Month: March 2013

…the Barracks Bike


Today’s photograph on a chilly windy bright day taken at 11am at the back of my flat where building work is still going on.

I am I hope back to writing without becoming exhausted.

Illness or something like an operation to improve things like I had, are a useful source of material for writing, and have been used countless times. The experience of going through these is also invaluable when writing. Until I had the operation 10 years ago for Ulcerative Colitis to remove my bowel and put a stoma in, I had absolutely no idea of the impact and pain involved. I later chronicled this in a poem My Friend Found Me on the Floor. I was certainly not warned of the impact I hope anyone reading that might learn something.

I remember a central section of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, where Lord Brideshead comes home from Italy to die at the vast family home. A great Tudor bed has to be moved downstairs and the life of the house becomes revolved around the illness. Waugh uses this as a tool to bring characters together and in the end part the main ones.  The heightened senses are set against the clockwork motions of the illness. It is an ending not just of a generation but of belief.

My operation wasn’t quite as dramatic. In hospital there is a metronomic feel to life. Every couple of hours blood pressure, oxygen and hydration levels are checked. Staff change in shifts, food, drinks and tablets turn up.

One of the young nurses, she was nearing the end of her second year after qualification, had decided to leave the hospital and join the RAF, to work on the planes turned into flying hospitals returning from Afghanistan when there has been an incident. It would probably make a great feature article or quite a good book, it’s not really my thing, but the TV documentary a while ago following the work on these planes was quite fascinating. She looked very young but had a wiry hardness. Fairly soon she will be going for basic training and ironically as part of that have to learn to shoot, to kill, the opposite of what she’s learnt up to now!

She told us that when she told her grandma, she turned to her and told her ‘…not to become the barracks bike!’ Typical sort of grandma statement and anyone less likely to I cannot imagine! Exactly the sort of contrary remark we have to think of as writers to make our writing live.