It was larger than I remembered. Deeper, with bigger matches. The box was a gift to me – it’s the first matchbox I’ve ever received – from my lovely neighbour Lou. It says on the front: ‘Quis Separabit’ – ‘Who will separate us?’ from Romans 8:35. It refers to the union and is usually decorated with patriotic flags.
A Bryant & May match is a safety match, as opposed to a Swan Vesta, which was longer and struck on the strip of sandpaper on the box’s side or against a wall (or one’s teeth). But in all this time of writing about Bryant & May I had not touched the ubiquitous object of my childhood.
It was a precious gift and made me think. After my last hospital treatment my time in London was largely lost, thanks to ‘chemo fog’, in which every other word vanished from my head. I might have been Tess of the D’urbervilles lying flat out at Stonehenge, blissfully asleep until reality once more intruded.
But the fog is clearing and my powers are returning little by little. Each flight of steps is a challenge, though, and even Captain Tom had more energy than me.
‘Who will separate us?’ I answered the question fairly definitively at the end of the last novel. But my attitude has changed; life goes on until it stops. So I’ve decided to continue writing. If you cease to use the one measly gift you possess, you are committing a crime against yourself. So I’m going to carry on as normal, and we’ll see what happens…