Just checking in to let you know that I have turned a corner. I am now on a second round of antibiotics, the abscess is finally going down, and I am, at long last, starting to feel a little better. But it really has been a very odd time. I’ve been occupying an unpleasant sort of limbo — stuck in bed with Noah’s deluge beating on the windows, shivering and sweating while Dalston and Salford burned. As I mentioned previously, I’ve never had tonsillitis before, let alone a peritonsillar abscess, and I had no idea how evil it can be. In an effort to distract myself from how totally shit I feel, (as well as from the nation’s many woes, and the fact that we now have preening bigots like David Starkey pronouncing on them), this is what I have been doing:


(after Tait, A Chelsea Interior, 1857)

:: re-reading both Carlyles (I blame Stephanie for this, who mentioned Thea Holmes’ book in a comment of a couple of weeks ago). With their Scots melancholy and humour, as well as their many physical complaints, they are appropriate, (if not always happy) companions for the convalescent, and I now find myself filled with an urge to knit wristikins, and visit all their haunts and houses. I’m not sure how accessible Craigenputtock is – has anybody been there?

:: finishing knitting up the green thing. I reworked the sleeve caps an unprecedented three times – a task which has rather added to the limbo-like sensations of the past fortnight. I’m pleased I did it though – for they are now very nice sleeve caps indeed. I am now engaged on the predictable hunt for the perfect buttons.

:: watching a helluva lot of films. After weeding out numerous turkeys (Mule, why did you tell me to watch the odious Grey Gardens?) here are a few DVD recommendations:

1) There’s Always Tomorrow I am a long-time fan of Sirk’s, but had never seen this, which, with its iconic pairing of Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray; Russell Metty’s slick cinematography; and Sirk’s characteristically unsparing take on domestic America, I enjoyed immensely. As in the best of Sirk’s, films the children are pleasingly nasty; MacMurray was surely born to play ‘Rex the Robot man’, and Stanwyck’s wardrobe – all tailored cocoons and angular lines — was pretty sweet as well.

2) The Small Back Room. The only Powell and Pressburger film I’d not yet seen. Another iconic pairing – this time of Kathleen Byron and David Farrar – some gripping scenes on Chesil Beach, and a portrait of self-destructive masculinity that knocks the socks off anything Kathryn Bigelow was trying to do in The Hurt Locker (which I really couldn’t stand).


3) Queen of Spades. I can sort of see why Thorold Dickinson’s atmospheric and long-unavailable dramatisation of Pushkin’s ghost story is sometimes described as being un-British – but surely its bonkers eccentricities make it quintisentially so? Highly recommended.


4) Silent Running. Films like Soylent Green are one of my many guilty pleasures, and Tom was surprised that I’d never seen this wee gem of 70s sci-fi directed by Doug Trumbull (who is perhaps better known for doing Terence Malick’s SFX). Genius.


5) Tom and I really liked Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy when we saw it a few years ago, so we were ready for the absorbing rhythm and inconclusive narrative pleasures of Meek’s Cutoff. Tom was a little irritated by the film, and thought that it took itself a bit too seriously, but, apart from wondering why on earth the women were knitting on wooden needles the thickness of broomsticks, rather than the ‘wires’ they should have been using, I really, really enjoyed it.


(Manteca!)
6) Chico and Rita. A beautiful, lyrical evocation of the intertwined histories of Cuba and its music from the ’40s to the present. It is a long time since I’ve seen a film that was so happily, unashamedly affectionate about its subject matter. Tom and I both loved it.

Well, that’s enough for now – I’m off to consume some actual, solid food. Novel! Exciting!

33 thoughts on “still here

  1. Nothing like a good illness for a rousing orgy of movie watching :-).
    I rather like Grey Gardens, as a record of bi-generational mental illness. I’ve got hoarders in my family, so there’s a bit of personal horror in there as well, But I think it does give a nicely surreal gloss over the whole thing. And for Americans there is a subtle undertone of blasphemy, talking about the extended Kennedy family, blasphemy is always something I enjoy,
    Didn’t like Chico and Rita at all though. I went for the music, which was fine but not particularly stellar, but I was disappointed in the very stereotypical view of the characters. It fails miserably by the Alison Bechdel standards: 1) at least two women 2) who have names 3) and talk to each other about something else than men. Is pandering to the worst of Cuban sexism an easy way to seem exotic, like thinking that excision is just a quaint African custom?

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  2. Glad you’re on the mend. Craigenputtock is best found with an OS map of the area, and might be a pleasant journey through the less populated parts of Dumfries and galloway, that could be combined with visiting the Carlyle house at Ecclefechan (may be worth phoning first to see when it is open).

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  3. i thought GG was odious too, whew, glad to think i’m not the only one. blegh. glad to think you’re feeling better after having been rolled in fox shit. actually, that would be fun for mr. puppyman. for you? not so much.

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  4. Glad to hear you are on the mend. I would not consider Grey Gardens odious – I found it extremely disturbing but would not choose to watch it again. If you need cheering up you need to watch Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.
    Cant wait to see your Green Thing in its entirety!

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  5. Goodness, sounds like this quinsy kicked a** and took names! So glad you’re recovering. You know, I liked Silent Running very much; it’s a little oddball but interesting. Haven’t seen it in years, and DD’s never seen it–I should see if I can get it somewhere. Another little oddball I liked, that went nowhere at the box office, was John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King. Of course, Sean Connery could read the back of a breakfast cereal box and have me totally enthralled…

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  6. My normally healthy 18-year-old went to the emergency room three times for PAs during his first semester at NYU. They surgically removed one abscess and finally recommended removing his tonsils. That worked (if the cure being almost as nasty as the illness is justified). I fervently wish you well. I’ve never commented here before, but this is the only blog I frequent (my respite). My husband was an epidemiologist at CDC for a few years, makes beer, and transitioned from running to biking (so I keep him up on Tom’s doings). I teach English at a local Philadelphia college and in off semesters sew in a two-person studio (in a very old barn) that creates historical reproductions with fabric from original European hand-loom mills (we installed at the Met not long ago! A real treat.) And, of course, I am a knitter. As much as any of the things I find in common with you, though, I am inspired by your intrepid recovery and your productivity (and entertained by your occasional sharp political and social commentary!). Take care of yourself long after you think this infection is gone. It’s a sneaky pest.

    P.S. My son is majoring in film. I must revisit these old b&w films. South Solitary sounds like a find as well. I hope I can get it here.

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  7. I used to regularly have two weeks off school with tonsillitis, septic throats, swollen glands ….. so I know the miseries that you have suffered! When Stuart was little he cried at the bit in Silent Running when one of the robots ‘died’. I’ve just spent the afternoon watching ‘The Secret Garden’ – a favourite childhood book, and now a favourite film!

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  8. Glad you’re feeling up to blogging again (you must be on the mend). The combination of Chico and Rita and the Carlyles is the one I’m not entirely sure about, but at least you have managed to maintain your discrimination while you were so ill (I have a distressing tendency to watch Westerns, myself). The Queen of Spades is fab, and I’ve managed to miss out on The Small Back Room – must get hold of it.

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  9. Glad you’re on the mend. Same thing happened to me as a naive 19yrs old (long time ago) just landed in Australia… I thought I was dying, and to this day I don’t know if the Indian doctor was really an Elvis fan/lookalike hairstyle and all or I was totally delirious!!

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  10. How bloody awful for you! Have been through the ravages of tonsillitis with my son, one requiring a rescue mission to pick him up from Orkney. But that’s another story. It was a novel way to find out he was allergic to penicillin. Glad to hear you are on the mend and shall certainly be checking out some of the fab films you’ve recommended.

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  11. Oh so relieved to hear from you ! I highly recommend “The Philadelphia Story” directed by George Cukor, “Bye Bye Birdie” directed by George Sidney and “The Quiet Man” Directed by John Ford, all one of its kind and all very joyful movies, it should participate in your recovery.

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  12. gosh, i used to have chronic tonsillitis (4-5 times/year) so i feel your pain! it’s a total bummer.
    i have a movie to add to your list, one of my favourites, an old Ealing comedy called “Whiskey Galore”! it’s a great film and features some great knitwear too :)

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  13. if your eyes have not yet squared up and sunk back in…try “The Fall” Directed by Tarsem Singh..something else altogether but don’t take your eyes off the screen for a second and strain hard to understand the waif (she should have been subtitled)

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  14. Am glad you are on the mend but, of course, wish there had been no need for that wish!

    I skimmed down the list of movies and wondered what was up with me that the only two I even felt like looking at were the last two. I think I will have nightmares just from the pictures of a few. yes, a whimp. Chico and Rita might be a good one for the DH and I. Thanks. Of course, I have seen my annual movie but maybe the rules can be broken this year.

    On to health with you!

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  15. Look out for the movie “South Solitary” I think you would like it. Wild, remote island south of Australia somewhere, young woman accompanying her uncle to do his housekeeping (he is new lighthouse keeper). Wonderful 1930’s costumes and knitting…

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  16. Oh, I know very well how awful tonsilitis and its companions can be. I suffered with this for years growing up and in the end had to have a tonsilectomy, which, I am very pleased to say, fixed it. Goodness knows how many courses of antibiotics my parents gave me …. my father was a doctor. Anyway, I am very pleased that you are feeling heaps better and as ever I have enjoyed your thoughts about the above films. Onwards…..

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  17. Earlier this year I got bitten by a dog at the park (not my own). I washed out the wound and, having been bitten by one of my own hounds before (less badly), figured it would be fine. Wrong. I got so, so sick from an infection. I put antibiotic cream on the bite for a couple of days, and it did nothing. First doctor gave me antibiotics that did nothing. By this point I was off work, and my leg had a scary hard lump in under the skin. Second doctor treated it as a human bite (apparently the filthiest kind) and gave me two courses of antibiotics that cleared it up. It was the first time in my life that I was really aware of what a medical breakthrough antibiotics were, having a real awareness that without them, I would likely have lost my leg or my life from two seconds of ill-behaved dog behaviour. Not to be melodramatic or anything, but more “how wonderful is modern medicine?” and “I know how craptastic an infection can make you feel.” And also “If you ever get bitten by a dog, take it seriously.”

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  18. Tonsilitis is one of those thing that sounds easy but tonsilitis is to sore throat like the common cold is to influenza. Don’t be saying you have one when really you have the other, it’s SO not funny. All power to you Kate, I admire your strength.

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  19. Glad to hear you are starting to feel better! I’m with you on “Grey Gardens” – why anyone would recommend that LOL!!! As a sci-fi kind of gal, I’m going to look for “Silent Running”.

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  20. Glad to hear you are on the mend, and the movies sound wonderful, I am adding the ones I have not seen to my list for my next bedrest bout. DVD’s have certainly been a boon to passing the time when you are feeling awful. Can’t wait to see the green thing with the newly worked sleeve!

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  21. So glad to hear you’re feeling better. When I’m feeling unwell, some of my favorite movies are Yasujiro Ozu’s. They’re a lovely view of Japanese home life. One that I particularly like it “Good Morning,” as it’s just so cute & funny. And there’s even a scene with the mother knitting! Any of Ozu’s movies are great to watch when you need a little pick-me-up.

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  22. The only time I have ever hallucinated with a high temp was with tonsillitis….I can only beging to imagine what an abscess migth do.
    SIlent Running always leaves me sad…those poor robots off into space, all alone…

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