Jeremy Clarke

Jeremy Clarke

The pros and cons of kissing

Marketa stands on one side of me, Catriona on the other. Marketa is Czech and my carer. Catriona is my new wife. I’m lying on my back in dove grey flannel pyjamas. At seven I’d woken to the most excruciating pain. Where the pain is located exactly I’m not sure. It is among my various

My morphine machine has broken

Monday morning. In comes Frank. Frank is a carer in his late fifties. He comes daily to wash me. Still half asleep, I sit upright in my mechanical cradle forking in Greek yoghurt, strawberries and granola and looking out of the window. Up here on the cliff, it’s another clear, blue, busy day ahead for

What I’d give for a glass of water

It took five firemen or pompiers to lift me out of bed, carry me down three narrow flights of stairs and down a rocky path, then to shove me into the back of their van. When I cried out in pain the sweating firemen joked that I was a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.

My world has shrunk to my bed

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

The joy of a hospital honeymoon

The morning after we were wedded, I went to hospital in Marseille. The oncologist wanted to assess the pain level and find the right daily morphine dose. I went down in the back of a taxi and from the taxi to the cancer ward in a wheelchair. A nurse with a form checked me into

The joy of my wedding day

It’s been all go. After breakfast Treena brought a basin of warm water, a bar of soap and a face flannel into the bedroom. Not wanting to cede control of my personal hygiene, on top of all the other recent great and small losses of personal autonomy, even down to cutting up my own food,

Paper? Marriage? Ours? Ceremony?

‘They say they can’t do it tomorrow. The papers haven’t come.’ Catriona, just back from the village, was shouting up the stairs. ‘Oh?’ I said. ‘Who can’t do what? What papers?’ ‘You know. Our marriage papers. For the ceremony.’ ‘Papers? Marriage? Ours? Ceremony?’ ‘Well, not exactly marriage. Of course not. It’s a civil partnership. For

My life in a lunatic asylum

I can see why rock stars and other impetuous celebrity types accidentally top themselves with drug cocktails. When you are spaced out on medicaments it’s easy to forget what you have or haven’t taken. A month ago I was prescribed a dose of corticosteroids to see off a chest infection: 60mg a day for four

My night pot is a thing of beauty

Since Christmas I’ve been sending off these columns with the anxious thought that perhaps I’m overdoing the dying bit and the truth is that I have a long way to go. Suppose I’m still here on Lammas Day, for example? I worry that some people might feel short changed. Moreover I worry that some might

The perfect novel to read on morphine

On the last day of my grandsons’ week-long visit, Saturday, I was struck by bone pain of an unsurmised ferocity. I reeled around the cave swearing with incredulity. Shoulders, shoulder blade, ribs, the right arm more or less useless. The day before I had looked in the mirror and found a mass on my neck

Kicking a football has been one of the joys of my life

Two nights running I was incontinent of urine and woke up with warmly weighted pyjama bottoms. Former nurse Catriona didn’t bat an eye. When she first came to France she was a carer for three geriatric English expats, a lady and two gentlemen, and both gentlemen wore nappies in bed. Less than an hour after

It was cannula carnage at the hospital

I was silently mourning the death of Brigadier General Charles FitzClarence at First Ypres when a young male nurse entered the crowded waiting room and called out my name. I must look fairly decrepit because he offered an arm for me to lean on as he walked me up the aisle and into the CT

The medicinal qualities of the perfect joint

Feeling lucky always, I assumed that chemotherapy would be the piece of cake that some had predicted for me. They said they knew people who were treated with chemotherapy for years and years and meanwhile managed to live a relatively normal life. But by only the fourth cycle of my second round of it, I

The joy of French hospital food

I woke up in the wake-up room (salle de réveil). The clock on the wall said half past ten. I’d been out for a couple of hours. What lifted me to the surface was the sound of the wake-up team persuading someone to wake up who was absolutely refusing to do so. The entreaties increased

My deliriously happy primary school days

I remember my first day at South Benfleet County Primary School with rare clarity. My mother left me at the school gate and I hadn’t been in the playground five minutes when a supervising woman trotted up to me, suspended me in the air by my arm, and slapped my leg, hard. Apparently I ought

The joy of Thomas Mann’s diabolism

Throughout the flat, post-Christmas limbo I lay languishing after another dollop of chemotherapy and read my Christmas present, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, in the later Everyman translation by John E. Woods. Set alongside H.T. Lowe-Porter’s sturdier pre-war translation, the difference was more marginal than I’d been led to believe by John E. Woods’s online

The naked truth about cannabis farming

Then dear old Dolly drove down from Essex to pay her respects. It was a brave effort because she hasn’t been anywhere for years and only once before to France, in the 1970s to pick grapes. She arrived at midday and immediately piled into the wine. The day was pleasantly warm enough to sit outside

The joy of Spectator readers’ letters

Sometimes, when the weather is fine, Treena calls up the stairs: ‘Why don’t you sit out on the terrace and get a bit of sun?’ Our little terrace faces nearly due south over the village pantiles and a succession of forested ridges as far as the littoral mountain range. It’s a sheltered, sunny spot with

My Willie Thorne moment

The sunny, growing month of November is the British expat’s Provençal dividend. Every morning the meridional sunshine comes in through the left-hand bedroom window, lighting my face as I sit up in bed with the breakfast tray and the daily paper. By 11 o’clock it has moved across to the right-hand window, warming the blanket