swings and roundabouts

jesus

Jesus is back. He was discovered at a neighbour’s, lured away by the promise of full Scottish breakfasts, oodles of milk, and a general lack of workmen and disruption. He is looking a bit scraggy, but certainly no thinner . . . We are keeping the wee man inside for a few days and the neighbours have been politely asked to stop feeding him fried eggs and sausages.

But my hopes of a nice, quiet few days were dashed when an idiot joyrider drove a car straight into the side of our campervan, which was parked outside our flat. Happily, no-one was injured, so I can show you what happens when a speeding car hits a stationary campervan.

van

As well as crushing the chassis on the driver’s side of the van, the force of the impact pushed it backwards into a parked car behind. The damage is significant. After some back-and-forth with our insurers, they are coming to take it away to look at it this morning and I fear that will be the last we ever see of it.

I am terribly upset. For me, that van – which we refer to as the wazzwagon – is so much more than just a vehicle. It has played a crucial part in my recovery and gave me hope at a very bad time. It has enabled me to enjoy the landscapes that I love, and has taken us all over Scotland. It may be that it can be repaired, but I very much fear the insurance company are going to want to write it off. Poor wazzwagon.

van-1

box

boo

wazzwagon

vansky

wazzwagonsky

Please keep your fingers crossed for it.

Summer days

brollies

It is a while since I’ve known a spell of weather like it.

The verges have bloomed into wildflower meadows.

wildflowermeadow
bee
thistles

Everything seems sharper, brighter, a dappled world of light and shade.

contrast
light

The evening air is soft and fragrant.

honeysuckle

Folk stroll about, bare-armed, leisurely.

path

Inside, the new rooms are cool and clean and very pretty.

pie

Bruce prefers the shade.

hotdog

We are looking forward to a quiet weekend, with no workmen, and no dust. It will feel like a tremendous luxury to simply cook and enjoy a meal together in the kitchen. While the relocation stress continues, things are out of our hands for a wee while – our only worry at the moment is Jesus – who has not put in an appearance for 11 days. Jesus is an elusive creature, and he has been more than ordinarily elusive of late while the workmen have been here. Still, 11 days is a long time, even for a self-sufficent and resourceful feline like him. Come back, Jesus.

jesusphiz

September

It is is a lovely time of year.

of fruits . . .

. . . seedheads . . .



. . . and turning leaves.


Jesus seems even more than ordinarily contemplative. . .

. . . and Bruce enjoys sampling the Autumnal undergrowth. . .

For academics as well as students, this is back-to-school season – the moment when one puts away one’s research (one has never done quite enough), begins to prepare new lectures (groan), and faces the busy realities of a new semester. For me, this also meant hideously long days, commuting in the dark, and rarely ever getting outside to enjoy what I like most about this time of year. But this September is different: I shall continue my research and writing (huzzah) and I shall walk with my dog in the woods every day (an even louder huzzah). I no longer have the job or the commute. . . but I do have the boxes.

Forty-nine large boxes to be exact. They contain my books, which have just been sent up from my office in Newcastle. They are currently blocking the stairwell of our building because there is no room for them in our flat (which is full to bursting with my books already). Could anybody recommend a good bookseller who might be interested in purchasing a large collection of eighteenth-century literature, history, and criticism? I am completely serious. American revolutionary history and women’s writing a speciality. Anyway, I’m going to be offline for a few days while I sort through the contents of the boxes of doom. . .

sprung

Surely one of the most satisfying things about any kind of journal keeping is the Gilbert White-like sense it can convey of seasonal continuity or change. At dusk yesterday, Jesus’s plum tree burst into bloom. I note that last year, after a particularly long and evil Winter, it had just started to flower on April 4th; in 2009, blossom had started to appear on March 23rd. I don’t know what the plum tree was doing in 2008 because I didn’t mention it. However, I do recall hailstones the size of golf balls at Durness – it certainly wasn’t plum blossom weather.


nor were there butterflies . . .


. . .or beetles on the budding gorse.

Anyway, the Spring weather is glorious, and we have been out enjoying it at The Braids



hang on . . . are those your feet on a rough path, in normal shoes?

you fookin bet they are!

and what’s Tom doing off work on a Thursday?

Well, today he is on strike, and a walk was just what was needed after a morning on the picket line. If I had any labour to withdraw, I would certainly be withdrawing it.

Slow-cooked lamb for supper. The windows open. A good day.

at home


It’s still snowing here.


Snow is one of those things about which Jesus definitely is Not Sure.

Just check out his plum tree. . .

The wee man is spending the day inside, but me and Bruce have been out with the camera. I love the transformative effects of snow, even on the greyest winter day.



It was very quiet out there.

Though Bruce tried his best to make a ruckus.

Spare a thought for poor Tom, though, who set off for Liverpool this morning and is currently stuck on a stationary train somewhere in deepest Cumbria. Familiar Words of Doom have been uttered: “Replacement Bus Service.” If he ever gets there, Tom will be spending a few days at a conference. This will be interesting for both of us, as we’ve not been apart since I came out of hospital. It feels significant. Tom is really quite amazing: as well as working extremely hard in the World of Spleens all day, he then comes home and performs far more than his fair share of household tasks so that I can save my energy for my rehab. I know I couldn’t have managed the past ten months without him, and he is top of the list of the many things I feel extremely lucky for. But it seems a good time for me to try a few days of total independence. I am doing quite well at the moment. I mean, I feel a little peculiar all of the time, but lately the little peculiar that I feel has been slightly less. My norm seems more normal, in other words. I have found myself wondering two things: 1)whether this constant-vague-peculiarity is really subsiding or my brain is just getting used to it and 2) whether people realise how generally weird things are for those who have had a stroke. (I know that brain-injury sufferers who have linguistic difficulties carry around explanatory cards to be whipped out in difficult public situations, and there have been several occasions over the past few months when I have wished I was wearing a t-shirt proclaiming “HELLO! I’VE HAD A STROKE.”)

Physically, I am definitely still getting better, though the improvements are slow and incremental and sometimes hard for me to see. In fact, other people seem to notice these improvements more than I do. On Saturday, for example, we ran into a physio friend of ours who regarded my walking as something quite incredible (which I suppose it is, considering that the part of my brain that was most damaged was the bit controlling my leg and foot, and that some of my medical team thought it was unlikely that I’d ever be able to walk without a stick, brace, and one of those electronic thingummies). Recently, when I’ve been out with Bruce, I have even tried running a few steps. This is really very difficult – there is nothing my left leg likes less than moving at speed – but over the past few weeks I have progressed from five lopsided steps to twenty five. It feels quite exhilarating.

While I am on the subject, and as much for my benefit as anything else, I want to record an experience of a couple of weeks ago, after which my gait seemed to noticeably improve. Mostly, on my daily walks, I just pootle along as best I can, but there is a nice flat stretch of about half a mile where I try to make every single component of my gait correct – this takes more effort than you would imagine, and Bruce often becomes frustrated with what he must regard as pointless dawdling when ahead lie innumerable sticks and squirrels. Anyway, I was covering this gait-focused half-mile a couple of weeks ago, and found that I was walking really well – the knee seemed to be working without locking (a recurrent issue), and my steps were smooth and even. This continued for about half a minute, and then I suddenly had a terrible attack of vertigo and nausea – I had to hold onto a tree while I waited for it to subside – and then took Bruce the shortest way home. There then followed the particularly evil bout of fatigue (mentioned in this post), but a few days afterward I found myself capable of walking six-and-a-half miles from our flat to the Modern Art Gallery and back. I have wondered since whether, at that moment, my brain finally made some sort of useful connection, and that this somehow caused the crazy nausea. In any case, since then, my leg has certainly had more strength and stamina and my knee has been acting more reliably.

Anyway, I seem to have rambled far away from the ostensible subject of this post – which was supposed to be the novel experience of doing my own washing up and cooking for a few days. On the subject of which, I better go and put my supper on. . .

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