It’s another glorious spring day as Anna swings by mine after dropping Maddy off at nursery. As anticipated, she went in with enthusiasm. We catch a bus to Wandsworth, where there isn’t much of a queue at the Registrar’s. The suite is surprisingly swish and slick and, like the sponsored gardens outside, has ‘privatised’ written all over it. Our registrar’s a sympathetic and engaging lady and is interested in both our lives, particularly the fact that I was brought up in Tanganyika. That must be the nice part of her job, chatting to her ‘clients.’ Everything’s in order and she takes us through the various venues and services on offer. I explain we can’t set a date yet, because of the operation and she’s very reassuring. She’s sure we’ll be able to find a slot quickly as soon as we know more, so long as we’re prepared to be flexible. As she talks, over her shoulder I observe the most popular birth names in Wandsworth for 2014. Number 1 is Muhammad and seventh is Syed.
There’s still too much time before the phone call so we get of the bus on the way home and go to a café. It feels romantic to be bunking off like this on a fine spring morning, holding hands and sniggling. Once installed, we discuss what sort of wedding we’ll go for. I’m all for something spare, efficient and low-key, in order to maximise our chances of getting it through quickly. We can plan our caravan for a 100 wedding guests in Morocco at a later date. Given the circumstances, Anna’s in agreement. The choice of music on offer is a little too sparse for our taste, however. And none of it seems very appropriate. Wandsworth Town Hall feels too secular for church, or even classical, music. On the other hand, pop and film score music will make it all feel a bit silly. Perhaps do without? What about photographs? And where will we take Tim and Elena for a nice lunch afterwards, to thank them for agreeing to be our witnesses, something which will inconvenience Tim, who’ll have to take time off work to do it.
Perhaps because we’re both a little nervous, we’ve had too much sugar – lemon polenta cake, an almond croissant and a something approaching a pint of freshly-squeezed orange juice. Is my tumour jumping for joy? Anna certainly isn’t and when we get back to mine, she has to lie down on the sofa to let the unwelcome rush subside. At mid-day, just as we’re thinking about what to do for lunch, my mobile goes. It’s Pippa, one of the Urology surgeons I met when I was first diagnosed. I try to keep collected as she tells me the news.
‘We have to do some more tests, I’m afraid. On a vein near the kidney. It’ll need an MRI scan. And we want to do a blood-test and a bone-scan. Will you be able to come in later this week or early next?’
‘It means your meeting with the surgeon next Monday the 13th is postponed for a week.’
I relay the news to Anna. ‘Well at least they haven’t found anything definite on the scans they’ve already taken,’ she responds reassuringly.
I nod. But we didn’t get the news we’d been hoping for, that the kidney could just be whipped out and be done with. I find the idea of bone-scans somewhat ominous. My mother died of bone cancer. Why would they be looking if they weren’t worried about something?
‘It’s probably just a precaution,’ Anna says.
I smile. I remember the pact we’ve made and the fact that it’s all out of my hands, just as it was before. It’s the further delay that’s annoying. If it wasn’t for Easter, we’d have had this news last Friday and I’d probably have done the new tests they want tests by now. If this tumour is growing at the rate it apparently is, then the sooner the kidney’s out the better. Can’t everything else they might find wait? Furthermore, the wedding’s almost certainly going to have to be put back – but until when?
We head back to Anna’s, thankful for the banal distraction of an appointment with Thames Water to ascertain why her cold water’s gone off in the kitchen. After the man’s gone, and we’ve consumed a picnic lunch, I decide to head back to mine to get on with the blog. I feel less discouraged than when I first got Pippa’s call. I have lots of energy today. Perhaps the tumour’s already in retreat now we’ve discovered what’s going on and I’ve begun my visualisation exercises, sending my white blood cells in droves to attack the buggar. A bit strangely, however, whatever music I choose to accompany my writing seems to threaten to bring me down. So I tap away in silence for several hours before returning to Anna’s for dinner.
As ever, Maddy’s a great fillip. She’s found her nose from Red Nose day at the nursery and we take turns to be clowns while she keeps half an eye on Ben and Holly on the TV. Whenever I hear the theme music I have a strong pang of nostalgia for New Orleans, where we spent three months in the autumn of 2013. We’d downloaded many episodes on the Ipad to protect her from the children’s stuff over there. It was a very happy time, driving Maddy down every morning to her majestic nursery, ‘Kidopolis,’ in downtown New Orleans, before swinging back uptown to Tulane University, where Anna was doing her research on Katrina and I had jammily got myself Visiting Scholar status. It meant we could use all the facilities of an institution so luxuriously endowed that I had a computer in the library to myself every day and access to everything from inter-library loans (each book I asked for, they immediately ordered for their collection, as if I’d caught them out over some shameful secret!) to the amazing sports facilities. The Olympic swimming pool wasn’t fresh water, but salt, just to improve competitors times! Had it been out of doors it would have even rivalled St Girons! Now my nostalgia’s particularly intense. Through my invisible carapace it seems like an impossibly innocent and joyous time. As does our return trip in the autumn of 2014 (pix below) For Maddy’s sake, for Anna’s, I have to believe such experiences will come again.
Later, Maddy scrawls one of her ‘charts’ on the tiles above the bath with one of her colouring pens. She marks the treasure ‘x’ and then constructs a particularly torturous path to it, doubling back and into knots cross the adjoining tiles.
‘You have to find the treasure, daddy. Just follow the path.’
It looks impossible. ‘You’ve done too many squiggles, Squiggle Bear.’
‘Go on, daddy,’ she encourages, ‘you can do it. Just try.’
She hands me a pen. It seems a lovely omen. It’s exactly a week since the kidney crisis began. So far no sign of another attack, though I mustn’t get ahead of myself. I just have to patiently follow the path which leads to my ‘treasure,’ complete good health.
Later, once we’ve played a bit of Rikki-tiki-tavi (the puppet on my right hand) saving her ‘people’ from naughty Kaa of the Jungle Books (my left hand), she falls quickly asleep. After the spinach soup I made earlier and some crusty bread, Anna and I discuss the wedding again. Re-examining the list of music on offer in the Registrar’s booklet, we’re soon in fits of laughter, trying to think up the most inappropriate music we can for a wedding: ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’? ‘It ain’t me, babe’? ‘Thorn in my side’? The theme from Love Story? La Donna e mobile? Somehow my boat has righted itself, after being in danger of capsizing earlier in the day. It’s been an exhausting one. But we hit the hay feeling optimistic again.