But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near
There was a point just before Christmas when I wasn’t sure I would get to see the Magnolias come out this year. They came early, and I caressed their waxy petals like talismans. Since then, everything has gone too fast. The garden is overflowing, rain, sunshine and a mild winter has brought everything out in hyper-speed. The tulips were red and luxuriant, destroyed too quickly by exuberant games of football. The clematis, always a reminder of the mid-May birth of the Knights, came and went in a week. Now the tall, purple alliums are over, and the peonies are fatly spilling over the bright green astroturf. I want to press pause on the garden, the spring, the summer and everything that comes with it. Not just because I am scared I might not see it again (though that I am), but because I want to bathe in its beauty, revel in how good it feels to be part of it.
This point; between Easter and Midsummers’ day – is my favourite time of the whole year. And this year, it has tasted especially sweet.
I walked through Legoland on the Knight’s birthday, soaked to the skin from freezing rain and a drenching from Pirate Falls. I was holding my lovely niece’s hand as we ran damply to the Star Wars exhibit, the rest of family ahead and behind. Happiness ran through me like electricity. Here I was, holding the hand of a dear blonde girl who can’t get enough of talking to (at) me, surrounded by family I love, in a place which makes us all oddly happy. I was there to watch my boys turn five, and not just there, palely suffering, but really THERE.
In Dorset I swam in the sea with my Best Woman and her mother. It was early evening, bright sunshine and cold, cold sea. We walked back across the sand to see Ian, Billy and four delighted boys nestling in the sand dunes, their faces smeared with ketchup and the chocolatey-marshmallow of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes. Earlier that day, alongside my parents and our exuberant puppy-dogs, I walked more miles than I have since conquering the Mourne Mountains last Autumn.
I have rocked my work wardrobe and once again been to meetings in the shadow of Westminster Abbey. Who would have thought I would miss the cut and thrust around a plastic table so much? I won’t ever be Executive Gross again but my brain still seems agile and seeks action.
I have found a lovely home for my book. It looks like it will actually be published next year (with or without the author hawking it around Waterstones like she’s JK Rowling). Writing is my therapy, my solace and my indulgence, fuelled by secret stashes of Macaroons and Crunchie bars. How could I not love spending an afternoon high on sugar writing to my boys and all of you?
Last weekend, Billy, the Knights and I went Glamping. My first tent experience in 15 years. Oscar was concerned about this decision: Why can’t we stay at home? What if there are spiders? Well, there were spiders. And a certain dampness to the tent walls. And a dawn chorus of birds and sheep at 3am. But how good it was for us all to live outside for 48 hours; how good it was for me to watch the Knights make friends with a trio of big girls, to attempt to fly our kite in the huge East Anglian skies, to bury one another in the sands of Wells’ beach, to eat honeycomb ice cream.
This is all to say, life is good. More than good, it is blissful. But I know this interregnum won’t last. My tumour markers have started to bob up and down again, I fear mainly up. This is probably a sign that the merciless Nuisance is becoming resistant to the chemotherapy. Funnily enough, I have been expecting this for the last month. I’ve felt the winged chariot at my back. There have been too many single magpies at the side of the road to salute. I feel my luck running out.
So the next stage in this journey begins. More scans next week. Then some doctor time. I don’t know what will happen. Maybe a return to my old friends, the Foxes, to see if they still have any Nuisance-crushing powers left. Maybe straight into the uncertain territory of clinical trials. I don’t know what I dread more; horrible foxy toxins or the journey into the unknown of experimental treatments, where the silver bullet seems just around the corner for every other cancer than mine.
So, my sojourn in technicolour Oz is over, and the precipice looms again. I know this path. There are no sign posts to direct us, nothing that can stop me hurtling downward if that is what the Nuisance decides. But like Will and Lyra’s journey to the underworld in The Amber Spyglass, I don’t travel alone. Billy and I walk hand in hand, and we are surrounded by love and loved ones who keep us striding purposefully along. Despite the Magpies, I won’t stop making life happen all around us. There will be a party to celebrate my 36th Birthday. There will be HOLIDAYS with sun to sit in and blue swimming pools to swim in. The Oiseaux and I are planning a Parisian jaunt. I’ve just been given some GORGEOUS gold Jimmy Choo shoes. There is always something to rejoice in. So though I think it’s probably a touch inappropriate for a family blog, I shall end with Andrew Marvell’s risqué rebuke to time:
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.