Monday, October 18, 2010


I miss the swimming. This is a good sign because it means that I must have short periods (moments) of feeling up for doing it. But if I actually did I would be back in the crawling pits again. It wasn't only the warm chlorine - regular, sustained exercise is not something that PWME can do. I already knew this but made myself believe I could find a way. Does anybody, in any case, get it all right? Life, I mean, and how to live it. My aunt, nearing her death and not yet particularly old, confessed that she had never been particularly "wedded to life", and I felt surprised by this, and to some degree shocked, as thought it were a disavowal of something that we all come with, this bond that weds us unbreakably to life, until life itself is gone from us. But my aunt was, I only realised this later, probably depressed for much of her life - the signs were there but not obvious to anyone who didn't know her intimately. She was passionate about the arts and particularly about getting to know people who were something or other, who had made a name for themselves. She was a fine cook and courted them with boef a la ficelle and Grand Marnier souffle. She collected famous names and even had affairs with some of them. This, and Fortnum and Masons, made her feel much better about life. We all need things that are better-making.

I'm sure this post was going somewhere, but a couple of phone calls, my neighbour's knock on the door with coffee and walnut cake and a pressing need to have something to eat (boiled eggs and soldiers) interrupted the flow. Never mind, because what I was going to talk about was the particulars, and how they above all can wed one to life, particularly when life is constrained by chronic illness or any ongoing situation that is difficult to bear or robs one of life-force. But then, I am not depressed. I am many things that one might (and please don't!) give a clinical name to - but not that. And I know this, because there were two short periods when I almost certainly was, and anyone who has been there knows about the difference between that dark beast and all the other mind-creatures one has to battle or negotiate with. I am wedded to life, the better and the worse of it, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, especially to the particulars of coffee and walnut cake, pleasant interruptions, the magpie who has found temporary lodging on our apple tree, and even, or perhaps particularly, an almost redundant yellow HB pencil, its india rubber worn to the metal rung that holds it, the lead almost blunt - I must remember to sharpen it later, restore it to some kind of usefulness. And an old leather cricket ball that has sat on the desk this many a year, the tough stitching around its red middle still good. No use for it at all in our lives, but there it sits, placing itself in the list of particulars that we may or may not find in heaven but can only properly relish here on earth, to which I am wedded.

This being so, why am I smoking again? Must stop before it takes hold. There is always that.


Cusp said...

'....wedded to life...': I like that phrase. I think some of us are more wedded than others and some go through separations and even divorces.

As you say it's the particulars and I'm kind of reminded of one of my favourite songs which I heard on the radio this very morning 'Is that all there is ?'. Always resonates somewhere...........

Fire Bird said...

i like this post and this idea of being 'wedded'. and of the particulars. and of coffee and walnut cake and boiled egg and soldiers. i shall try to take inspiration from these on this doldrumy day... i too am wedded, but at times reluctantly.

Zhoen said...

I feel I've never been wedded to life, much as I know that would make it easier.

Smoking? (grits teeth, shuts mouth.)

Reading the Signs said...

Cusp, and each state of weddedness (clumsy, but I didn't want to say marriage) is qualitatively different. Innit. Will check song on Youtube.

Fire Bird, I don't think feeling wedded to life is necessarily about being happy. Though joy, of some kind or another, comes into it. And cake, yes.

Zhoen, I know, I know - it's terrible, and I'm an addict.

Fire Bird said...

no not necessarily about being happy. that's ok. but sometimes i am reluctant to stay tho i'll never leave until my appointed time...

Reading the Signs said...

glad to hear it FB.

Just thinking, though - being overly wedded to life is not always seen as a good thing. Quite the contrary -

tpe said...

Beautiful, Signs, very nicely done, although I see no real contradiction between feeling wedded to life and smoking. In fact, I see none at all. Hmm.

Anyway, I've just seen (in a previous post) that one of your poems has won first prize in a competition. Excellent news, Signs, you always had it coming. Well done. I hope your competitors are feeling sick, broken and humiliated. The swines.

Kind regards etc...


Reading the Signs said...

Hell's bells, TPE, I remember nodding my head vigorously the time you said that cigarettes were so lovely they must have come directly from the realm of God Almighty (or was it Jesus?) - but I simply cannot get my GP to see it that way.

Thank you and thank you. My competitors, it must be said, are rather fine poets (I have works from one of them on my shelves) - so it feels rather like being admitted to a banquet of fine company and being plonked on the head table when truth to tell one would have been well pleased just to be in the same room.

tpe said...

Never mind your GP. What do these people know about whether we feel wedded to life or not? They may only guess - often with terrific accuracy, Signsy - that we might be about to shorten the arrangements we have in place with the here and now, nothing more. They may even tell us as much with a scowl. Just remember to ask them: what cigarette do you smoke, doctor?


And you're quite right, yes, Jesus both invented and smoked Jerusalem Lights - a fact borne out by scripture. Then again, most facts are borne out by scripture - it’s merely a question of reading (quite broadly, actually) between the lines or perhaps simply ignoring the less helpful evidence altogether. Not so sure about his dad, fair to say, although I hear tell we may smoke in his garden.

I’m sure you’re competitors are all fine poets - and good for them and hurrah. But how about entertaining the radical notion that you may be a fine poet, as well? Head up, Signs, they’re lucky to have you at the table. Take your place, take your place......

Kind regards etc....


In reply, the cricket ball said...

"... And an old leather cricket ball that has sat on the desk this many a year, the tough stitching around its red middle still good. No use for it at all in our lives, but there it sits, placing itself in the list of particulars that we may or may not find in heaven but can only properly relish here on earth, to which I am wedded..."


Wishing just to return the feeling. There is no use for you in my life, either, but I relish you here on this earth-desk, to which I am wedded. What "use" is love, anyway? A loved one? A contradiction in terms. Love seeketh not her own, not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, as we know from the poets. So therefore, I believe the fact I am of no use to you in all your lives - and conversely, you are of no use to me in all mine - goes to prove quite irrefutably that we love each other, Signs.

I remain, yours faithfully,

C. Ball of the Desk

tpe said...

Oh. I've just noticed my most hated mistake: using "you're" when "your" was required - or vice versa, obviously.

A disgrace.

In the last paragraph, then, of my earlier comment, simply avert your gaze momentarily when the accident occurs. No need to gawp, Signs, move on.

Reading the Signs said...

TPE, you are of the Devil's party really, aren't you? In the Blakean sense, I mean. I am with you, brother, but wish I could take more wholehearted delight in the undoubted fact that my Desire is infinitely stronger and therefore more magnificent than those common and garden puny, easily-suppressed desires. The shortening of arrangements in the here and now is the beastly little thing that does keep getting in the way. That smoking doctor - how lovely! Needless to say, mine does not do this. He has steely eyes which might in other circumstances be quite attractive and I catch the glint of them when he shows me the chart that reveals just how much nearer my probable demise might be if I smoke. We have not had the "wedded" discussion, though. I might try it, see if we can come at this from a different angle.

I need to know about Jesus and the Jerusalem Lights and already feel an elevation of a spiritual kind at the thought. I did have an earth acupuncturist come to visit once who stood with me under the apple tree to have a "sacramental smoke".

And your quite right, I need to take my place, big myself up a bit, stop feeling like an impostor. And you really shouldn't mind about you're mistake. I can't help gawping though. I mean, really.

cricket ball, the truth is (as you know full well) that you were once loved - adored, even. It's just that Mr. Signs doesn't play cricket any more. And, beautiful as you undoubtedly are, you should perhaps keep in mind that I could, if I really wished, consign you to the charity shop or the dump. I won't of course, you're too good-looking and Mr. Signs might look for you again one day. But just - you know - watch it.

Reading the Signs said...

- though actually, cricket ball, I acknowledge the truth of what you say and feel that we do, in the best Platonic sense of the word, love each other. You have attitude. I like that in a ball.

tpe said...

You'll be aware, I'm sure, that you're talking to a cricket ball, Signs? I merely point these things out, I make no (public) judgement.

In fact, I hadn't noticed the cricket ball when I left my second comment, which made it look as if I was talking over the poor chap's head - not the intention at all. These things start to niggle and make me feel bad and then badder until I'm forced - in order to remind myself that all is well in the world - to look in the mirror and sigh. The relief.

I feel no great surprise to hear of your spiritual elevation as you contemplate those most sacredly beguiling Jerusalem Lights. To call these things merely “addictive”, of course, would be to seriously underplay the sheer potent draw of their magnetism. I understand that it’s possible to become hooked without ever having fully inhaled. What are they like?

I feel very certain that if you explain to your doctor how you’ve come to be so deeply reliant on these Jerusalem Lights, Signs, that he will promptly refer you to a very different kind of specialist.

When you get there, you may want to mention the old talking to a cricket ball thing. What’s the worst that could happen?

And as for your last paragraph – be careful. I’ve got my eye on you.

Yours, inhaling deeply,


Reading the Signs said...

You think I'm mad, don't you TPE? But you saw with your own eyes that the cricket ball talked to me first. It sounds as though I should be able to get Jerusalem Lights on prescription.

Yours, disconsolately chewing on a Nicorette

Zhoen said...

I smoked for a year, mostly to piss of the soon-to-be-ex. Mostly because I didn't plan to live long. Life had other plans, and I quit precipitously under strange circumstances.

Please do quit. It's a very slow suicide by nicotine.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Signs

'scuse me interrupting. Hey TPE, long time no see.

I agree about cigarettes. I've not smoked more than a couple a year for several decades but, J.H.C, do I enjoy them, especially on New Year's Eve, which is when I usually have a couple.

'Wedded to life'. Well, I'm with the aunt. Happy to be here but respectful of mortality. At the risk of echoing the odious Oprah, I'm one of them being in the moment types. I'd be happy to go at any time. I hope it's the day after I've cleaned the bathroom though, for the sake of my relatives.

The word verification is 'fortmess'. I now officially fear spyware.



Reading the Signs said...

Zhoen, it's not actually the nicotine as such, but the other stuff. Hence doctor being fine about Nicorette etc. But anyway, yes, unfortunately one cannot really argue with what you say (but TPE, you could have a stab at it).

Pants, you have open invitation to 'interrupt' at any time!

Do J.H.C. have any connection to Jerusalem Lights? Because I've never heard of them either.

I remember you saying saying something to the effect that if anything wanted you badly enough it could have you. I suppose I'd much rather feel like that when the time came, rather than raging against the dying of the light. I like to think that the bonds loosen themselves slowly, with time. I'd want that time, though. Not ready at all.

The Word Verification Leprechauns are saying unquis. They know, you know.

Reading the Signs said...

ok Blogger, what's going on here?

The Periodic Englishman said...

Talking to anyone in particular there, Signs?

It’s tragic, but you’re clearly very, very far gone. I only mentioned the cricket ball so as not to humiliate you in front of your guests. I’m good that way. But oh dear, this is like when granny had dementia. *Sigh*. I was humouring you, okay? There was never a cricket ball, sweet addled poet, it was all in your upsettingly frazzled head.

I'm not sure if the following words (to Pants) will be seen as directly opposing Zhoen's remarks, Signs, although it may touch on these things, I suppose. I may need to construct a new (shining, carefully-worded) mouth-woof to deal precisely and directly with her sentiments. (Happy to do so, obviously.)

Well yes, exactly, Ms P: happy to be here but respectful of mortality. We may wrestle attractively over the use of the word “happy” in that sentence, of course, but I’m with you all the way. And there is something faintly unsettling – unseemly, even – to me, when I see people make personal arrangements with the specific intention of clinging on (to life) for just that teensy bit longer. Especially, perhaps, if these arrangements come at the cost of those few simple pleasures we allow ourselves which, in themselves, may assist us in feeling more fully “wedded to [the passing joys of] life”. It seems strange to me, that’s all. (There may be very specific, very personal issues involved – and that’s fine – but I merely nod towards the general principle of the thing.)

And where does it stop? What else should we not be doing? You’ll know, of course, that it’s possible to list vast numbers of things that may, or may not, take us in the blinking of an eye. Risk assessment, an awareness of the dangers, personal choice and full comfort with the notion of death….that’s maybe all we need. (This didn’t stop me cutting down from thirty to (an attractively mere) seven cigarettes a day, however – but that’s not the point. No.)

Long time no see? Long time no engage, perhaps, as I see an awful lot of you, as it happens, chuntering away at high speeds and with a gasp-inducing skill as you send us your missives from precisely the wrong side of the world. But you shut the doors to your blog. Who does that?

Zhoen - hello. You "quit precipitously under strange circumstances."

Is this something you wish to share with the group?

Kind regards etc….


Reading the Signs said...

TPE, you'll just have to take my word for it that Blogger and I have some Issues to sort out, ok? And talking to inanimate objects is the kind of thing that poets do - I'd go so far as to say that if you ever meet one who doesn't then you should suspect they are not the real thing. And another thing: I talk to dead people - especially dead poets.

Re the other thing we've been talking about: do you remember that Ms Pants had her owly cat, Barney, cryogenically frozen? I was very concerned about him at the time but it all worked out fine. Which makes you think, doesn't it?

tpe said...

It does make me think, yes. I'm just not entirely sure what it makes me think of, however. There is no way any of it reflects badly on the mental health of Ms Pants, though - that much seems abundantly clear. I would sigh fiercely at anyone who dared suggest otherwise. Let them dare.

I take your point about talking to inanimate objects and dead poets, Signs. This seems sensible for a woman in your line of work. You'll forgive me for wondering, I'm sure, if they ever talk back?

And talking of Blake - no, you were a few moments ago, I saw you - but how do you feel about those people who say that he was simply mad/delusional/barking? Must we worry about such things at all? Say "hi" to him, anyway, the next time you're doing the rounds.

A flurry of outright regards etc....


Mim said...

I'm relishing the details! Full of life, the life you give them.

Reading the Signs said...

Cryogenics, TPE! Clearly the way forward for anyone who is one hundred per cent wedded to life, and as Barney seemed more or less to survive it's something one really ought to consider. If one's soul didn't shrink from the very idea.

Blake may have been barking but I'm probably not the best judge and do in any case have a particular thing for barking poets. Christopher Smart is another - locked up for praising Gawd too vociferously - wrote most of his fabulous Jubilate Agno while in a madhouse.

Mim - and as you can see, when one relishes the particulars, they do find a way of speaking to us!