I only have one soul, but maybe 9 lives. As a child of two I was rushed to the RAF casualty station in Aden when another child split my lip open throwing a clockwork train at me. At six years old RAF surgeons operated to clear a twisted bowel maybe (who knows) removing part of me in the process. At age 12 I was rushed into Epsom hospital in an ambulance its bell tinkling all the way, the family being brought in to say goodbye as a burst appendix and peritonitis nearly killed me. I have written here about how my partner changed my diet and fixed my diabetes (see Old Town, New War). I have written extensively about my cancer, probably caused by working as a screen printer in my thirties (see Journey End for the links to all). But that is not the full set. Such is Life.
The cancer travelled so I had to have a kidney removed. It was successful although the plan of my interior wasn’t quite what the surgeon expected so a blood vessel was removed. A watching nurse described it as a ‘carry-on’ moment where all went ‘ooops’ and watched a fountain of blood rise. But here I still am, that behind me. The hospital apologised. Such is Life.
Some weeks ago, I was happy when we were able (under government diktat) to resume our handbell ringing practices in groups of six in gardens. Not, you understand, that I am an avid handbell ringer – no this was the alternative to big boy’s and girl’s bells in a proper bell tower, which are silent for the first and only time since World War 2. Without sallies to pull (steady at the back) we were reduced to slightly frozen practices in various gardens to keep our hands in. Such is life.
Off I wandered to walk around the block, arriving first to collapse on a chair with what I thought was a muscle strain in my shoulder. Sharp pain across the right side of my chest in any event. From then on it was like an ‘out of body experience’ as I watched events unfold unable to really partake in the theatre whilst being the main character on a stage around which the other characters moved. The roots of the pain were not in the shoulder it transpired, but in a short bout of pain (3 or 4 seconds?) some months earlier in the middle of a night’s sleep. I’d had a heart attack without knowing. Such is Life.
Sat wrapped in my coat against the chill damp I watched as Gill took charge. She insisted on calling the ambulance, saying she had seen similar in her husband and it had been a heart attack. Nah, this was just a muscle strain – after all I had been checked out when my last cancer check left me with a hospital infection that spoiled Christmas and made me ill enough for an ambulance to be called, but I had refused an invitation to be checked out in hospital. Then I had fallen in an argument with a flowerpot (see Out of the Blue | PatrickGoff.com) You could see my shin bone after the fall, but the minor injuries unit had checked me out and all was OK. Such is life.
I watched from above it seemed. I don’t know how this detached feeling grew but I certainly felt like a third party to events. It caused distress to others who shouldered blame for things that were not their fault, (Carolyn, it was not caused by climbing on your sea defences.) I exercised every morning for 15 minutes, including lifting some weights so it couldn’t be anything serious, could it? People buzzed around whilst I watched. My partner arrived, breathless, called back from an abandoned facial, leaving her even paler. The ambulance crew looked at my colour, my extremely high blood pressure and other clues and walked me to the ambulance. By the time I was admitted the pain was enough for morphine to be administered. Such is life.
Interested but still detached I watched as the cardiac and muscular/skeleton consultant argued about what was to blame. I had an echo scan, a thing of beauty which I wish I could share here. The silver screen showed the blood as red for oxygenated, blue for venous. I could see my heart valve opening and closing in magical close up beating any Hollywood movie, but it also showed the failing artery in my heart. Cardiac man won and the next day I had two stents fitted. Such is Life.
So, I make that seven or eight gone. I am producing the best paintings of my life. I love where I live, I love my partner, I love the life she has built for us, I love the cat who also has 9 lives, I love the gift of the studio. Each day is a prayer of thanks. Each painting an expression of the beauty of life. I know how abruptly things can change and I’m fortunate to be able to share my vision of the beauty of life. Lennon sang ‘number nine, number nine’ on the end of the disc. There is so much still to do.Such is Life.
“Such is Life” is from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel ‘Slaughterhouse Five’. Slaughterhouse 5 is a memoir in which a series of events overwhelm the main character, each greeted with ‘Such is Life’ and, I imagine, a shrug after which he carries on regardless through all disasters. This including being in Dresden when the firestorm consumed 130,000 souls.
Such is life.