I’d like to make it so, but who knows? I have tried so many times since Beloved died but have, so far, not kept my word, either to myself or to others.
I had hoped that the new year would bring renewed physical and mental application, stamina, enthusiasm, reliability, confidence as well as physical well-being. No such luck. No sooner had the back healed when I caught a nasty cold turning into a chest infection and unpleasant cough. I am only just getting over the side effects.
However, there are signs that all may not be lost: I went back to the gym today for the first time for many months; I am having to relearn to walk upright rather than a) as at first, like a penguin, and b) following on from that, like a very old person bent forward, leaning on a stick. Under strict supervision I am crawling through exercises, the very first, very mild stand biking, tread milling, getting up from a chair without leaning on aids, step ups, and just plain walking along a straight line, head up, chest out, eyes forward. "Do that twice a week for an hour or so to start with", says Dan, my fitness instructor, "and we’ll have you back where you were by summer." He’s a nice boy, very fit, enthusiastic and encouraging. “You’re doing really well”, he says, looking at me out of his earnest dark eyes. Maybe. When I came home afterwards Marzenna was there, my new Polish cleaner, a lovely young woman, very friendly, very clean and tidy. “You’ve been to the gym?” she marvelled. “So you keep active before?” She’s only known the penguin me. “That’s good, it’s better to move.” Her English is a bit lacking. “Now things will change. You be positive and things will change.” Blimey, I must have been a right old grump if the mere mention of the gym can make her see me in a new light.
The back episode frightened me so much that I decided there and then that I’d need a new shower room rather than a bathroom, as well as a downstairs study rather than a dining room to seat twelve. It is most unlikely that I’ll ever have twelve people sitting down to dinner again. The shower room has been installed and the dining table has been placed at one end of my sitting room. Sooner or later it will probably disappear altogether. I’ve moved a large sofa which is now in the sun room. The former dining room has become my study, it is a bright room with two windows, both of which look out on to the garden. I’ve lost the upstairs book walls, but there are enough shelves in the new study to satisfy this reader. I have also bought myself a music centre, the modern but old looking kind, which plays vinyl LPs, cassettes (remember them?) of which I have many still, and CDs. My computer is there too, my TV with many European channels will follow shortly and a large chair stands by the window, ready to receive me and my book. My cave awaits. If and when the time comes that I can’t manage stairs there is enough space for a bed, provided I scrunch up some of the other furniture.
Other than that I have been dealing with Beloved’s writings, old diaries (goodness, I am not sure that I would have been as fond of the young man as I was of the middle-aged one), and now, his books. What a bright spark he was, there are books on the sciences, geology, geography, history, politics, all many years old and, probably, long overtaken by modern day research. There are his shelves of novels, some of which I will keep, classical literature, art and photography. And poetry books by the metre, most of which I will have to sift through and either dispose of or keep. Being wrapped up in memories of Beloved and our time together has made me miss him all over again, in a deep and sad way now rather than the earlier, raw and painful heartache. The loneliness doesn’t fade away.
But spring will come and the garden will beckon. Maybe Marzenna is right, “you be positive and things will change.”