One Year On: Defiantly Yours

Observatory

Illness is as boring as baby photos.

March 23 is not a date I’ll easily forget. One year ago on that abnormally sunny day the UK entered its first lockdown and with immaculate timing I started chemo/radiotherapy for cancer. The experience of having to visit a hospital at the epicentre of London’s Covid pandemic every day for months was surreal but bearable because both dates had – I thought then – finite end-points.

But then things got strange. Thanks to the election of a man ridiculed for attempting to become London’s mayor, let alone the nation’s Prime Minister, Britain has suffered the highest death rate in the world. If you really want to lose faith in democracy, Winston Churchill said, let the people decide. Covid delayed my scans for months, and now I find myself in the same situation one year later, facing endless further treatment in a battle I can’t win. When the drugs cease to work, as they must, the cells become rampant once more. 

All this has been made bearable by my spouse, whose silent strength is both humbling and mystifying. Curiously, life at its end is duplicating life at its start, a becalmed, quiet world of severe limitations, the attention concentrated once more on what is important and what was lost.

Intimations of mortality concentrate the mind wonderfully; in the past year I’ve written several books. One I finished as a personal exercise, not for publication. Two I finished contractually, but also because I loved writing them. Two further works are in the pipeline. As I’m being denied the chance to go anywhere else I keep working.

Writing isn’t always fun; often it’s simply a slog. Although I’m not prone to depression it’s hard to be quite as joyful when such serious matters press down. It’s tempting to think I could put away my laptop and just walk off. Two old friends of mine, Iain Banks and Graham Joyce, carried on working until they died at 57 and 58 respectively.

Reading and writing has kept me sane. Writers are very good at compartmentalising; I step into the written world, whether enjoying someone else’s work or creating my own, and forget everything else.

This is hopefully the last health bulletin you’ll have to endure for the simple reason that the illnesses of others are as boring as their baby photos. I’m a writer, not a patient. I type my way through the chemo treatments, regarding canulas and tubes as mere nuisances when they tangle with my keyboard. When my beard fell out I was only worried that bristles were getting into the keyboard.

To hell with it. Instead of incompetence let’s celebrate excellence. I once had a T-shirt based on a cartoon by the wonderful B Kliban that read; ‘Short on brains but a terrific dancer’. It’s time I dug it out. Let’s dance.

41 comments on “One Year On: Defiantly Yours”

  1. Barbara Boucke says:

    Bravo!!!

  2. Brian Evans says:

    With all best wishes to both you and your husband. Thank you for keeping us informed.

  3. Ian Mason says:

    I’d wear that T-shirt, it’d be a lie, but I’d wear it.

    Oh, you’re expecting me to tell you why it would be a lie? Terrible dancer.

  4. Jan says:

    You’re not done yet.

    Plod on. Take it steady.

    All the best Jan x

    + Best to Peter

  5. Jan says:

    You’re not done yet.

    Plod on. Take it steady
    All the best to yourself and Peter. Jan x

  6. Jan says:

    Why does this always happen I type a message in and it disappears so I type it again so it comes back twice
    Have you fitted snare traps into this site? or is it my extremely antique Kindle? Bloody Nora. FFS.

  7. Barbara Boucke says:

    It’s Gremlins, Jan.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    Calligraphers have their own demon. Perhaps there’s one connected to computers.

    I am continuing to pray for you and Peter regardless, Chris.

  9. SteveB says:

    Chris, your health bulletins are important, not only because we all care for you (and your characters) but in my case I am also fighting cancer – though so far still with hope – snd it‘s a great help to read your thoughts.
    All the best to both you and your partner.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    It must be March 26 over there by now. May I be the first to wish you felicitations on your natal day and may there actually be a number more of these occasions. (You never know, do you?)

  11. Jo W says:

    Keep on fighting Chris! Please.
    I see we’ve come round to that day again so, have as good a day as you can to mark the anniversary of your day of birth. Sixty eight? A mere stripling.
    All our best wishes for you and for Peter from Alan and me.xxxx

  12. John Howard says:

    Please put my name down on your card for the Mazurka….
    I will try to wear my right foot instead of my usual two left.

  13. admin says:

    A mazurka, eh? I was thinking more of a dad-dance. The dance I’d most like to be able to do is Treat Williams’ dance on the wedding table (which he manages without breaking a single thing) in the underrated movie ‘Hair’.

  14. mike says:

    Have a great day and many, many, many more

  15. John Williams says:

    I remember the day like it was yesterday. We were with you then and still are. You might like to watch the film The Farewell, streaming on Amazon prime ATM.

  16. Wayne-E says:

    You are, simply the best! You’ve managed to fill your time with many worthy things. While so many people squander their talent, you’ve fine tuned yours and made my life all the better for it. Thank you for all those millions of words and the blog (in it’s many forms).

  17. Brooke says:

    Join me in a virtual Bhangra, Mr. Fowler.
    Just finished listening to and then reading O&L. One of your best. As with Strange Tide, etc. where society’s victim is the anti-hero, the story is poignant, moving. And often very funny. So I won’t chastize you for the racial stereotying.
    All the best and take good care.

  18. Peter T says:

    Stay defiant and KBO!

  19. Tim Lees says:

    Wishing you the very best.

  20. Liz Thompson says:

    Keep breathing, writing, and celebrating your husband.

  21. Paul C says:

    Such bravery is really inspiring.

    Very best wishes.

  22. Kimberly D. Martin says:

    Happy (early) Birth Day, good sir! May you spend it doing any and every thing that makes you happy, makes you laugh with glee.

    What an “interesting” year you have had, in a different way from others of us. It made me very glad to read that you had finished one book as “a personal exercise”, because that must feel even better than the rest.

    Cheers to you and to your loving husband, on your special day.

  23. John Griffin says:

    The fat lady isn’t even in the theatre, enjoy the opera!

  24. Vicki says:

    Happy Belated birthday, you are a terrific writer and I happily read your books even when I am not feeling strong enough to read anyone else’s. I hope you continue to find love and joy in many people and things for a long time to come.

  25. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Best wishes to both of you.
    Don’t know about the dancing, but you certainly aren’t short on brains.

  26. admin says:

    If by racial stereotyping you’re referring to the practice we call ‘Baiting the French’, Brooke, you’re forgetting we were invaded by them and have neither forgiven or forgotten, which is why all American villains are caricatured English toffs.

  27. Michael James Pitcher says:

    Never give up never surrender find hope and pleasure in the small things my thoughts are with you

  28. Bonnie Ferguson says:

    After I read this post, I went searching for information on when I bought my first Bryant and May. October 2010 I bought the first three and annually thereafter. The 20th is on pre-order. Often re-reading the previous novel before diving into the new one. The books have seen me through great days and dark times. I must admit I would love to meet the 19 year old John May while having a deep friendship with Arthur Bryant. I’ve been a lurker on the blog for sometime back when the format was white type on a black background, I enjoy reading all the comments. The community of commentators has come to mean a lot while I’ve been alone in my apt here in California separated from family. Now I’ve has both shots of vaccine so things are looking up. Mostly I thank you, Chris for sharing B&M with us as well as what’s happening in London/Spain etc. You’ve been a great tour guide. Thanks again, be fearless and take care of yourself.

  29. Barbara Boucke says:

    I watched Treat Williams do the “I Got Life” number on Youtube – good song, good lyrics, the dance doesn’t seem too complicated – even if you probably don’t have a table that long in your flat, let alone a chandelier – it’s certainly worth a shot!! Pete can get the dishes and glasses out of the way while you “waltz” across the table top.

  30. linda ayres says:

    We are all rooting for you.. I am currently re-reading The Victoria Vanishes, it includes the prophetic line “London without pubs unthinkable” and yet here we are. Leaving a legacy of such joy is maybe not a comfort,so I leave you with another quote. This time from Robert Ballard, ” if you don’t quit you can’t lose”.
    He of course after many failures finally found Titanic.

  31. Keith Ravenscroft says:

    Same here Chris, I’ve been visiting hospitals for immunotherapy for 30 months now. From before the pandemic. Luckily my treatment can go ahead, and it makes me sad to think of all the people suffering other diseases now as all Covid patient are given priority. Even the flouters, and this is what makes me angry.
    The past few months I now take in a Bryant and May book to read as I am treated. Sometimes the nurses hear the sniggers from beneath my face-mask and mistake it for discomfort. Sometimes it’s hard not to erupt with howls of laughter. So for God’s sake just keep on keeping on Chris.
    On a lighter note I found a strange article online about one Arthur Bryant – The Maggot King! A fisherman who apparently devised a cure for TB at the turn of the 20th century. A delightful article too. ‘Maggots for size? Go to A. Bryant, the Maggot King”
    Here’s a link for anyone interested in maggot vapor research 🙂
    https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/fishing/angling-histories/angling-history/arthur-bryant-the-maggot-king

  32. Brooke says:

    Nope–wasn’t refering to that. See Alma’s conversation in hospital and the incident that brings her there. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive, having listened too much from certain neighbors who parrott former president’s tweets about London–

  33. Andrea yang says:

    Thank you for all the wonderful books . I look forward to reading your new projects. I want to tell you that your tweets and blog posts frequently brighten my day and often send me off on little research tangents. I wish you and Peter strength and many more good days ahead.

  34. Lea Hunt says:

    Bryant and May have been my salvation when times are tough. They make me laugh and oh, how they draw me in to their crazy world. I devour each and every one and wait anxiously for the next installment. Keep fighting, never give up. We are with you always.

  35. Brian says:

    With every good wish for the future

  36. Bonnie Ferguson says:

    Neglected to mention in the earlier post that I am embarking on a reread of the series just finished #1.

  37. Anne H. Kidwell says:

    Orchids to all the above comments! Last spring, as the pandemic news kept getting worse and worse, I knew I was losing it when I began to try to change TV channels with my phone, and dial phone numbers with my channel changer! Libraries were closed, so I scoured my own shelves for books I had never read. Picked up a ‘Bryant and May’ that came from God knows where, started to read it, and became instantly hooked! Thank you for welcoming me into the PCU ‘family’!!! At 73, B&M make me feel young!!!

  38. Cora McCoy says:

    Thank you, thank your, thank you for your books. I’m reading “Rune” right now. They have all brought me so much pleasure.

  39. Ed DesCamp says:

    A belated happy birthday, Chris. Best wishes to you and your husband for a healthy year.
    I’ve no gift for words, so will plagiarize shamelessly from the above comments with regards to the joy you’ve given us over the years. The stand-alone novels, the autobiographies, the B&M series, and this wonderful blog are all an amazing testament to the energy you put into living. Thank you.

  40. Mary Kay says:

    I love baby photos, need health updates. Heart emoji here.

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