Then this

I am taking a break from writing brand new blog posts over the summer.

Instead of posting new work I am giving readers the chance to read material from the archives of my blog.

In no particular order, here are twenty of my favourite posts from the last four years.



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.


First published 4 May, 2014


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