Bedtime Reading

I am feeling a bit rubbish this evening. The missing little girl in Wales is really disturbing me. I think the older you get the easier you find it to put in other people’s shoes, and empathise more, and with that comes the horror of having some tiny inkling of how they might feel. If I feel this worried, if I wake up in the wee sma’s and my automatic thought is to murmur a prayer for her, if I feel sick with dread every time I hear the news come on – what’s it like for people who actually know, and love her? What’s it like for her parents, not knowing where their little one is, the endless dreadful images going through their heads? The pillow smelling of her hair, undented by her head? Kurtz said “The horror, the horror” when he Realised, and I think Realisation is the big abyss into which every human looks into at some point. Not everyone does, obviously. Hitler and Stalin didn’t. A guy at school who chased another boy around the kitchen with a knife cos he ate some of his cheese (long story) didn’t. But most normal human beings Realise at some point and I think the 30s are my Realisation decade.

On top of this I finished Bloodlands last night. I am very glad I read it, because it is important to know what ‘really’ happened. Before I read this I thought that the Holocaust had been mainly concentration camps. This underestimates the effect of Stalin and his starvation policies and the mass shootings done by both the Nazis and the Soviets. I was reading the book in the waiting-room at the hospital on Monday and an old bloke next to me asked if I was a student. I said no, I just liked reading to learn things. He looked at my book and said “Everyone ought to read books like that. Lest we forget.”

I was in the waiting-room waiting for my hand to be looked at. I had a rather odd incident on Friday night/Saturday morning. I went to bed with a cold worrying about a spot; I woke up having punched the picture of Sappho above my bed. I was dreaming that someone was coming out of it. Probably not Sappho, who would not have been frightening. But Someone. My instinct was to scream and punch the glass, and so I did in my dream. I woke kneeling on my bed with a slight stinging in my knuckles. I started to wake up and realise what had happened, and thought putting the light on might be a good idea to see if there was any glass on my bed. Not only were there slivers of glass, there were huge puddles of blood all over my pillows and my hand was covered.

I was frightened. Very frightened. I can’t remember being so frightened – it was probably when the police came through my window and I thought they were burglars and that was in 2009. I ran to the loo to get tissue to try and mop the blood up. As I couldn’t stem it I tried to ring the non-emergency ambulance number but, still half-asleep, I couldn’t get the digits right and kept getting through to BT. In the end I rang 999, by this time sobbing like a two year old. I tried to explain what had happened, premising it with “You won’t believe this, but …” and believe me the woman certainly did not. She kept asking me if I “still felt violent” and if I still had a weapon. She then told me that they were very busy, she hadn’t asked an amublance to come to me as she didn’t think I’d need one, and I should blot my cut with a tea towel. I’m ashamed to say at this point I started crying even more. A clinician came on the phone who snapped “I’ve got people unable to breathe, and you’ve cut your hand.” A fair point, but not one that was helpful, so I hung up and realised I’d have to get myself to hospital.

I tugged on a pair of trousers with one hand, and set off in my Wallace and Gromit nightshirt, still hiccuping and sobbing like a loon. Fortunately at half midnight the roads were fairly empty, and the drive wasn’t too difficult. I must have looked like someone out of Shameless: tear-stained, no make-up, hair everywhere, dressed like a tramp. I was lucky – A & E wasn’t madly busy, and I was seen fairly quickly. The doctor also seemed convinced that I had hurt myself deliberately, and it wasn’t until he inspected the wound that he admitted that I would have been hard pressed to make the injuries on purpose.

My hand needed to be x-rayed to ensure there was no glass in the cut, and the X-ray technician tried to talk to me about God, praying, and the Bible. I wanted to call my dad. I was cold and couldn’t stop shaking and I wanted someone with me. I sent a few texts to see if people were awake, but didn’t want to ring anyone because – who wants to be woken at 0100 by someone covered in blood?! But I thought I might call my dad. The technician said no; that he must be in his 80s, and I’d be waking him up for no good reason. How often did I go to church? Did I pray? Who did I pray to? Did I study the Bible? He was trying to be kind, but I felt so very tired.

My hand was stitched up. Isn’t it ironic how painful local anaesthetic is. I’ve never got irony right; someone’s going to post on here “ooh you’re like Alanis Morissette”. But it bloody hurt. Hurt far more than smashing my fist into poor old Sappho.

I drove back home, picked the glass out of my bed, and soaked my blood-soaked pillowcases in the sink. I probably wouldn’t have done that with my old Kays Catalogue bedding, but White Company linen doesn’t come cheap. I couldn’t sleep, had to take a diazepam in the end. My blood was throbbing in my injured hand and my thoughts were throbbing too.

As it is – I am alright. I was ridiculously fortunate. I punched with my left hand, not my right, for some reason. The tendon in my finger was visible, but unsevered. I’ve got sensation and movement. And I’ve got a wonderful dad who rang me as soon as he got my text telling me I should have called him because “that’s what dads are for”; took the morning off work to help me; came round and hoovered up the glass; cleaned up the blood and made me lunch; then drove me into town so I could have my hair and make up done for the hunt ball, before driving me to that. I was surprised I went, as well. I didn’t really think I could go. But I did, and had a great evening, even if I did have to ask my friend’s husband to cut up my dinner.

The next day is when the shock set in. I felt so very tired, and very nauseous (and no, it wasn’t the wine!). I curled up on the sofa and slept. (As an aside – how wonderful it is to have a Real Life sofa, rather than one which feels like sitting on Kate Moss. Thanks to my work colleague who gave it to me. The simple pleasures of life, eh.) Shock, and anger about how I’d been treated. I’d been frightened enough as it was, to wake up covered in glass and blood; if I’d been in a bad enough state to wound myself deliberately, my treatment by the 999 staff would scarcely have helped me. I suppose it helps that I am in the position of someone who has wielded a blade deliberately, and knows what goes through your subconscious in a lightning-fast flash which bypasses your logical mind and goes like wicked quicksilver right down your wrist, but I didn’t call an ambulance over it. I would never have done that. The one time I was in hospital because of that, my neighbour rang my mum, and she drove me. We sat in the waiting room and she put my head in her lap.

Well, so much for my early night.

Anyway I was talking about bedtime reading. I’ve got a book about the Bronte sisters: The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan. I absolutely loved The Secret Life of William Shakespeare which I read by her earlier this year. She has a unique gift of taking historical people who seem so distant they are like fictional characters, and making them real. I wanted to go to bed early and read that. Instead, I’m watching a film about Hillsborough. Like my Bloodlands book, it feels like it’s something that is so important to learn about. But it’s hard to take in. I must have been about 11 when Hillsborough happened and I never really understoof how hideous it was. “The horror, the horror” again. Imagining how it was to be in the ground, and crushed. Unable to breathe, suffocating. This article by Adrian Tempany is the most graphic I have read, and also the most powerful. I have thought about those people an awful lot since the latest enquiry, and like Bloodlands, it feels like I owe it to those people to know The Truth. Sometimes I get a bit worn out by all this learning though.

I need another round of Wodehouse. I need to write more about Wodehouse, and read him too. I think we would have been tremendous chums, and I was very excited when Wooster used the phrase “sharper than a serpent’s tooth” in the same way I do, although it’s a bastardisation from King Lear. It reminds me of my resolution to speak more like Wooster, because he is so entertaining and original, and behave more like the Queen, because she is dignified and kind to everyone, even dreadful people, and I can’t imagine her doing anything wrong, ever. Nothing anyone would find out about, anyway.

I’ve rambled terribly. I might delete this post in the morning.


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