Exeter, 1976. DearHeart and I, pens poised to record insights into the poetry of Yeats. Dr Henderson takes off his spectacles and gives us all a Paddington-Bear long-hard-stare.
“I’m going to read you one of Yeats’s greatest poems, Lapis Lazuli. Before I start, can I remind you that the word gay did not, in 1938, have the meaning that it has today. So when I tell you that ‘Hamlet and Lear are gay’, I expect you to react appropriately. Thank you.”
We try to look suitably mature. Tom Robinson was riding high in the charts, being Glad. WHSmith’s was being picketed for refusing to stock the Gay Times while continuing to supply porn. But in this lecture theatre, gay meant not sad. We had been warned. We smirked just a little.
Henderson was a wise old bird and, following his lead, I am warning you that this blog will mention stiffness in the morning. This has nothing to do with naughty bits and I want no smirking at the back there. Thank you.
Little Darling…it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…. My phone, my Precious, is now on the other side of the bedroom, so that I cannot just reach out and snooze the alarm. I actually have to get out of bed.
I stumble towards it at silly o’clock. Ouch. Here comes the sun, little darling… I sit at the end of the bed, not moving.
“You all right?” says ActorLaddie.
“Really stiff this morning. Having problems getting going.”
“Not surprising. You’ve been working all hours.”
“And cycling most days.”
“And you’ve got a nasty neurological condition.”
I find myself briefly wrong-footed.
It’s not that I forget the Parkinson’s. For better or worse, it’s now part of my definition of self; together with being a woolly liberal Guardian-reading, Big-marking Primary-teaching, much-familied happy married, bloody lucky Londoner. I try not to give the Nonsense too much attention but it’s always kneeling up at the corner of the carpet, wanting me to notice it. No, not forgotten.
But I do ignore – or perhaps deny – any suggestion that the physical symptoms will impact on my life. There, I can’t even write ‘get worse’. I am wedded to a belief that a combination of meds, cycling and yoga will hold the bugger at bay while they find a cure. There is no other possibility. I avoid reading anything about carers or benefits or more advanced symptoms. I will face these things only if I need to. And I won’t need to. The cavalry are coming.
My right hand, however, is not on-message. It’s been trouble from the start. First it acquired a tremor; now largely kicked into touch by the Sinemet. In revenge, it has developed the habit of clenching, Lego-person style, when left to its own devices. It will relax on order but by then the fingers have started whingeing about being stiff and achy and waves of muscular mutiny are travelling up the arm to the shoulder.
During the day, it’s fairly easy to hold something in my hand, stopping it clenching completely: a water-bottle, a board-rubber, a small child’s ear. But my hand also clenches in the night, leading to a very nasty stiffness when I wake. Perhaps I need to find something to clutch when in bed.
Oh really, for goodness sake! Class dismissed.