Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

My world has shrunk to my bed

The new, narrower perimeters mean no more chemotherapy, no more radiotherapy


I was discharged from hospital into local taxi driver Gilles’s brand-new metallic blue Skoda, of which he is intensely proud. I’d been in for more than a week. My pain level had been assessed and the daily morphine dose adjusted, and a new and different species of analgesic prescribed; also lignocaine patches, to be stuck on my breasts each morning. Humming, as he does when in a cheerful mood, Gilles collected me from the ward in a wheelchair and transferred me on to the back seat of his pride and joy. ‘So how are you?’ he said.

I told him I thought I was more or less finished. Gilles wasn’t having any of that kind of defeatist talk. At rest, his slanting French eyebrows oppose one another like one acute and one grave accent. As he manoeuvred our way out of the enormous hospital they became tautly horizontal as he made an impassioned speech about never giving up, about fighting on to the beaches, about not thinking of myself in this fight, but of those who love me. The heartfelt outpouring lasted several minutes. I didn’t know where to look. When we approached the village where we both live, I commented on the variety of tree blossom and the advancing season. The eyebrows stood smartly to attention. He too was a man who noticed such things.

Two of Catriona’s three lovely, expensively educated girls were staying with us, which is always jolly. We played a party game called ‘Who am I?’. Given the amount of morphine I’m taking, it’s a good question. When they left, the girls cheerfully hoped that I would still be around in May when they returned for another visit. I said it was quite possible.

In spite of what Gilles says, and the recent drug adjustments, I’m going downhill fast.

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