Good news. My doctor has given the thumbs up to coffee, chocolate and smoking. Ok she is not a GP, she is the alternative kind who dispenses small sugar pills with exotic-sounding names and occasionally some lines of verse by Rudolf Steiner – but she is also a proper, medically-trained doctor. Just in case you want to argue. But why would you? Here is the low-down: if you have low blood pressure, coffee first thing is brilliant and much healthier than any medicine that might be prescribed; stress is much worse for you than cigarettes and if the latter helps with the former then smoking can be seen as a health measure; chocolate, and sweet things in general, can help to bring “organisation” into the body. Obviously one does not want to bring any of this under the harsh light of sensible scrutiny. She would probably throw wine into the mix but the sad fact is that I can’t tolerate more than a little of this. If it were otherwise I might, like the mater’s husband, begin drinking before breakfast and carry on till bedtime. He is nearly ninety, so clearly it hasn’t done him any harm, unless one factors in what feels suspiciously like paranoid personality disorder, but that may have nothing to do with wine. At time of writing he is not allowing the mater (who has Alzheimers) to have contact with me – hence my smoking as health measure. It has been a time of stress and upset. One has weathered this before, but this time it feels more entrenched and there is no telling how the situation will resolve.
Last night I felt too sad to eat. This morning I breakfasted on kiwi fruit, fried fish and latte, made with my lovely Bialetti espresso-maker. I breathed in the scent of mint and roses, given from my friend’s garden, now in a jug on the kitchen table. I am thinking about how the exhortation (in school hymns, in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio) to Be Joyful sometimes struck me as peremptory but actually makes a lot of sense. Joy may sometimes come as a kind of grace, but mostly we have to do it for ourselves. For some this is an extraordinary achievement in the face of overwhelming dreadfulness. For me there is enough else to be joyful about to make it a properly sustainable activity. I spent a couple of nights with daughter in Hackney last week and met with son for lunch. My children are loving and beautiful = Joy. I left my phone charger at daughter’s flat but neighbour had a spare one so she didn’t have to send it in the post. The washing machine broke down and we thought we would have to replace it but then Mr. Signs (though he didn’t know how) fixed it. While these might not come under the heading of Joy, it is still worth celebrating small wins of the more mundane kind. As Tesco so eloquently puts it: every little helps.
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will (Matthew 10.29)
The sparrow was not sent as an omen to forewarn me. And I am not Jesus Christ.