In Bandit Country


‘It is him.’

‘No it isn’t. It can’t be. What would he be doing here?’

‘I heard his name called on the tannoy.’

‘It must have been someone else with the same name.’

‘No, look, that’s him. Say something.’

‘No, you say something.’

I could hear all this from the couple seated in the oncology department waiting room, which has many colourful mosaic designs and finger paintings and notices that read: ‘Ludovic has terminal cancer but he’s not letting it get him down! He’s set off to climb every tall object in the world, then ride his mountain bike up Kilimanjaro!’ The result has all the forced cheerfulness of a dying child’s bedroom.

The couple were reading Bryant & May books and were extremely surprised to see me, a bit like running into your teacher in a supermarket and realising they eat. I chatted to them for a bit. They were lovely. As I left, I said ‘Hope to see you again’, then realised that it would be better for everyone involved if we didn’t.

I had just been to get the results of my scan, six months into an immunotherapy treatment so experimental in its particular usage that only a handful of NHS patients have ever had it. The treatment is continuing to hold my rogue cells at bay, and my results were better than last time. The husband, as blunt as only he can be, barked at the poor doctor, ‘So how long has he got?’

The truth is nobody knows. I’m in bandit country now, which at least means I can work on for a while. I celebrated by going for my fourth jab, effectively another booster, no queue, no appointment, walk in, short interview, job done. The whole process took 5 minutes.

So, I’m back at work on two more books. ‘Hot Water is out on March 1st. Busy editing and doing PR. I finished Michael Gilbert’s ‘Smallbone Deceased’, terrific fun, and am still reading Natasha Pulley, Malcolm Lowry (as punishment) and Alberto Manguel’s insightful ‘Fabulous Monsters’. That’s the state of play. Thought you should know.

My picture today is the happy place that’s trying to answer the conundrum; Is this my library or just a few bookshelves? It comes complete with geese (of course).

34 comments on “In Bandit Country”

  1. BarbaraBoucke says:

    Wonderful news!! And your book filled shelves are your library – part of your home – exasperating geese and all.

  2. mike says:

    Best news so far this year!

  3. davem says:

    take every success as it comes Chris … best way forward is to do what you love as long as you feel capable

  4. Joan says:

    Good to hear that things seem to be working for you Chris at the NHS. My heart starts to race even walking into a Hospital, can’t imagine what it must be like for you. Still thinking about those wonderful Geese, do they walk about in the parks with the pigeons Stu, and yes Helen our geese hang about all winter, probably collecting CERB payments from the Government.

  5. May bandit country prove a comfortable and productive home.

  6. Peter+T says:

    Good news about the scan!

    Could those geese have been sent by either the one-legged pigeon or Raymondo himself for some devilish reason such as revenge?

  7. Jo W says:

    A good result Chris! Or just another so far so good?
    Keep on keeping on and making sure you’ve tucked in your shirt. Happy reading X 😉

  8. Roger says:

    “You needn’t renew your football club season ticket.”
    How the bad news was broken to a friend.

  9. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Excellent news. Long may it continue.

  10. HR says:

    That’s excellent news, Chris. I’m so pleased for you.

    There’s definitely something going on with those geese though. At the very least, they’re angling to be put into the next book, aren’t they?

  11. roxanne g reynolds says:

    your news has just absolutely made my day!

  12. Andrea says:

    I think you will make an amazing time bandit !

  13. Wayne Mook says:

    We your fans get everywhere. Glad to ear the news was good.

    There is an old Lancashire legend about geese being called the Hounds of Gabriel, these are the souls of unbaptised children & babies which are under the Angel Gabriel’s protection until the end of days when they will ascend to heaven.


  14. Jan says:

    Well done Chris keep going x

  15. Paul+C says:

    Delighted to see things are going well and love your library. My books are stacked in cupboards, wardrobes and wobbly towers all over the place.

    I managed to slog my way through Under the Volcano but it was often like chewing cardboard. My bete noir is Marcel Proust who I’ve attempted countless times but find utterly arid and boring.

  16. Alan R says:

    Good news and most encouraging Chris.

    The paragraph you wrote describing the oncology department waiting room caught me off guard and made me tear up. It also brought back the advice my old mum regularly used to give me as a kid.

    Always wear clean underpants. You never know when you may end up in hospital. Bless.

  17. Mimi Paller says:

    I love Natasha Pulley’s 3 Keito Mori books. Not so keen on Kingdoms. Take care.

  18. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Paul+C Paul perhaps this will motivate you with respect to your bête noire.I am led to believe that should you actually read all 4,215 pages of Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ (‘À la recherche du temps perdu’) — currently considered the longest novel by the Guinness people — and can yourself use voluntary memory to recall anything at all that you read after 24 hours — you will receive the ‘Literary Virtuousness’ rosette (Second Order).

  19. Roger says:

    Your old mum’s advice isn’t much help when you have dysentery, AlanR

  20. Debra Matheney says:

    Very pleased for you. All your fans join me in applauding the news.

  21. Helen+Martin says:

    Every little bit of good news is a delight in this wasteland we’re all inhabiting.
    We had a special news event this morning to explain to the world why instructions to potential covid sufferers is different now. It makes perfect sense but one would like a few eternal verities.
    I am reading Jasper Fforde’s Early Riser, perhaps not the best choice for a January read. I think I’m beginning to sense what goes on in that man’s head and am not sure I want to. My husband is ready to give up on it because “it’s just too far out.”

  22. Stu-I-Am says:

    Food for thought. A Lincoln (East Midlands) man who collected white supremacist literature and was given a suspended sentence with a judicial order to read Jane Austen has now been sentenced to two years in the choky — having decided to read ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’ instead.

  23. Peter says:

    That’s wonderful news, Christopher!

  24. chazza says:

    Direct sunlight on books? Quel horreur!

  25. I love the term Bandit Country in this context. My dad was in kidney failure some 60 odd years ago and was not expected to last long despite spending a year in hospital having them patched up, but he disappeared into bandit country instead. He’s still there, still not drinking water if he can help it, with what appears to be a pair of now fully functioning kidneys (as far as we can tell). So you never know! Maybe ‘here be dragons’ too.

  26. MaryR says:

    Well, brilliant news! All the congratulations above, plus a few more.
    Don’t know why you’re lukewarm about the geese, they’re probably good news too. If a goose lays an egg before St Valentine’s, it’s good luck. And if it lays before St Chad’s (sometime in March? And he’s the patron of disputed elections – bit disappointing), it’s also good luck. And if it turns out geese don’t lay on windowsills but only leave a deposit, then it still sounds like a good sign.
    All the best to you. Quite envy all your energy.

  27. Helen+Martin says:

    Thank you, Mary. St. Chad’s day is March 2nd and he is the patron of disputed elections because he stepped aside from his election as bishop in order to ensure peace in the church after his election was disputed. I’m not sure what example that reinforces.

  28. BenM says:

    That’s good news, Chris. I always say to a consultant doctor ‘I hope to never see you again’ and then immediately regret what must be something they hear every day.
    By the way its definitely your library.

  29. Phyllis says:

    There’s nothing more certain than uncertainty. I think JFK said something like that but it was longer and more confusing. All the best for reading and writing as you will, especially the writing. My 200+ plus Canada Geese out on the river send their best to your duo.

  30. Diane Englot says:

    “Calming retreat with added geese at no extra charge.”

  31. Dionne says:

    Congratulations on your good news! Please keep writing for as long as you feel you want to. There are a few of us out here who rely on your humour to keep us going day after day. (Especially love the memos written by Raymond Land)!

  32. Sadie Bermingham says:

    Glad the treatment is going well.

    How are you enjoying the Natasha Pulley? I loved The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and have her follow up on the tbr pile.

    Strength and positivity to you and The Husband. x

  33. Fran Chandler says:

    I’m so happy to hear your treatment is working for you!

    If you can tolerate more fangirl gushing (I’m not very experienced at this), I’d like you to know that I’ve enjoyed Bryant and May for years, but have greatly appreciated the comfort they gave me during my treatment for life threatening disease. It’s good to have friends like Arthur and John, etc., to distract you when things aren’t going well.

    Things are going well now. I’m glad they are going well for you.

  34. Martin says:

    Wonderful news. I am so happy for you. At the same time, would you believe I feel a little guilty/selfish because it means more good reads myself? Can’t help it, I just do.

    I appreciate your sharing the titles you are reading and, of course, some make it to my own list. In fact, the last time you posted a pic of one of your bookcases – above a bed as I recall – I went to far as to enlarge the image and picked out a few books by Kate Atkinson, thank you very much!

    As I re-read this I realize I sound like a self-centered, greedy little prick.

    Be well. You mean so much to so many.

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