The Rocky Road to Recovery

Escape from Hospital

I woke up to find myself in hospital.  In my semi-conscious state I had so many powerful visions!  I saw a new phone; a whiter smile; far better skin; a cleaner, faster car. I even saw lust!  There was so much to be done and time was marching on.  What was doing wasting my time lying around here?  I clambered out of bed, disconnecting myself from all the pesky tubes and wires.

“Relax,” the nurses said.  “Those aren’t visions,” they said.  “Those are just adverts on tv.  You should just ignore them.  Everyone knows they’re not real.”

But I was having none of it.  I wanted it all.  And I wanted it now.

“Get out of my way,” I shouted at them.  “Can’t you see you’re holding back my recovery?  Can’t you see you’re holding back the recovery of the entire economy?”

Albert learns that the word involved says a lot about his character

Albert meets two old friends for a drink.  After a couple of minutes, he clocks it.

‘Are you two….involved now?’ he asks.

They both smile.

Then Albert thinks about the word involved.  Albert’s never been involved, not really.

Perhaps that’s sad.  Sadder still, though, would be trying to involve yourself.

Albert learns that sometimes people have to work at taking offence

Albert accidentally brushes against a man in the corridor.

‘For goodness’ sake,’ the man complains, tutting loudly at Albert and giving him a cold stare.

And Albert realises something he should have worked out years ago: sometimes offence is something you actively have to take.  It doesn’t just arrive, unbidden.

The Homemade Car


For the last couple of months I’ve been building my own car, pretty much from scratch.  It’s quite a thing I don’t mind telling you.  And believe me, I’ve told everyone about it.  So okay, I’ve probably made a few rash predictions about how fast it can go, how many people it can carry, but you know what, I’m proud of it, really proud of it, and not ashamed to say so.  Not everyone can build a car after all.

But then over the last couple of weeks I’ve been taking it out on the roads.  If I’m honest with myself – which I admit is a rare activity for me – it’s not gone quite as well as I’d anticipated.  Last Tuesday, for example, I scratched the driver’s door on a neighbour’s boundary wall.  And then yesterday, I couldn’t seem to brake at all when turning right which led to a few – shall we say – issues.

And finally, today, I wrapped it around a tree just up the road from where I live.  Now don’t worry – I was okay, I was fine.  I just sat in the crushed car and contemplated my next move.  And then a police officer tapped my window.

‘Is everything okay here sir?’ he asked me.  ‘Is there some kind of problem?’

For once, I didn’t know what to say.  ‘I just don’t get it,’ I said, shaking my head in disbelief.  ‘I was so certain this was a fine-tuned machine.’

How to read your palm


Please, for old time’s sake, take your right hand and study it most closely.

Now then, you see that deep line at, say, seven o’clock heading up to one o’clock?  Well, my old friend, that’s what we term your lifeline.

And see that line coming in from the left, just before what we might term a quarter to? Ah come on now, don’t be all salty like that: you can see it; just look a little harder.  That’s the one!  The one curving up to join your lifeline, the one that runs alongside your lifeline for an inch or so before veering off to the right, heading off who knows where and then becoming a little faint?

Well yes, that would be me, yes.  Indeed it would.  Typically me you might say.

Now, would you just keep an eye on that line?  Just let me know if it does anything weird.  Would you do that for me?

Albert learns about the overwhelming and intriguing power of the flower


(Jean Arp – Man Seen by a Flower [1958])

Albert stares at the flower.

What kind of flower are you? he wonders.

The flower looks back at him.

You can label me, specify me, the flower thinks, if that helps you manage the situation.  The truth is, if you could truly absorb all my flowerness you’d never speak again.

Baby Dropping (an abandoned opening)


At the latest count Janice has dropped her baby three times.  I shit you not.  Although I have to admit that her baby, a lovely little girl called Ruby, still seems fine.  Unlike her mother, Ruby is alert and mischievous and funny.  Ruby has the clearest eyes and the finest, freshest skin.  She has perfect toenails I could study all day.  She’s weaning just fine.  She smiles on demand.  She never makes strange with new people and she even sleeps through.  But still.  Three times is three times.

‘I feel so awful,’ Janice says.  Janice is just back from the hospital with her baby.  They’ve both been described as very lucky.  Ruby’s been given the all-clear and Janice has been given a stern word.  Janice is now firmly – this is the stern word they used, Janice makes a point of telling me – firmly on their radar.  She always calls me after a crisis.  ‘It’s terrible,’ Janice says.  ‘But what can you do?’

I’m standing in my newish kitchen half-following a complicated recipe for honeyed apricot lamb.  I want to be the kind of person who, of a Saturday evening as the autumn light fades, puts on Chet Baker, drinks a fine Merlot from a supersize wineglass and follows complicated recipes – even when those complicated recipes involve extremely young animals.

‘How about not drop her?’ I suggest.

Janice hangs up.  Janice secretly hates me because I still have plausible plans for a big life.

She phones back a minute later.  She always does.

‘Kate, why do you always have to be so hostile to me?’

‘It’s called tough love.  Obviously.  Listen Janice, I’ve been thinking.  Have you ever thought about flash cards?’

She doesn’t understand me.  So I explain about lamination and the potential to post little cards around her damp little house.  How they could act as visual prompts.  Do not drop Ruby, one could say, with a diagram of an unhappy baby falling to the ground and a cross through it.  Or: Test the temperature of Ruby’s food, with an exclamation mark next to a representation of a steaming substance.  Or: Remember to sterilise Ruby’s bottles.  I’m not sure about the diagram for that one.

‘We use them at work for the young mothers with issues,’ I tell her.

‘That’s ridiculous,’ she says.  ‘Who needs laminated cards to remind them not to drop their own baby?’

‘That would be you,’ I point out.

Janice hangs up again.

I miss her second call back because I’m taking one from Adrian.  He can’t come round tonight after all, he explains.  Something’s come up at the last minute.  He’s so very sorry.  He’ll make it up to me.  He sounds so stressed.

‘That’s fine,’ I say, taking a large gulp of cheap red.  ‘Don’t you worry.  Shit happens.  It’s totally and completely fine.’

I study my two coriander and cumin-smattered cutlets, so carefully laid out on my new walnut chopping board.  If you squint they look sort of similar to the photograph.

‘No, no, nothing special,’ I tell him.  ‘You know me.  I’m no cook!’

And he’s gone – off to his very important, last minute but lazily non-specific thing.

Sometimes, on the news, the police will say that someone was murdered for no reason.  They’ll say this murder was completely unnecessary and pointless, contrasting it, presumably, with all the necessary and pointful murders they have to deal with.

‘Well, little lamby,’ I say, raising my refilled glass to my row of little victims, ‘turns out you died in vain after all.’


[probably not to be continued…..]