Stars on the Ceiling

I don’t have any new year’s resolutions. At the risk of sounding smug, I feel like my life is just about how I want it to be. So this year I’m merely resolving to do more of the same and to retain my equilibrium. 2011 will be, I hope, the year I am declared cured of cancer. The magic five year post-diagnosis mark will pass in May, as long as my mammograms etc are all clear then. And if they’re not clear, well, I don’t know really… but I think if I got cancer again I might cope a little better with than I did last time. I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable with my mortality now but it’s like a shadow that’s always with me, and I’m used to it. I said in an earlier blog, I think, that my suspension of disbelief in terms of living had disappeared. Cancer made the sets collapse & the lights come on & the masks disintegrate—that was devastating for the first few years. But now I seem to have built up something else in their place—I’m still acutely aware that this is all theatre, but somehow I’ve become gradually able to bear it, even to enjoy & treasure it.

My six months this year in London were pretty wonderful. I wondered, five years ago, whether I’d see Griff grow up. Now I can actually imagine myself at his 21st birthday. He probably won’t remember much of the time Richard and I spent with him when he was four, but I will always recall him storming into our bedroom in the mornings, asking if we were awake yet, having a glass of water from the tap at our basin, winding up the blind and pronouncing ‘Well, this is a lovely day, that’s what I call it’, then saying ‘Do you have any precious jewels for me look after Mewedif?’ I’d get up and give him a necklace or a ring to look after, and he always did an excellent job of making sure it didn’t get lost. Here’s the boy sitting at our local, the Princess of Wales at Lea Bridge.

Griff and his puppy, Spiderman-Rose.

Work-wise I got a lot done on sabbatical: two chapters and two journal articles, a book proposal, and yes, the ubiquitous novel that everyone starts when away from the day-to-day. Mine is a gothicky ghost story set in a McMansion… I’d like to finish it so will keep writing a little every day, and if you’re one of my writerly friends I might ask you to comment on it for me one day.

Julia and Griff doing pottery at Hackney City Farm.

Richard and Helen outside the Red Lion in Padstow.

My best friend Julia, one of Griff’s mums, said to me on the day I left London ‘Thanks for adding value to my life’. I think what she meant was thanks for introducing her to The Guardian Fashion Statement, Lulu bathers, and buying her silk underwear from Paris. Julia is the best listener, gives the best advice, is the most accepting and perfect friend I could ask for (I hear her wife Helen guffawing in the background as I write this but it’s true). I even came to look forward to Julia’s evening greetings when I got home from the library—which were either ‘I’ve made soup for dinner, it’s really horrible’ or ‘I’ve got a cake in the oven, I’m hoping this one will be ok.’ Julia is nothing if not perseverant.

French Onion soup at Le Potager du Marais, vego in Paris.

Richard in his element.

Ridiculously romantic.

I said to Richard when we were visiting Paris that I could die happily now. I hadn’t been to that city for twenty years. It rained lightly a lot of the time we were there, so buildings and streets were a pale shade of grey. It seemed very peaceful after London and we spent a lot of time just wandering. I bought a pair of Robert Clergerie shoes that I’ve been lusting after (and paid full price, ouch), and then saw, in a little suburban shop window late one night, another pair, slightly different, reduced from 250 euros to 40 euros. I rushed back in the morning and snaffled them up. The Branly Museum was my highlight in Paris—Australian Aboriginal art in its bark-ochres and its more modern glorious vivid acrylics displayed with reverence, spotlit in glossy black rooms. I specifically went to the Branly to see the ceiling of stars that Gulumbu Yunupingu painted, but it turned out they were in the office block of the museum & we could only see them from the street. Nice for the workers. One night I had a ‘Paris exemption’ from my vegetarianism and ate some wild duck. Sadly, it wasn’t hugely enjoyable—although it was cooked perfectly of course—it seems my palate has changed and meat isn’t as luscious as it used to be.

Koh Tao. Our hut is just behind the swings.

I missed Ruby terribly while I was away. I write this from Thailand, the island of Tao, where I’ve been with her since just before Christmas (I can highly recommend Christmas here—nothing happens). She looked goddess-like, hair down to her waist, skin and eyes glowing, when I first saw her. There’s nothing so gratifying as to have your breath taken away by your own offspring! We are heading to Chiang Mai in a couple of days, then Richard goes home and Ruby and I have a week in Laos before I return to work and she goes on to visit Vietnam and Cambodia with friends.

That’s all for now. A joyful 2011 to you, my dear friends and readers, Meredith.


6 Responses to “Stars on the Ceiling”

  1. elsewhere Says:

    Happy new year, Meredith! Good luck with the mammograms.

  2. Cress Says:

    This is lovely. You have bucked the “2010 was the worst year of my life” trend, and given hope to us all. See you soon xo

  3. Anne Marie Grgich Says:

    Stars on the Ceiling… Happy New Years!!!

    Dear Meredith, in the little time I spent with you, you cert ainly have added value to my life!
    I vicariously relish hearing of your travels and stories and your incredible strength and survival inspires me. I love your style and sense of humor and wit, your a star! Love Anne

  4. librarygirl Says:

    Happy New Year.
    I’m teary with jealousy over your Paris photos.
    I like the sound of your ghost story.

  5. Margi Curtis Says:

    Happy New Year to you and Richard and all. Leigh has spread the love around and sent me your blog connection. Your reflections are moving and beautiful, and it will be good to read a novel from you some day!

    I just wanted to let you know that Graham had a triple bypass the Monday before Christmas and was home by Christmas day which was amazing. He is recovering well though battered and bruised as you can imagine. His heart is in good condition it was just blocked arteries that needed grafting so we expect he will make a complete recovery and be healthier than he has been of a very long time.

    Leigh and I have been managing the changes OK. It is certainly a life-altering experience to face your mortality, go down to the wire and then survive with every day a new chance to reflect upon the mystery of it all. (The offspring do offer moments of perspective and joy, don’t they!)

    Many blessings, and I do hope we will see you on your return.

  6. Julia Says:

    G’day my love. This is a very complimentary blog post, thank you. The end bedroom seems very quiet, the British Library has lost its shine and even Liberty looked a little lost in your absence. We miss you. Big love to you and R and R.

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