Resuming the walks reports, after last week’s walk was lost to Sarah’s jet lag. And reflecting on time’s effects on caring, friendship and mortality.
This week’s walk is now more normally done as a run. Was introduced to Sarah as a run, in fact, by her former running mates, the ones who disappeared soon after Sarah’s diagnosis. But today I’m doing it as a walk. Because running with a camera is hard. And because I want time to think.
The route was originally known as ‘Camp Hill’ – but we call it ‘Lost Liverpool.’ It’s a mostly off-road route that shows you a version of Liverpool very few people get to see. Very, very rich, eighteenth century Liverpool. We will walk along ancient lanes where elegant horse-drawn carriages once drove. And I will show you some of the houses of the slave traders.
If you want the documented history of these people and their places, it’s not hard to find. And in Liverpool there is a whole museum which attempts some kind of recompense and recognition for the genocides they committed. But in walking through their landscape today, I’m consciously walking through time, and reflecting on the effects time is having on me. Thinking about caring, friendship and mortality.
Thinking rather than talking because I’m on my own again. Sarah, having only just got over her jet lag, has woken up with a cold, passed on by me, possibly, from earlier in the week. And has immediately taken to her chaise-longue. Which is the understood signal between us for me to step back into my ‘care-giver’ role. Not that we’re worried by colds. We welcome them, in fact, as a sign that Sarah’s immune system is in healthy working order. But when she goes ‘down’ with something now, it seems natural to us to immediately put her on special care.
First that means ‘Frighten Juice.’ This is a concoction of crushed garlic steeped in lemon juice, and diluted slightly in hot water. It’s hard to drink without gagging, but we’ve found it’s perfectly capable of frightening off most common ailments fairly quickly.
Next there’s peace, quiet, a book about gardening, friendly attention and then a short nap. While I go to the shops for fresh food possibilities and sore throat lozenges.
I make a smoothie with bananas, mango and yoghurt which goes down well. A bit later two Pains au Chocoalt seem to help too. The fridge, fruit bowls, shelves and bread bin are loaded and ready for whatever will be best for her.
I have been doing this level of caring and more for most of the past five years. Some of it to support Sarah’s treatments and surgery. Much of it, though about food and drink. We are what we eat. And what Sarah eats has been a big part of my caring. Caring that is never stressful anymore. It just is. I walk on.
And I think about friendship. Particularly today I think about the dear friend who I’ve just noticed this morning has ‘de-friended’ me on Facebook. I know Facebook isn’t real friendship. But I’d thought this person was a real friend. I’d thought she would last me forever. There’s been no falling out. Just a reluctance to respond, and then a sudden turning off of the tap of friendship, for now, by my friend. And what I think, as I walk along through centuries of history is that time will tell. No permanent damage has been done by either of us. You are still my friend. And in time I hope ours is the kind of real friendship that survives life’s ups and downs. Go well my friend.
Near the end of my walk now and my thoughts return to me and Sarah. And to Rachel and Anthony. In grieving for Rachel these past two weeks, and seeing Anthony’s pain, it has of course been impossible not to see a possible version of our own future at times. Sarah has a 20 per cent chance that she will die from secondary breast cancer. That’s not me being morbid. That’s a fact. That’s me looking straight into the face of mortality. I can go around being a world champion care-giver all I like, breast cancer won’t care. Facing this sombre fact, as I walk along one of the few pieces of road, a bus passes me. On the back of it a super-imposed figure of a young woman in pink looks back, asking, ‘Race for Life, are you in?’ I have my camera in my hand, but I don’t take a picture. At times like this the pink industry disgusts me even more than usual.
Instead I walk on singing my favourite Scott Walker song, ‘Copenhagen’ – and my favourite line, ‘follow me into just one more spring.’ That’s how we’ll do it. One more spring, after one more spring.