Tuesday, 24 June 2014
I expect Florence had something there.
Fear can be quite debilitating. Shakespeare says in Romeo and Juliet: “ I have a faint cold fear . . . . . . . that freezes up the heat of life.” I know what he means.
Being afraid is not always cowardly. In fact, fear can make you think before you do something stupid or dangerous, which is surely good. I have little sympathy for people who risk their lives unnecessarily and expect rescuers to endanger their own lives to extricate them from their folly.
But it doesn’t always have to be quite as serious as that. Beloved tells the following story against himself:-
While floating along on a narrowboat on the Oxford canal with friends, their seven year old daughter fell overboard. Beloved can’t swim, he is terrified of water and doesn’t even like to get his face wet in the shower. Nevertheless, he instantly jumped after her, only to find that the canal was no more than 5ft deep. His heroic effort ended with him STANDING on the bottom, feeling rather silly, while the girl swam back to the boat and scrambled aboard. The fact remains that, when he saw the girl fall, his instant, thoughtless, impulse to rescue her overcame his fear of drowning. He also tells me that, had this been a fast flowing river instead of a gently drifting canal, he might have needed rescuing himself.
What Shakespeare and, to a lesser extent, Florence Nightingale mean, is something different. Something with which I am very familiar.
Both Paul and Gardener have been poorly, neither has come to work for three weeks. Some serious jobs were waiting, so I attempted them myself. Pulling apart large root balls, grubbing up stubborn weeds, cutting back overgrown clumps of herbaceous plants, shovelling and a bit of digging. I was enjoying myself, adrenaline flowing. Gradually I became aware of a niggling pain in the throat area; "hay fever", I said to myself, although I should have known better. True to form, during the following night I woke up with a racing pulse, thumping all over the place, an episode of Atrial Fibrillation. Since last November, the last time I was hospitalised, I had only had a couple of minor, short-lived episodes, not more than half a day long, and I had put my otherwise more or less permanent apprehension about a renewed attack to the back of my mind. Along the lines of “new medication - new improved me”. Apprehensive, but a bit foolhardy.
I am better again, it was a mild attack, lasting nine hours; for most of the time I slept thanks to sleeping pills and tranquillisers; and then it stopped again, as it always does. A couple of days of taking it easy (saving me from a play-reading party for which I had little stomach anyway) and I was back to normal.
Back to normal, but also back to the ‘faint cold fear, that freezes up the heat of life’. You have no idea how sad that makes me feel.