Wednesday-Thursday, 06-07 May: Of brevity, breakfasts and blossoms

Gotcha! Just when you thought it was safe to check out for a few days! I’ve washed my hair (and dried it upside down), I’ve checked my wardrobe, got everything together I need, made a few notes for my thank you speech at the wedding brunch, had my dinner. And here I am, getting nervous about tomorrow. There’ll be no election news until much later, there’s no football on, I don’t feel like reading – I won’t be able to concentrate. How else to lose myself for a couple of hours before I go to bed? The blog! How it makes you live in the moment. But don’t worry, this will be (fairly) brief, a couple of highlights from each day.


Wednesday morning, I wake from a good night’s sleep feeling full of beans; it’s as if I’m simply not ill any more. Very weird. Somehow, Ravilious’s ‘A Wet Afternoon’ has got into my dream life. Now I understand it quite differently to before. The figure’s heading church-wards, yes, but now he’s striding, not slouching or fading away on his right hand side; and the alley he’s traversing is between preternaturally thick hedges of holly, Britain’s commonest variety of evergreen, all the more telling against the bare winter background. Overnight, it’s become a painting not about death but life. It’s all in the head, I remind myself, keep that strong.


After a massive vanilla protein shake, a good third of my daily needs, now part of my new breakfast regime, I could almost bring myself to go to the gym. But I have an appointment with my G.P., Dr Rugina, to discuss the mechanisms of referral to the Royal Marsden. When I get to the surgery at 9.15, five minutes early, there are several anxious-looking women patients outside who inform me no-one’s come to open up. Some have been waiting half-an-hour. We chat, we try the number of the other surgery in the practice. Nothing. Suddenly I spot my good Rumanian doctor further down the street, speaking animatedly on the phone. I wander over, closely followed by a Somali family.

‘Unbelievable,’ Dr Rugina smiles ruefully. ‘I am so sorry. Because I’m just a locum, they don’t give me keys. I’m trying to get hold of the practice manager.’

‘Well,’ I soothe, ‘I can’t stay, perhaps we could discuss a few things out here?’

It’s blowing a gale, but Dr Rugina risks all his papers flapping away as he opens his file and makes some notes.

‘I’ll find out about all the procedures for referral in the next couple of days,’ he assures me, ‘I’ll make you an appointment for Monday morning, direct into the system and let you know.’

I leave him to his street-corner surgery with the Somali ladies.



You think the NHS is safe in Tory hands? Check Dr Rugina's street-corner surgery in 2015 London
You think the NHS is safe in Tory hands? Check Dr Rugina’s street-corner surgery in 2015 London


Much of the rest of the day is spent in gathering swirls of excitement. What a week lies ahead! The Election, the Wedding, the Honeymoon and the Surgery. And there’s a bit of outstanding good news which I can’t share just at the moment. (Blatant narrative manipulation, indeed, but done for ethical reasons.) It’s difficult to concentrate, even on the blog.


Late afternoon, I pick Maddy up from nursery. It’s the first time I’ve done this solo since the end of March. My friend Ursula is going to come for a couple of hours to keep me company at Anna’s and act as insurance while Anna does her evening class at Birbeck. But as we reach each landmark, the culvert, the railway bridge, the shop on Eversleigh Rd, I feel ever more confident. Maddy strides beside me, munching her ‘treat’ of cheese biscuits, telling me about her day and asking about the wedding. She seems to be over her misgivings – a great relief.


By the time Ursula arrives, Maddy’s finished her dinner. My friend reads to her, inspects her bedroom, plays with her and, after guiding her up and down the outside corridor on her trike,  helps me get my little girl ready for bed. Between times, over another delicious meal-on-wheels, this time supplied by Anna’s sister Kate, Ursula and I catch up. She’s as busy as ever, with her drama and yoga teaching, her four children, her several lodgers and the new man in her life. Ursula has amazing energy and spark for someone of (roughly) my generation and I feel like I’m greedily feeding off it. She also brings us our very first wedding present, which I leave for Anna to open!


Ursula: another multi-talented funster with the elixir of youth



Once Anna’s back, Ursula heads off on her extraordinary light-weight aluminium bike. Anna’s brought the bridesmaid’s dresses with her and Maddy’s in paroxysms of excitement as she tries everything on. She and Isi are going to look like sisters on Friday. I won’t say more about the outfits – you’ll see them in the photos. I’m a bit alarmed how hard Anna’s pushing herself, however. Not only is there a ton of stuff still to get ready for the wedding, but she’s going to work for the Labour Party on Election morning, knocking on doors, urging supporters to get out and cast their ballots. We could have got married tomorrow, Thursday, the first day allowed to after handing in our notification of intention to marry. But some things take priority. 🙂


The only difficulty of the evening arises when Anna reminds Maddy that we’ll be going away for two days’ honeymoon after the wedding. All dressed up in her bridesmaid’s gear, she bursts into tears and clings to her mother. It doesn’t take as long as the last time to calm her down, but I anticipate a sticky good-bye when the time comes on Friday…


An excellent sleep, then I’m off on errands. I’ve seen my ‘girls’ for the last time until the wedding (we’ve decided it’ll be more romantic to observe convention, not see other this evening, go separately to Wandsworth Town Hall.)  I drop Isi’s outfit at Elena’s. She insists I stay for breakfast and cooks me the tastiest miniature tomatoes on toast, washed down with the usual fabulous coffee. Her new bubba, Lucia, is growing apace and she and I gurgle at each other during breakfast. She seems to like my funny noises and faces. Glad I haven’t lost my touch.


Then it’s to the station to buy tomorrow’s tickets for Bournemouth. While I’m there, Pippa, Mr Khoubehi’s Registrar, phones and I’m able to ask some useful questions about the op and its aftermath. Histology results from the kidney will be available eight days after it comes out and the week after I should have a meeting with the C and W oncologist. She apparently collaborates closely with the Marsden, but she’ll only have have access to therapies which have been formally approved by the NHS and NICE. She has no objection to me seeking a second opinion after the histology results are in, but she cautions that many of the RM’s more experimental procedures are usually only at the trial stage. Finally she explains that the reason for the 3-month delay between the op and having another lung scan is to give the tumour time to grow –  if it’s going to. Being kidney cancer, it could lie ‘dormant’ for some time…


Greatly reassured by the conversation I rush home to sort two further legal documents (it’s never-ending!) On arrival, I find more wedding presents, one very thoughtfully left overnight by me by my Head of Department, Lucia, whom I feel is fast becoming a proper friend as this mess goes on. She’s been 100% supportive throughout and couldn’t have done more to recalibrate my relationship with the college (remember I was supposed to retire on Aug 31 – and may still do so!) There’s a big box from Hilly, a package of books and music from Nick (as well as a learned article on tax law – revenge, perhaps, for the caption on his photo J), a trio of Indian classical music c.d.s from my distinguished colleague and friend Nirmala Rao – and lots of cards. Don’t think the postie’s ever been busier round no 37…


Sally pops in to say hello. We go to Social Pantry for a vegetable juice and catch up. She witnesses the legal stuff and then very helpfully goes to the Post Office to send it registered on my behalf. She’s offered herself unstintingly and I feel a  little bad that I haven’t been able to take her up more often.


The lunch-time news is all about the election or, rather, what’ll happen after no-one wins a majority. I watch it eating the rest of Elena’s beef casserole from yesterday, which is melt-in-the-mouth tender. I think she wants to convert me to a carnivore…


A couple of hours on the blog, though very annoyingly I lose my marvellously and maturely insightful post J on the election. Ah well, foolish to compose on-line, even something short. Still I get Tuesday’s post up and write a few more notes for this one. Then it’s a quick check of the emails; some lovely ones with ‘virtual’ flowers attached, others commenting harshly on British politics, others just sending best wishes for tomorrow. What’s left? The hair-wash. Nervous I might fu** it up and looked like a burst pillow tomorrow, I ring to see if Enzo can do it again. But he’s not there today. I try to remember everything he told me. The results you’ll see in the wedding photos.


May Apple Blossom
Mark’s May Apple Blossom



Not sure why, I think quite a lot about my parents, and their wedding in 1947, immediately before they left for their new life in Tanganyika. I have some lovely black and white photos from that occasion. And strong memories of the incredibly tender letters my father wrote my mother the day before the ceremony. How different ours will be from theirs, but no less meaningful and long-lasting, I hope. I have a sudden image of my father, striding down the sandy path from our house in Manyoni to his office, whistling the tune from My Fair Lady


I’m getting married in the morning

Ding dong! The bells are gonna chime

Pull out the stopper,

Let’s have a whopper!

But get me to the church on time!


Are you reading this, Paul, my trusty chauffeur? 🙂


Wedding Histeria :-)
Wedding Histeria 🙂

2 thoughts on “Wednesday-Thursday, 06-07 May: Of brevity, breakfasts and blossoms”

  1. Hey Bart, my coz, so sorry to hear your news, although the blog posts are wonderful and full of humour. Hope the wedding went well and Maddy enjoyed her role. Lots of love, Leonie xxxxx


  2. Just to say Many Congrats! Have a lovely time in Bournemouth. The beach was beautiful when I stayed at the Royal Bath for work conferences in January! So it should be good now. With apologies to Mark but I would vote for Bournemouth rather than Wolverhampton.
    I have had a great birthday with family in Cornwall and feeling much better now. I will send pictures of the beach here via email. Internet very slow so not sure if previous reply got through.
    Love to you all, Mary xxx


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