Still Pinching Myself


Simple Joys

Tinto de Verano is the perfect summer drink; everyone orders it in Spain yet its ingredients are basic; red wine, ice cubes, lemon/lime soda, slices of oranges and lemons. It’s just something that tastes of summer. I’m drinking it during my one-week holiday (the first this year) in Barcelona, a trip thrown together at shockingly short notice by heroic Husband Pete.

After a year and a half of treatments, tethered to the flat, waiting for the next unpleasant surprise, this trip has proven there is still magic in the world. The sheer simple pleasure of sitting in sunlight reduced me to tears.

I know there are many people facing terminal cancer who can’t escape. I’d resigned myself to a drawn-out phase of becoming inexorably weaker, but I had not realised how rejuvenating being somewhere else can be. Walking out of our flat in the virtually deserted barrio, I looked around expecting to find foreclosure notices, drug gangs, dirt and litter, and instead I just found normal life.

My motto now is; Life goes on until it stops. For the first time in far too long, I am moving; the more I walk, climb, swim, the stronger I get. Some problems have reversed. Enough feeling has returned to my thighs and hands to make writing this much easier. A glass of wine sharpens my wits. I still have some brain fog. I was going to write myself a terrific Bryant & May short story but it evaporated. I’m doing exercises for that.

But what’s the point? I’m a terminal case. The disease is aggressive and spreading. It’s now in my weak spot – my lungs. None of the chemo worked. But what if this experimental drug treatment I’ve started turns out to retard progression? The worst thing in the world is hope.

Becoming A Monkey

BP (Before Pandemic) we usually came to Barcelona on Husband Pete’s birthday because he’s a Kiwi and spending it in London depresses him. This year we attempted to do it again. The paperwork was Kafkaesque, especially as I had to prepare for so many contingencies. A letter from my doctor allowing me to carry syringes on a flight was the easiest part, thanks to our fantastic local GP service. But while we’ve been here, the rules on which COVID tests are eligible have quietly changed again.

I admit I was scared. I’m having trouble breathing, nerves and muscles are errant. Traveling was physically daunting; the toughest challenge I’d faced lately was getting out of an armchair. Everyday things I’d taken for granted presented themselves as monolithic obstacles. Getting out of the sea with no balance proved impossible, but after just one day of practice my legs were almost strong enough to support me unaided.

And while nurses only ever want what’s best for you, not all of their instructions suit everyone. They nagged me to get my weight up, but all the bland food and extra sleep turned me into a sloth. So now this sloth is fighting back to at least be, well, a monkey.

Glitter And Be Gay

Husband Pete does not like show or fuss. So buying a glitter bomb with his birthday card was probably not the smartest thing to do, especially when he decided to pry the lid off out of curiosity in a quiet restaurant. I’ve seen what happens. The resulting chaos shall go undocumented here. We took him to a park where he could detonate the remains – and don’t worry, it was biodegradable and gone before dawn.

35 comments on “Still Pinching Myself”

  1. Richard says:

    Brain fog be damned, the sentence concerning birthdays in London works very well!

  2. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin What good news ! As you’ve discovered, the human body is a wondrous thing; it is always trying to right itself even in the face of debilitation. It often succeeds, despite the naysaying of medicine. Understand that even with its enormous progress and continuing advances, there is much that is still unknown — and will likely remain so. The human spirit is one of those still largely uncharted regions and may, in fact, with many, be the ultimate ‘healer,’ against all odds.

    Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.
    — Author Louis L’Amour

  3. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Very glad to hear that you are feeling better.
    Long may it continue.

  4. Stu-I-Am says:

    Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
    Whispering ‘it will be happier’…’
    ― Alfred Lord Tennyson

    ‘Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.’
    ― Shel Silverstein

    ‘I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.’
    ― Robert Fulghum, ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’

  5. Liz+Thompson says:

    Enjoy the swimming, and the not-bland Spanish food!

  6. Rjh says:

    Nice to hear you’re both having a good break – enjoy!

  7. Stu-I-Am says:

    ‘El hombre que se levanta es aún más grande que el que no ha caído.’ (The man who stands up is greater than one who hasn’t fallen). — Concepción Arenal, a 19th c. Spanish writer and sociologist


  8. Jo W says:

    Soak up that sun,Chris and if you can, try to describe what it feels like. Back here,under the gloomy sooty looking sky,we could do with some virtual rays. So glad that you are feeling better for being there. ( I wouldn’t rush back if I were you.)
    Looks like Pete enjoyed that glitter bomb! Happy Birthday Pete! 😉

  9. Joel Ivins says:

    who doesn’t love a glitter bomb?…looked fantastic…my dad was on hospice for 6 months…thankfully, his was a heart issue, stents, heart attack, pacemaker, etc…he decided he wasn’t done…started moving around more and made himself get out of the bed…almost three years later, he is getting ready to celebrate his 88th birthday…he said if he hadn’t forced himself to move, he would probably have died…glad you are feeling better

  10. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Is that a flan in the photo or an enlargement of a toothpaste tube cap ?

  11. Helen+Martin says:

    A very happy birthday, Pete. Keep up the movement, Chris, and we hope to hear about your evening out dancing.

  12. SteveB says:

    Wonderful stuff Chris!

  13. Paul+C says:

    Ahh, sloth…….my second favourite sin

    Very glad to see you battling on and feeling happier

  14. davem says:

    Tinto de Verano … wonderful

  15. A break from trying is so often exactly what is needed to actually what stuff done. I’m so pleased you are feeling better, even just a bit better. Brain fog sucks, but it can also lead to fun new names, like “Orange shells” and “letter shop” when the right words go missing.
    Isn’t Pete’s from at the end of the video just the definition of joyous? Happy birthday and Aroha nui, Pete.

  16. Michael James Pitcher says:

    I am currently reading your latest book, albeit slowly, to savour it like sipping a fine wine, a work of genius.If i sound like a sycophantic fan its because i am . Enjoy your holiday, stretch it out as long as possible why not ?

  17. Allan says:

    So glad you are both getting a chance to have fun.
    Loved London Bridge.

  18. Keith says:

    Hi Chris. Appetite or the lack of it is well known to people on chemo. Having a plate of food put in front of you can be daunting indeed. Also the constant taste changes that occur during therapy doesn’t help. Enjoy the sunshine and rest up!

  19. Jan says:

    So are you having a blancmange with this good sounding then! A very odd combination…… or am I missing some subtle comment here? (Likely I am! )

    Here how do you spell blancmange neither me or the spell checker knows?

    Hope u r having a great time. Take it easy (or not ) but whatever u do enjoy yourselves! Are you going to Sitges for a day?

  20. Keith says:

    Much easier in Dutch Jan: ‘pudding’ 🙂

  21. Helen+Martin says:

    Perhaps spell check wants you to separate it blanc mange. Nope, blanc isn’t an English word and mange is a disease of horses, but an acceptable word. “White food”, what an uninspiring name, but add some caramel or chocolate and it at least becomes “pleasant”.
    I have finished Part I of London Bridge and think that so far it is the best of the series. I am feeling very Raymond Landish today, of two minds about everything and incapable of dealing with my computer.

  22. Silly+Sully says:

    Went out & bought a bottle of red wine & a 2 liter of 7-Up, even though I don’t drink either one (already had the lemons & oranges, & tossed in a lime for luck)…just so I could drink a toast to you Peter & your vacation.


  23. Pamela Kiewitt says:

    Happy you’re feeling better – I sincerely hope it continues! Feliz cumpleaños Pete that was a fantastic video! Have a wonderful time!

  24. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin So are/were you feeling like a wobbly, bland blancmange or (manjar blanco) ? Or was that all you felt like eating ? Since it doesn’t turn out to be in the top 10 favourite British desserts (apple crumble and a vicky sponge being the top two), I assume the photo was to make another point. Unless it was, in fact, an extreme close up of a toothpaste tube cap.

  25. Ed+DesCamp says:

    Chris – so glad the sun and warm water is helping your body and spirits. The glitter bomb was a master stroke, and the joy on Pete’s face is infectious. Nicely done! Hope you can stay longer or return after your next treatment. All the best.

  26. Paul+C says:

    Chris recommended a fascinating book here recently called A Madman’s Library by Edward Brooke-Hitching who has a new book out on 28 Oct entitled The Devil’s Atlas which looks just as good. You might want to make a diary note.

  27. Brooke says:

    In Spain, everything is better…food, drink, birthday parties, swimming, love and sex…enjoy.

  28. Wayne+Mook says:

    Glad to see you’re enjoying your jollies. I keep meaning to reply to things here but things keep getting in the way, sorry. When i read about the sand I thought, it’s revenge of The Sandmen. And a belated happy birthday to Pete.

    Hope the brain fog lifts, been suffering with it a bit myself, still it takes the edge of reality so not a totally bad thing.


  29. Debra Matheney says:

    So happy that you are grabbing every moment of joy you can find, the best way to live life. Pete is a jewel as are you. I am savoring London Bridge. I think about all the pleasure( and out loud laughter) your books have given so many of us, something few can say.
    When I laugh out loud my husband invariably asks what is so funny. There is no way I can explain the laugh out loud moments of your books. As the outside world spins further and further off its axis, I am grateful for you and the output of your creative mind. Take care and happy B-Day to Pete.

  30. James Devlin says:

    I had to look up that drink you started this entry with, and also came upon the Kalimotxo, which is more or less the same thing using a cola for the soda…

  31. Jan says:

    Keith I’m a pudding for not seeing myself!

  32. Brian+Evans says:

    Chris, I am so glad you are enjoying some good times. Also, I would like like to thank you, on behalf of my partner, who read your blog. He has just been diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, and was encouraged by the positive way you spoke.

  33. Erik Deckers says:

    I recommend lots of ice cream if you want to add some weight. At the very least, you’ll have fun doing it.

  34. Wayne+Mook says:

    Ice cream is good but can you buy ordinary chocolate? No, lots extra bits, or triple this and that, or mixed with whatever. No, if I want bits I’ll put my own in. I can get Neapolitan, so I know somewhere they make ordinary chocolate but can you buy it?


  35. Helen+Martin says:

    Plain chocolate is available here in Canada, even from the candy makers Purdy’s Chocolates. I think it’s just that chocolate lovers are thought to be of the mind that says if all the flavours are the same price then go for the one that gives you the most ‘stuff’. Do you really feel that the chocolate in Neapolitan is as chocolatey as real plain chocolate? I always feel it says “cocoa powder”, which is chocolate but I’m sure you know what I mean.

Comments are closed.