Then this


Then this.

We are sitting with hospital mugs of tea, in the Quiet Room. We are all leaning forward, listening to the doctor. Outside, the binging of the drips.

She smiles, is patient with us, answering our questions calmly, one by one.

A beige folder is on her knee. The doctor pulls out a piece of paper, readjusts her glasses, and reads from it, summarising the words she knows we will not understand.

B-cell, she says. Definitely. The histology confirms it. Not T. Which we had thought was better. Until


Then a knock. Fingers on the door, a ringed hand, the dance of apology. By all means.

It’s just that

Another piece of paper is brandished, handed over in silence. The two women exchange looks.

Temperature has fallen and increased at the same time (my father reappears from the car park). It’s just–

I don’t bel–

You never

The doctor stands up. (A nurse comes in). I need to make a phone call, she says. Right now. If what this says is true then

The nurse holds my wife’s hand. I lock hands with my wife. My mother’s sniffing.

Hard heels on a hospital corridor. The doctor’s face at the door. The hint of a smile. More of a grimace, the effort of not smiling beginning to tell on her lips. Her eyes are different: filmy, soft.

I have spoken with the radiologist, and he says, he is absolutely in pieces I can tell you, he says that it appears we have made the most dreadful mistake. All I can imagine is.

She glances at the paper again.

If what this says is true, it means you are getting better and your treatment is working.

I cannot say how sorry I am.

Or how delighted.

It’s been quite an afternoon. Few days for you I mean. Enjoy tonight if you can. Enjoy each other.

It’s going to be all right.


    1. Hello Jo and thank you! But I am fine. I am re-telling the story in the order it happened eight years ago. It is all there in love for Now, if you want the warts and al version. I really appreciate you saying hi. As ever, A


      1. I was going to ask whether this was a repeat performance, happening now, or a re-telling. I’m infinitely relieved, from your response to Jo Bell, to find that it’s a re-telling. I found it very moving. I’d like you around for a while longer…


      2. Hello Antony.
        A retelling, yes. The full gory story is out in print.
        But I still mark it. It is not happening. And it is.
        As ever with best wishes


      3. Hi Antony

        I’ve responded (in)directly to you in tomorrow’s post -is it happening live or in the past?
        I am not sure.
        As ever with much appreciation



  1. Me too- hell as soon as I saw it I thought the worse- followed through and now I know it’s you- writing- finding space-reflecting- re-shaping the earlier writing-the earlier living- thank god


  2. I found this, read the part as shown and thought hell no, but am glad to see no problem- you are reshaping- rewriting- reworking lived experience
    stay safe


  3. I remember reading this scene (not in the same words) in your memoir and thinking how frightened and then elated you and your wife must have felt. So glad you are better so you can post on your unique blog. Cheers to your health.


  4. If I can stray outside the subject matter, I simply really like this form you are working in for those poems. It has the suspension and verticality of the experience of reading a script or play (or transcript, more accurately) yet its enjambment is more of poetry. Probably a form that came out of necessity, because there’s nothing to trim in it and no ornamentation. Like a perfect translation.


    1. Thank you thank you thank you Jeff.
      You are becoming my ideal reader, who gets what I am up to.
      I appreciate what you say enormously.
      As ever with very best wishes


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