorously, as though I had made a very interesting point, even though all I have done is to echo him.
“That’s right,” he says, “that’s the way, we carry on – have to. Who else is really in the know but us? Bloody nightmare, but what can you do.”

I feel like a hero navigating some spectacularly dangerous terrain and he and I are, for a space, comrades in arms against the terrible thing that is manifesting right now in the withered grape and the yellow sere on a cabbage leaf.

Peeps and Comrades - greetings to you from the edge.

Thank you, Rachel.



Cusp said...

Sometimes you reach a stage where there's nothing left to say

willow said...

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallejuhahaha! "It's a bloody nightmare, but we have to carry on!" Signs, thanks again for some excellent reading. There are no cliffs to jump from where we live, so we carry on, sometimes sunning ourselves on the lawn of our very own 'private island' where hardly anybody ever comes. Yes, it is hellishly lonely, but I reckon if we managed the past decade plus, we will manage some more, with 'heroism' and 'panache' as you so eloquently put it. Hooray to all of us! What else is there to say...

Reading the Signs said...

Cusp, I've often said something to the effect that where words fail us, poetry begins. But on the other hand it would be quite possible to say that poetry buggers off. Just chewing on that to see how it tastes.

Thanks, dear Willow, and Hallelujahahaha! to you also this fine (and very windy) day. There are cliffs not too far from where I live, but personally I never go near them. Got my own "sheer cliffs of fall", what?

Mim said...

I don't mind a good grumble.

Reading the Signs said...

Me neither, Mim - I'm very fond of "musn't grumble" though. It feels very English post-war.

trousers said...

Oof. Ouch.

This post has an impact on me, signs. I'm so sorry you're in a bad patch, but how you've written about it here, well: how you've written about it here.

Charged stuff all of it, your musings over your refusal to listen to your self, and also those words which are anchored around Patrick. You've hit a spot, you really have, there's something very vivid in this for me.

Do excuse me won't you?

Well here's to rest and recuperation, my best wishes to you. But here's to the spirit which has informed these words of yours.

Reading the Signs said...

Comrade Trousers, Patrick and I would like to thank you for these words - your oof is our reward and we will endeavour to carry on musing and making a general nuisance of ourselves.

rachelcreative said...

Hi Cusp

It would be great to see you blogging for ME/CFS Awareness again in May 2010.

Remember to sign up to the list at so we can collate a list of those who are blogging for ME/CFS Awareness this year.



rachelcreative said...

Ooops sorry Signs for calling you Cusp! I am going through a long list of blog posts for ME/CFS from last year and am getting myself in a pickle. Apologies.