I bang on about quite a lot of things. One of the things about which I bang is not taking anything for granted. I mostly remember this but sometimes I need reminding.
I spoke to a serviceman today who described to me, quite matter-of-factly and without being pressed, his condition after a severe training accident. So many terrible things happened to his body that I cannot describe them here. But what stayed with me was his pain. It is excruciating, and it never stops. He can control it a little with extreme medication, but the problem with even the strongest drugs is that the body gets used to them in the end, and the pain reasserts. The agony is so intense that he counts himself lucky to get four hours’ sleep a night. Days will go by when he is existing on no more than two hours of rest.
I go insane if I do not get my full eight hours, and I do not have pain all over my body. I think of the minor moans and complainings I make about idiot things. I think: every morning when I wake up I should hang out more flags over the simple fact that my nerve endings are quiet. The absence of something is quite hard to celebrate, but the absence of constant pain is something that goes right to the top of my gratitude list.
I do think of my luck quite a lot. I think of the great good fortune of living in this astonishing place, surrounded by venerable trees and ancient mountains. There are no riots in the streets. No secret police are bashing down the door. I may drive a car and vote in elections. The usual losses and griefs of a life lived this long may make my heart sore, from time to time, but do not crush or smash it. All my fingers work, so I may type my 1096 words of book as I did today and feel a sense of satisfaction.
There is something I often think of, when there are deaths, as there have been in the last week. I think: say the thing. Give the compliment, express the love, open the heart. Because all the best beloveds are only one bus away from extinction. But I also think: make the list. Write down, literally or figuratively, the things for which one should be grateful. I know it’s the mad old hippy in me, coming out and waving a tattered, tie-dyed flag, but still. I think it might be true. Smell the damn flowers, because who knows what may happen tomorrow.
The white lilac and the apple blossom are out:
The nobility of Mr Stanley the Dog: