Back In Another World

Following on from the stress of Cannyrob’s illness, I had to face another, unexpected challenge.  I have permission from my Son to tell some of his story. This is a poem I wrote many years ago when he had a serious breakdown.

Code for Another World

If I could break the code,
I could feel what you feel
I could see what you see,
I could know the strangeness
Of your other world.

If I could break the code,
I could know where you go
When your eyes stare blankly
And you listen to the whispers
Which you can't ignore.

If I could break the code,
I'd push through the mirror,
Find a chink to let me in
Taste the terror on the tongue,
Share the shiver down the spine.

If I could break the code,
I would hold your hand
And look into your eyes,
Drag you out of the terror,
Bring you back and change the code

That was also a time of ‘ hanging on in there'(see May post)  Hoping for the right medication.  Waiting for my boy to come back to me.  He did. But it took a long time.

While Cannyrob is in hospital, something happens to my Son, my middle child, thoughtful and caring. Not a boy any more, but a grown man with his own home and friends. He isn’t answering his phone or reading messages. Family, friends and neighbours are worried about his well-being. 

I feel as I did when I wrote that poem more than 20 years ago, waiting for help, unable to look after my child.  I have no power to save him, any more than I did then.  Panic floods me, overwhelming my body and mind.  After him being so well, I had become used to not worrying, after years of ever-present anxiety, like the dog of the Tarot fool which constantly nips at his leg.

I can’t cry, although unshed tears collect beneath my breastbone.  I was dry- eyed when my parents died. I shed no tears when Cannyrob was dangerously ill.   There will be weeping later, when it’s safe to cry, at a sad film or a  song that stirs up feelings. Sleep at night is elusive, although I nod off during the day.  I can’t concentrate on complex tasks but find ways to distract myself.

After an anxious time, the mental health team offer him extra support. Now things are getting better. Son and I are meeting up for coffee, enjoying being together, messaging each other. The panic is easing and everyday routines are back in place.

This month’s card, the Chariot, is a ‘seed’ card, to do with moving on, transition, returning to the world. The charioteer is seeking equilibrium. This fits the situation of many of us in this ‘post Covid’ time. We travel on, hoping for the best.

Audiobooks have been my main diversion:  psychological mystery Liar by K L Slater, Middlemarch by George Eliot,  a 36 hour treat,  Ruth Rendell’s  The Rottweiler (dated and predictable), Ghost Child, Sisters of Mercy, Matilda is Missing, One Chance – more legal thrillers by Australian writer Caroline Overington. Music has been helping too – downloading favourites I had on cassette – Dire Straits, Tina Turner. Elton John, singing along in the car, enjoying driving again.

I’ve hardly read at all. I finished Katherine Rundell’s stunning biography of John Donne. I enjoyed The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan, a young Scottish writer I really rate. My book group’s choice was A Confederacy of Dunces – a Pulitzer prize winning comic novel set in New Orleans with a hapless hero. Not my usual kind of book but it it did make me laugh. On Kindle I’m still reading The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister.

Meantime,  Cannyrob is getting better, overdoing the exercises but mostly pacing himself.  His dance teacher visits with scones, jam and clotted cream.   At first I couldn’t leave him for long, but I now swim early in the morning, go to Pilates and meet friends for coffee.

On TV we’ve watched The Great, Slow Horses (Gary Oldman is the star), Derry Girls (missed first time time round and a real comedy tonic), Severance and The Lincoln Lawyer. The David Attenborough dinosaur series Prehistoric Planet is jaw-droppingly good. I am not a fan of wild-life programmes but this has me hooked. Made in Chelsea and The Great British Sewing Bee are regular favourites. I’m still loving Outlander, on Season 5 now with slavery, Mohawks and home-made penicillin.

Watched/streamed on BBC 1, All4, Starzplay, Apple TV+ and Netflix

I have spent quite a lot of time in the garden. Tulips layered in tubs in the Autumn have provided wonderful shapes and colours. Seed potatoes and sweet peas are planted, flower seeds sown and paths remade.

I attend a Memorial for a former colleague, my boss when I returned to teaching . Lower College Hall is rather like a packed staff meeting from the 80s with many familiar faces, but with spectacles and white hair. It brings back many good memories of this compassionate, fair and kind man who gave equal attention to everyone in the school, pupils, janitors, teachers and office staff. It was an important time in my life and I enjoy meeting former colleagues, while remembering others who died too young.

I can’t overstate the comfort of messages, calls and comments from so many people who know us – family, friends, neighbours – and others who are online contacts – Facebook friends. Instagram and blog readers.  Carole who I met through drumming,  writes about her cancer treatment with a calm insight and responds with empathy to my posts.  Jessica, a fellow blogger, has been through testing times too, yet provides understanding.  I feel supported and held by all of this wider care as well as the constant love of our immediate families. Thank you all, love, Elinor


Love you So Bad

Love you so Bad Ezra Furman

The Covid Carousel keeps turning, Recently Daughter and WeeBoy have had it, my nephew, my brother, close friends….Cannyrob seemed better after having it but has just spent ten days in hospital.

On the Saturday of Easter weekend he was suddenly in excruciating pain.  He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with a volvulus (twisted bowel).  The initial procedure didn’t work and they had to try again.  It was a very anxious time, with worries about recurrence and wondering why it had happened.  My friend in Seattle (I can phone her at 3am) said Hang on in there.  Yes indeed, like the Tarot Hanged Man.  Waiting.  Hoping. Trying not to think.  I did a two card reading on April 20th.  ( All cards from the Leonora Carrington deck.)

Judgement: termination of present ordeal – a new beginning.  The Star: a guiding force, calm aftermath of the storm

He eventually had emergency surgery to remove the damaged part of the bowel. He is now home to convalesce. After more than two years of being the one being cared for, I have had to step up into the role of carer.  At least I can drive now and get around the house.  I have cut the grass and done some weeding and planting.  I’ve fed fish, birds and next door’s hamster.  I’ve collected prescriptions and shopped for food.  I’ve put the bins out.

My family have been amazing.  Both Daughters, Son and WeeBoy have offered practical and emotional support.   Friends have rallied round and helped me handle the stress.

Reading for 22nd April, the day of Cannyrob’s surgery.  The Hermit shines a light of hope and comfort, reminds me to conserve my strength.  The Magician reminds me that I am a seasoned traveller with creative energy that will get me through.

Life will be challenging for now, but it has brought us closer as a family and made us appreciate the value of everyday pleasures. Sitting in the garden listening to the birds.

And now for something completely different…..

Daughter (here for the weekend):

Mum. Did you happen to see my special Youth to the People Spinach and Kale face wash (from Cult Beauty) in a reusable bottle in the upstairs shower room?

Me: Em…. I might have thought it was shower gel and used it.  I might have put the bottle in the bin…..

We found the empty bottle in the green plastics wheelie bin outside.  So I was forgiven.

I’ve stopped looking at clothes, apart from in charity shops and am knitting a jumper from wool stashed away ten years ago.  Unfortunately, when I located it in a cardboard box from the Wash House I found unmistakable traces of mouse occupation.  Salvaged balls went in the washing machine in a net bag.  Then they had to be rewound and the chewed strands discarded. My knitting has been a good pastime on hospital visits, initiating nice chats with staff.

Mouse salvaged knitting
Summery top £2.95 from Sense shop

Audiobooks have helped me through sleepless nights and long car journeys this month. Endurance, an abridged version of Shackleton’s incredible adventures in the ice is shocking and gripping. Although I knew the story, this account, based on diaries and letters, is vividly realised and made me appreciate my warm bed.

My next listen was Hard Times by Charles Dickens. Read by Martin Jarvis, this is a satire on the industrial revolution. Mr Gradgrind’s philosophy of ‘Facts. facts, facts!’ damages his own children and ultimately himself.

The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews is a story of post Civil War England, told by a young soldier who returns from the army to find his family beset by what appear to be supernatural powers. There are a number of novels with a similar theme, but this one is different, with its connection to political thinking and religious attitudes.

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley is an excellent ghost story set on a Scottish island. Utterly absorbing with a soft- voiced Scots narrator. I recommend it. Next was Last Woman Hanged, the terrible true story of Louisa Collins by Caroline Overingtonl, an Australian true crime story about a whole culture and way of life through this gripping account of four trials and a botched execution. I’ve gone straight on to another modern Gothic tale, Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster.

My reading this month has been intermittent. My concentration since Cannyrob got ill has not been good. I have probably spent more time than usual listening to audiobooks. I was disappointed by My Real Children by Jo Walton.  I liked Among Others but this dual tale of the same woman’s life didn’t appeal. Next was Roadway by Roger Zelazny. This writer was mentioned in Jo Walton’s book and as I used to read a lot of SF I thought I’d try it. I didn’t like it.

To Eat a Bear by Mikael Noemi, recommended by B at Waterstones.   This is an unusual book set in 19thC Sweden. A murder mystery played out against a backdrop of superstition and prejudice where literacy is empowering.  I loved this quote:       If you owned books, you would never be alone

The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister edited by Helena Whitbread is an entertaining read. I didn’t watch the television series so it’s new to me. Super-infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell is a beautifully crafted biography of this amazing poet.  Cannyrob and I read The Good Morrow, verse about, at our wedding. Companion Piece is Ali Smith’s new book.  She is a unique writer who continues to intrigue me

I am still hooked on Outlander, watching it when I have time on my own.  It is pure fantasy but highly enjoyable. The Split  on BBC is a series we’ve loved since the start, with great performances by Nicola Walker and Stephen Mangan.  I think Season 3 has to be the end though. Watched Coda, a wonderful award-winning film about a hearing girl in a deaf family.

I’ve been working in pastels, a medium I tried before but couldn’t master.  Forgetting all the ‘how to’ advice, I’ve been working on portraits.  Here are a few, shared with permission.

This has been a month of unexpected events, a topsy-turvy roller-coaster of emotions. A testing time for our family. My Daughters have surrounded me with love and strength, providing practical help and emotional support. Family and friends have kept in touch and offered help. Most of all, I have faced the prospect of losing my Lover, my soulmate, but he has come home to me.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere

John Donne The Good Morrow

Thanks for reading, supporting, being there. Love. Elinor

Decorated face for Easter Sunday (stickers not tattoos)